- I am interested in U.S. stock exchange ticker tape. In particular, I want to identify
the last date upon which U.S. stock exchange ticker machines were used by U.S. brokers or
other U.S. financial firms. I am interested only in the narrow paper stock exchange ticker tape,
not the broad (wide) tape used for news, etc. (see the images below showing the kind of
ticker tape that I am interested in). Challenge: Do you know, or can you find out for me, the last day upon which stock exchange ticker
tape machines were used in the U.S.? As of July 2017, I have figured out that the tickers were still running
on April 9, 1975. When did they fall silent? Does anyone have a piece of ticker tape from later than April 9, 1975?
- My interest started in the late 1990s, when I tried to find some old ticker tape, with no success whatsoever.
After years of hunting, I mentioned my lack of success to a former broker, for whom I had done a favor (the late J. Robert Ramsay of Columbus GA).
He very kindly sent me a piece of old ticker tape in early 2000. It was not until 2017, however, that I took the time
to date the tape. A simple comparison of some of the ticker symbols and prices on my tape with data from the University of Chicago Center
for Research in Security Prices (CRSP) database very quickly pinpointed the date of my tape as August 25, 1966.
- In order to pinpoint the date of my tape, I noted 10 ticker symbols and price stamps from the physical paper tape.
I went to the CRSP database and looked up the ticker symbols. Ticker symbols are, however, not unique. They get re-used
through time. So, I chose to use only symbols that had not been re-used, or which had not been re-used until
after I thought was the latest possible date of my tape. The tickers allowed me to pinpoint PERMNOs (CRSP identifiers that
are unique). I downloaded every high and low price on each of my 10 stocks identified by PERMNO for every
trading day from January 2, 1930 to December 31, 1979. That's 13,519 trading days, and 20
times that number of prices (of course, many prices were missing because stocks had not come into existence in the
early part of the sample, or had ceased to exist by the later part of the sample).
I then used software (just Excel in this simple case) to ask upon how many days the price
imprints for all my 10 stocks were at or below the high of the day and at or above the low of the day, for the
Over the 13,519 trading days, there was only one day that satisfied that query: August 25, 1966.
- In fact, a student asked me how many stocks I needed to use to do this, and I found that if I took
just the first two stocks, I got the same answer. Stock prices are so volatile that there was only one
day that the wildly moving price numbers on my first two stocks fell within the ranges in the databases.
It just so happened that the first two stocks I looked at
were wild enough that they determined uniquely the day, but that was not true for any pair of stocks.
I found that I could pinpoint the day using any four of my ten stocks. So, 10 stocks were sufficient, but, in general,
only four were necessary.
- After dating my tape, I looked at eBay and over time I found several other prices of ticker tape that
I could date. The pictures here are from the vendors or from eBay. Click for larger image (where possible).
- August 26, 1966
- I was amazed to find that this piece of tape being sold on eBay was dated only one day after my piece of tape.
From the more than 15,000 possible dates (and many more if you go earlier), it seemed very unlikely
that this tape would differ from mine by only one day. After exchanging emails with the vendor, we decided that he likely
got his tape from the same gentleman that I got my tape from, some 15 or so years earlier. I think I recall that Mr. Ramsay
told me that he had two reels of ticker tape in his basement. He likely saved reels from two successive days. Perhaps he pulled them from the
accumulated trash on the same day. Perhaps he did that when the broker he was working for was stopping using physical tape and was switching
to electronic reporting. I figure one reel eventually went to this vendor, while part of the other came to me.
- I once did a back-of-the-envelope calculation that at least 100 million miles of ticker tape was produced.
The fact that my tape and this tape, although examined 15-20 years after they were each obtained, both came from the same source,
reinforces the fact that although 100 million miles of the stuff was produced, stock ticker tape is actually very rare nowadays!
It was all thrown, or thrown out.
- For the largest image, (the one with the green background), I did not immediately know that it was the same date as the other two.
So, I set about dating it. Note, however, that the handle is missing from some of the stock prices. That is,
the leading digit(s) has(have) been dropped from some stock prices. For example, IBM says "7 7/8" but was actually trading at
317 7/8. The vendor told me that "During busy times, the ticker tape would occasionally
drop the volume figures and everything but the last dollar digit. The machines could only print so many characters per
minute, so this was a way to keep the ticker running in real time. Tape delays made people nervous." He sent me a link
to the last image in this group (tape-delay machine).
The missing handle(s) made the matching process a bit more complicated, because I had to write code that allowed for multiple
possible unknown handles. So, I had to write code that would look for the full price on the day in the database or the full price with the
first digit shaved off, or the full price with two digits shaved off. My code still returned the same unique date.
- May 18, 1973
- This tape was originally advertised on eBay as being from 1972. The vendor was surprised when I pinpointed it to May 18, 1973.
I was surprised by the late date on this tape. I did not realize that the tickers were still running in 1973.
- April 9, 1975
- If the last date surprised me, then this date amazed me: April 9, 1975. One vendor (not the one for this tape) told me
that "The first fully electronic machines, that could outpace the paper tape, came out in 1960, and started getting a
big share of the market by 1964. The paper tape machines probably ended production around 1966/1967, but were not retired.
They ran side-by-side with the new machines in larger firms. Certainly they were too outdated by 1982 to keep up, but [I am] not
sure when the last one ran. I seem to recall a roll dated 1976, but [that is] not definite." He also gave me the following
quote from 1971 "paper ticker tape is so rare these days that New York City has had to ask brokers with such tickers to
hoard the tape so that there will be enough on hand to make a decent showing when a Broadway parade is held."
- Ticker Tape Girls 1918
- This image comes from this US government source with no restriction on its use. The accompanying text says
"Girls operate stock boards at Waldorf-Astoria. The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is employing girls to operate tickers and stock exchange boards.
The Waldorf is the first to employ girls in its various departments, in order to release men for war work." The picture is dated
November 12, 1918.
- Ticker Tape Parades
- I think the first ticker tape parade in New York was in 1886 to celebrate the dedication of the Statue of Liberty.
Every ticker tape parade, like the one below for Amelia Earhart, is recorded in black granite stripes
(like the one below for Charles Lindbergh) embedded on the parade route, known as the "Canyon of Heroes."
firstname.lastname@example.org.NOSPAM (on average one week before reply; remove ".NOSPAM" before mailing).
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Last Updated: August 8, 2017