September 03, 2011

Join the International Bond and Share Society

A couple days ago, I read with horror that the International Bond and Share Society (the IBSS) had lost 44 members between the end of 2009 and the end of 2010. Such a meager loss would not even be visible to an organization like the American Numismatic Association. But the IBSS is no such monstrous club. Six months later, by the time of the report at the Society's Annual General Meeting in July, membership had decreased by yet another 33 collectors, leaving a grand total of only 541.

While some of those members will certainly rejoin, the fact remains that all of us, including myself, are falling down on the job. We are simply not doing enough to promote the hobby. After all, the number of collectors who have contributed to my project over the years or who have contacted me about stocks and bonds is almost as large as the total membership in the IBSS!

And I'm just one guy involved in one specialized part of the hobby!

I am here to ask all my readers and all my contributors to step up and do their part. I ask everyone to do three things:
  • join the society
  • stay members of the society
  • realize their involvement will have an unknown, but crucial future benefit
Let me explain "future benefit" by asking a little question. If someone is currently collecting certificates, who will they (or their heirs) ultimately sell to?

Other collectors. That's it!

Future prices of collectibles depend entirely on one thing and one thing only! – the number of collectors active at that time. Consequently, there are only three possible scenarios.
  • If there are fewer collectors in the future, there will most assuredly be less demand for certificates. In short, fewer collectors equals lower prices. The equation cannot be any simpler.
  • If there are the same number of collectors in the future as there are right now, prices will be roughly the same as they are right now. It is my unshakeable opinion that if hobbies are static, the amount of money collectors receive upon sales of collections will be roughly equal to their initial investments after accounting for sales commissions and inflation.
  • If there are more collectors in the future, there will be increased demand for all certificates, hence there will likely be real price growth beyond the rate of inflation.
Those are the pure, unadulterated economics of collecting. Yes, I know there are collectors who like the current state of the hobby because prices are so absurdly cheap relative to rarity. But those same collectors will cry and whine and weep in the future if the hobby continues its apparent decline.
A static or declining hobby helps no one. Conversely, a healthy, vibrant growing hobby helps everyone.

I contend that helping the IBSS means helping grow the hobby. As obvious as that position seems to me, it is equally obvious that many collectors are staying away from the IBSS, the only organization I'm aware of that involves the collecting of stocks and bonds. What are their objections? I can't say conclusively, but I can address some of the objections I've personally heard.

I think 'Bond and Share Society' seems so ... European. Okay. What if the organization had been named the "International Stock and Bond Society"? I can imagine collectors in Europe (where the hobby started, incidentally) saying, I think 'Stock and Bond Society' seems so ... American. Regardless of the name, the purpose would remain the same: to promote the hobby of collecting financial bonds and equity shares.

The are too few articles in Scripophily about certificates I'm interested in. That's true for every member, no matter their specialty. But, so what? The fact is that every intermediate and advanced collector has a specialty that is shared by very, very few others. And yet, I guarantee that every collector will find knowledge in every issue of Scripophily that will impact his specialty in some manner.

There are only three issues of Scripophily per year. That's $10 apiece! Again true. And the truth is that at this time, some people literally cannot afford $30 per year. I fully recognize that. But I am not talking to those people. I don't mean to sound insensitive, but a person who cannot afford $30 per year to support the hobby should probably not be collecting. There have been times when I have had to stop collecting. There is no dishonor in pulling back, regrouping. It is infinitely more important to feed the spouse and kids before feeding an obsession. But, if someone IS fortunate enough to be able to afford a collecting hobby, then I think there is a responsibility to support that hobby with a $30 per year membership. I suggest that every semi-experienced collector will overpay that much in a single auction, maybe even a single lot, simply due to the inability to control auction fever. Furthermore, average collectors will almost certainly spend more than $30 on unnecessary food, bottled water, soda, coffee, beer, whiskey and tobacco in a single month.

I won't get any benefit from IBSS membership except for Scripophily magazine. This is a trickier complaint to answer. Few collectors want to go out of their way, but they must in order to appreciate additional IBSS benefits. With only a little extra effort, collectors who become members can freely gain:

  • invitation to IBSS member breakfasts at certain shows and bourses.
  • access to the full web site.
  • free ads in Scripophily magazine for collectors
  • access to a complete directory of dealers and collectors.
  • access to past articles published in Scripophily magazine.
  • access to reviews of several years of past auctions (worldwide.)
  • access to other members. (So they won't feel so all alone.)
  • access to bibliography of books and articles related to stocks and bonds.
  • opportunity to bid in IBSS auctions.
  • opportunity to share insights and discoveries by writing articles for Scripophily.
Readers have now heard my rants and reasons. I personally ask everyone to join the International Bond and Share Society. At the same time, I also want everyone to understand that I don't want anyone joining if they are unwilling to continue supporting the hobby and the organization in the future. A one-time blip in membership is pointless. The hobby – and that includes ALL collectors regardless of whether they are 'joiners' or not – needs participants who will support the hobby for their entire collecting lives.
  • So, if you're ready to support the hobby you enjoy, come join us. Accept my invitation to become an active participant in the "stock and bond" / "bond and share" / "scripophily" / "wertpapiere" hobby.

1 comment:

Terry Cox said...

I retired and took up this hobby when coins got too expensive. I found much better value and much more American history in vintage securities. Soon I was writing articles for Scripophily magazine. I guess I was too good at it so the orga...nization asked me to edit it a few years ago. I'm having fun with it because it is a learning vehicle for me. I have heard the complaint about not enough articles of interest, I've prevailed on those folks to write one and share their interests with others. It's tough for many of the Europeans, who do not have English as their first language, but we work it out, and personally I find the European stories of financial history fascinating. Terry is right. $30 is not much in the Ben Bernanke economy. I just went to a bad movie and spent more than that! So give the IBSS a try. I think you'll like it, and if you don't it is small enough to change to your liking.
Max Hensley, Chief Editor of Scripophily Magazine
(Moved to the Coxrail Blog from a message sent to Terry Cox through Facebook)