Christian Schroeder found the bargain of his life at a flea market in Hamburg.
Mr. Schroeder, a collector of historic securities, was actually planning to buy toys for his kids. But then he spotted a share in the shipping company Harburg-Englische Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft – a genuine historic security. He asked the seller how much he wanted for it and was told: “It just got in there. Give me a euro and you can have it.” That flea market trip was 10 years ago and Mr. Schroeder still owns the share, now estimated to be worth €1,800 ($2,026).
But Mr. Schroeder doesn’t care about the profit. “It’s about collecting,” he said. That’s the main thing for many owners of historic securities. The companies to which the certificates belonged have long since gone bankrupt, disappeared in the chaos of war or merged with other groups. That means the securities are not worth anything. But for historians, they are real treasures, a reminder of long-ago events.