From the Money Museum’s treasury. A German-Lithuanian share


The Money Museum’s exhibition and treasury hold more than banknotes and coins, they also hold other exhibits relating to economics and finance. You can see checks, shares and other securities from various countries here. One of the exhibits kept in the treasury is from the 19th century. It is a share that is connected to Germany, Lithuania and one company that is famous to this day. 

One of the features of a capitalist economic system is a joint stock company - it is governed by a group of people that own company stock in proportion, evidenced by their shares. Such companies started being formed in the late Middle Ages in Italian towns that were famous for their trading, although historians have found early prototypes in both Classical Antiquity and China. Wherever joint stock companies started, there are no discussions on where the modern stock exchange comes from - the Netherlands, a small western European country. The Dutch, famous for international maritime trade, gave a start to modern trade in company shares when they started trading them in the 17th century at Amsterdam’s stock exchange. In a few centuries, trading in an open-air square was replaced by offices in skyscrapers in cities and live trade was replaced by phone calls, however, the core principles remain unchanged. 

Nowadays, shares usually have no physical form which means that their ownership is simply registered digitally, however, a paper certificate may be issued to a shareholder upon their request. And yet, not that long ago, all securities were paper ones, i.e. they were printed out. Decorated in intricate ornaments and drawings, shares, bonds, collateral bonds, etc., were aesthetically appealing, therefore, it is no surprise that eventually they became sought after by collectors and were attributed to notaphily alongside banknotes.

The oldest share currently known was issued in the Netherlands in 1606. In Lithuania, securities turned up quite a while later, in the second half of the 19th century, when serfdom was abolished in the Russian Empire and a faster-paced development of capitalist economy started. However, the oldest joint stock companies emerged in Lithuania in the first half of the 19th century in Klaipėda, which was part of the Kingdom of Prussia at that time. One of those companies is connected to the oldest share exhibited at the Money Museum. 

The modern day’s successful Švyturys brewery was started in 1784, when a merchant Johann Wilhelm Reincke opened a brewery in Klaipėda. In the first half of the 19th century, several other breweries were in operation in town, one of which was owned by Theodor Preuss. Quite symbolically, in 1871, when the unification of Germany was coming to an end, these two breweries in Klaipėda, owned by Reincke and Preuss, also merged. This is how Klaipėda Joint Stock Brewery (Memeler Aktien – Brauerei & Destillation in German) originated and it also produced other drinks in addition to beer. 

The company’s statutory capital was 1,500 shares, each worth 100 “Prussian standard” thalers. Therefore, its overall statutory capital was worth 150 thousand thalers, or, when German gold marks were adopted in 1876, 450 thousand marks. Every share was numbered and the one that is in the Money Museum is marked as No 1198. Those who purchased the shares were probably happy about their decision, because in 1871-1872, the dividends were almost 10% and in 1886 - as much as 12.5%. The company’s success was also evident from awards for best production - the first gold medal that the brewery received for its beer was in 1883 at Memel crafts and fishing exposition. 

Although the shares were issued in the same year that the Second Reich was being finished to be formed, in a way, they managed to outlive the German Empire. When Klaipėda Region was incorporated into Lithuania in 1923, the share value was converted to the litas and the new value, 30 litas, was marked with a simple red stamp. This is how a German company’s securities became Lithuanian and continued to be valid in the first Republic of Lithuania. 

100 Prussian thalers share of Klaipėda’s joint stock company Memeler Aktien – Brauerei & Destillation, converted to litas in 1923. 1871, M. W. Lassally printing house, Berlin, the German Empire. Paper, offset printing. 33.9x26.2 cm. 

Money Museum
Last updated: 2021-11-30