The world's oldest share

In 1602 Pieter Harmensz bought a share of the Enkhuizen chamber of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). He was allowed to pay the face value of 150 guilders in instalments. Pieter completed the last payment on September 9, 1606. On that day he received a note of remittance, which we now consider as the world’s oldest share. It was discovered in 2010 by  the History student Ruben Schalk in the city archives of Enkhuizen. 

City messenger of Enkhuizen
Pieter Harmensz was a city messenger for the city of Enkhuizen, which meant that he assisted the mayor with day-to-day affairs. When he started working here in 1585 he earned a salary of 100 guilders annually. Five years later his salary increased to 125 guilders. It is likely that he received some supplementary earnings as well. His VOC share and some other assets also brought in quite some money. Together this allowed Pieter to acquire substantial savings. At his death in October 1638 he bequeathed no less than 22,000 guilders to his wife and daughter – more than 60 times the annual wage of a skilled craftsman.

The oldest share: a note of remittance
Technically the document of September 9, 1606 is not officially a share but a note of remittance; a receipt of payment of all instalments. However, it closely resembles what we now consider shares. The VOC did not issue stock certificates as is common today, but instead kept track of its shares through its own administration. In these ledgers the bookkeepers of the VOC also kept track of exchanges of shares.

The share of Pieter is further remarkable because all the dividend payments are noted on the back, extending as far as the year 1650. These demonstrate that the investment of 150 guilders was not very profitable for a long time. Moreover, instead of paying dividends in money the VOC in its early years paid in spices, which were difficult to exchange for money because the VOC had already flooded the market for spices.

VOC shares could be publicly traded, which was a new phenomenon at the beginning of the seventeenth century. A shareholder could only be held accountable for the face value of his share, which was also an innovation. Pieter Harmensz, however, never sold his share. The share issue by the VOC raised more than six million guilders and provided the foundation for share trading and speculation.

Selected from our collection
118G82 Ruben Schalk en Jan de Bruin, ‘Leven, werk en financiën van Pieter Harmensz, de eigenaar van het oudste aandeel ter wereld’, in: Steevast, jaargang 2011 (Enkhuizen 2011).
163H65 ‘'s Werelds oudste aandeel’ in: Polder Vondsten, nr. 1 2010, jaargang 2010, blz. 62-65.

Visit to get to know more about the oldest share. For more background information see the article The life, work and finances of Pieter Harmensz, the owner of the world’s oldest share.


buitenzijde oudste aandeel


binnenzijde oudste aandeel

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