Student finds world's oldest share


A Dutch history student has unearthed the world's oldest share dating back to 1606 and issued by the sea trading firm Dutch East India Company.

Locked away in forgotten city archives, the share was made out to Pieter Harmensz, a male resident of the Dutch city Enkhuizen, who served as an assistant to the city's mayors.

After his death in 1638, Harmensz left the share to his widow and their daughter Ada and the document eventually ended up in Enkhuizen archives, kept in the northwestern city Hoorn.

As The Netherlands's largest trading company in the 17th and 18 centuries, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was also the world's first company to issue stock.

The "Enkhuizen share" dates back to September 9th, 1606, when Harmensz paid the last instalment of his 150 Dutch guilders.

Dutch research has shown the Dutch East India Company faced early financial difficulties and shareholders were not initially paid dividends.

The company finally started paying dividends in 1610, partly in money and spices, following strong shareholder pressure.

An interesting feature on the Enkhuizen share therefore is a series of notes on the inside relating to dividends up to 1650. The share is to be displayed at the Westfries Museum.