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Lot 1306: REAL COMPANIA GUIPUZCOANA DE CARACAS
29 October 2016
Brussels, BelgiumLive Auction
Description: 1 June 1766 MADRID. Accion de 500 escudos. black (small seal). #9000. No 3652. Damaged seal but otherwise in excellent condition. 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 Curacao. 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. In that same year the company's Head office was moved from San Sebastian to Madrid. 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 1,000,000 escudos (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. However, all this was not achieved without problems. The first was opposition from the Dutch and the English, who did not want to lose their profitable trade with the area; pressure was brought to bear on the Spanish government to restrict the company's activities. Secondly, the company misused its monopoly powers, by charging excessive prices for imported goods, and cutting steadilythe already low prices paid to Caracas growers for their produce; this, together with interference in the government of Caracas, led in the end to a rebellion by the colonists. Not until 1752 was this finally subdued, and these events led the Spanish government to reduce the company's privileges and introduce fixed prices for buying cocoa and other produce. 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 wereexchanged 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 arms of Guipuzcoa; on each side, and down the sides is a fine design of leaves, fruit, weapons, and anIndian 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. Rarity 8.
Condition Report: VF