Investment bonds - are these genuine?

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Investment bonds -
are these genuine?


In 1885, around the time of the last of a series of bank crashes which almost brought the island's economy to a standstill, a French company based in Jersey was offering investment bonds.

Or were they? Apart from bond certificates being offered for sale to collectors in 2023, nothing is known about this operation. Are these elaborate fakes?

If genuine, the bonds were still being offered in 1907

An internet search for Societe Generale Anglaise et Francaise reveals nothing except these bonds being offered for sale by 21st century online auction houses. So was this a genuine investment company or are these bonds elaborate fakes, created to attract collectors of banknotes and other financial instruments?

According to the wording on the bonds - all in French at a time when English had long become the principal language of banking and commerce in the island - the Societe had been incorporated in the Royal Court in 1885.

This was a time when a sequence of failures of island-based banks had almost brought the Jersey economy to a standstill, and led to the collapse of several major, long-established local companies.

If these bonds are genuine, then this was no small operation. £1 at the end of the 19th century was equivalent to about £100 in 2023.

  • With an authorised share capital of 25 million French francs, equivalent to £1 million, the company had a notional value of £100 million
  • The bonds had a face value of 600 francs - £24, or £2,400 at 2023 prices
  • The guaranteed return, net of any taxes, was 25 francs (£1) a year - approximately 4.2%, which was just below the bank base rate of 4.5% in 1907

On the face of it, this was a well-funded operation offering a competitive interest rate free of tax. That element would have been fairly academic as far as Jersey-resident investors were concerned, because there was no tax on income at this time - it would not be introduced until 1928.

But was it a genuine 19th century investment offer or a 21st century scam?

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