This paper contributes to the literature on the organisation and governance of stock exchanges by taking the perspective of property rights theory. Focusing on the examples of the London and Berlin stock exchanges, which followed quite opposite paths of development during the second half of the 19th century, the paper provides three major results. First, it shows that historical stock exchanges were much more characterised by institutional variety and evolution than recent economic accounts tend to suggest. Secondly, drawing on a theoretical model developed by Oliver Hart and John Moore, the paper argues that differences in membership structure as well as in the competitive environment constituted the main driving forces behind organisational change both in London and in Berlin. Finally, it is claimed that future research should take the public dimension of Continental bourses more strongly into account, which, for example, has important implications for the question of whether stock exchanges established property rights in prices or not.