I was catching up on some episodes of the 99% invisible podcast last week (also known as 99pi). It’s quite informative, although I must admit that I like it because the host, Roman Mars, has such a soothing voice. What can I say – some people just sound really good on radio.
One of the episodes I listened to last week was Mini-stories 8, an episode of, you guessed it, mini stories. They usually broadcast a few of those at the end of the year around the holidays. One of the mini stories was entitled “The Forever Bond“. Bonds are something governments or companies offer in exchange for a loan from you. Over time the bonds pay interest, usually maturing over 30 years, meaning that if you’re patient you’ll make a bit of money on the side.
But there are also “perpetual bonds”, which never mature and always create interest for the holder. Those are quite rare. The oldest one still paying interest is a 1648 bond from a Dutch water authority to help pay for the construction of a pier. It is written on goatskin and now owned by Yale University.
The bond itself is the proof of ownership. When interest was collected, this information was recorded on the bond (see the above image). The only problem is that you need to take the bond with you to collect the interest. However by 1944 there was no longer any room on the bond itself, so a paper addendum is now in use. Yale is allowed to bring the paper addendum to the Netherlands to collect interest, allowing the bond to remain in their library. The interest collected in 2015 amounted to 136.20 euros ($153). The Yale curator then visited the pier that the bond helped finance; the pier is still in use today. Crazy.
Read more from news.yale.edu: A living artifact from the Dutch Golden Age: Yale’s 367-year-old water bond still pays interest
Another episode on 99pi about the Netherlands is Bijlmer (City of the Future, Part 1) which talks about the Bijlmer housing project built in the 1960s outside of Amsterdam. It included 31 apartment complexes, totaling over 13,000 apartments. The podcast explored the reasons most of those apartments were empty. The story continues in Blood, Sweat & Tears (City of the Future, Part 2) with the migration of Surinamese citizens to the apartments in the 1970s, the unfortunate 1992 cargo plane accident, and the redesign of the Bijlmer area in the late 1990s and the 2000s.