MADRID. Accion de 500 escudos. Serie 3. black (small seal). #9000. No 4451. Extremely low start price because the vellum certificate is heavily stained (see picture). Also one pin-hole and a tiny tear in the lower left corner. The 'Caracas Company', the Real Compania Guipuzcoana de Caracas, was formed by a group of merchants in the Guipuzcoa province, around San Sebastian, in the Basque region of Spain, to trade with the Caracas province of Venezuela, with the further aims of (a) developing its agriculture, especially cocoa, and (b) keeping watch on the coast, from the mouth of the river Orinoco to the river Hacha (later extended to cover Maracaibo). This latter aim was to prevent illegal (in Spanish eyes) trading, particularly by the Dutch from Curaçao. The leader of this group was the Count of Penaflorida. This was the first of the great Spanish overseas trading companies, and the first Spanish trading company known to have issued shares to the public. The company had the right to send two ships per year from San Sebastian and nearby Pasajes to Venezuela, carrying all types of Spanish goods. For the return voyage the ships brought precious metals, cocoa, sugar, tobacco and leathers, back to Sevilla and, later, Cadiz. In 1730 the company set about establishing a chain of trading-posts along the coast of what is now Venezuela and the offshore islands of Margarita and Trinidad, and in 1732 obtained a monopoly of trade between Caracas and Spain; in 1742 this was extended for an indefinite period. From the outset the company was very profitable, paying large dividends to its shareholders. King Felipe V and the Queen took 100 shares each, for a combined investment of 100,000 escudos. The initial capital was 1,000,000escudos (2,000 shares of 500 escudos of 15 reales each), but shares were a new idea to the Spanish public, and they did not sell well at first; only 500,000 escudos were sold (including those to the royal house, as above). The capital was later increased, probably in 1752, and again in 1766, and this piece is from this final capital increase. The company's activities expanded rapidly, especially after 1734, when restrictions on the number of sailings were removed. Caracas production, especially of cocoa, rose sharply. By mid-century the company owned 12 large ocean-going ships and 19 coastal ships, with some 2,500 crew, and carrying 2,500 or more tons of freight annually in each direction. In the 1750s profits fell sharply, and the company's fortunes went into steady decline. Its investments in Spain were unsuccessful; wars against England in 1761-3 and 1779-83 cost it dearly; the free-trading policies of King Carlos III were the final blow. In 1781 the company lost the monopoly with Venezuela, and in 1785 it was absorbed by the Real Compania de Filipinas. The Caracas shares were exchanged for those of the Filipinas Company. The share is very attractive, printed on vellum, with a fine copper-engraving. At the top are the royal armsof Guipuzcoa; on each side, and down the sides is a fine design of leaves, fruit, weapons, and an Indian man, with bow-and-arrow, and woman. Boxes of company freight are all around. There is a fine paper seal, also with the royal arms of Guipuzcoa.
Themes: BEFORE 1800, COLONIES, FOOD
ITALY, SPAIN, VENEZUELA
Date: 1 June 1766
Startprice: € 500