On January 18, 1897, the Spokane Stock Exchange opens. It is one of about 200 regional exchanges and initially trades in mining shares issued as penny stocks (shares selling below a dollar). Spokane, the railroad and commercial center of the “Inland Empire,” is corporate headquarters for most of the gold, silver, lead, and zinc mines of the region. Thus it is the logical location for such an exchange.
At its peak of operation, the Spokane Stock Exchange rivaled the mining exchanges of San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Toronto. While other stock exchanges adopt new technologies, the Spokane Stock Exchange continued to post transactions on a chalkboard. Trading swung from brisk to so desultory that the exchange closed from time to time.
Although it occupied several buildings over the years it was always situated so that observers could watch its quotations being posted. Such transparency, though, did not extend to after-hours backroom trading, and with the introduction of state and federal regulation, its activities came increasingly under the scrutiny of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Ups and Downs
The Spokane Stock Exchange crashed along with others in 1929, recovered after World War II, and enjoyed a great expansion with the silver boom of the 1960s. Its downfall began in the 1980s when the admission of a particularly shady operator re-awoke the attention of the SEC, which threatened punitive action.
Broker loyalty vanished, and the Spokane Stock Exchange closed on May 24, 1991. It was the last regional mining exchange in the United States.