|NYSE Ticker Tape 1867-1994
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
|Ticker Tape Dating Introduction
- I thank the late J. Robert Ramsay, Rusty Erpenbeck, the late John ("Jack") C. Bogle,
and the folks at the Museum of American Finance in NY for helpful discussions about ticker tape. They have
helped me since the late 1990s. Any errors here are mine.
- I was a finance practitioner in London and a professor of finance in the U.S. and in New Zealand.
I am now a professor emeritus in New Zealand.
I have long been interested in U.S. stock exchange paper 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; The 1966 tape below is exactly 1 inch wide, but the
earlier tape is only 0.75 inches wide). 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 the date at the bottom of this page, I have figured out that some genuine tickers were still running
on March 31, 1994 (details and evidence below). When did they fall silent? Does anyone have a piece of genuine ticker
tape from later than March 31, 1994?
- Given my interest, I have been approached by buyers, sellers, collectors, historians, documentary film makers, and
even a theater director, each of whom wanted some additional details. Please do contact me. I am happy to help if I can.
My email address is at the bottom of the page.
- My interest started in the late 1990s, when I tried to find some genuine old ticker tape, with no success whatsoever.
Around 1997/1998, the Museum of American Finance kindly sent me some tape that they printed
on a machine in their collection, but I still could not find any actual ticker tape.
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, one of my students 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 pieces of ticker tape that
I could date. For the last few examples, I had to include the full CRSP database history.
The pictures here are from the vendors or from eBay, and elsewhere. Click for larger image (where possible).
- A question to ponder: With ticker tape machines introduced in 1867, why have I never seen a piece of ticker
tape older than 1929? Why does nothing from 1867 to 1928 (over 60 years) ever come up for sale?
My database goes back only to 1925. So, I could not easily confirm anything earlier (unless a hypothesized date
were put forward, and then I could just check the WSJ, NYT, or Barrons), but why is it never for sale?
- DTC (1984) says two things of interest here: "Before the stock ticker was introduced in 1867, "pad shovers," as brokers' messengers
were called, swarmed the exchanges to gather prices. Applying the new technology of the telegraph, E.A. Calahan, an American Telegraph
Company operator, designed the machine that soon extended the reach of the securities markets. This turn-of-the-century stock ticker
could print 275 characters per minute (DTC, 1984, p. 1)." and "On March 10, 1815, the Commercial Advertiser, a
New York newspaper, published the first complete list of stock prices, quoted here as a percentage of par [an illustration is given], as
stock prices were until 1915 (DTC, 1984, p.7)." This suggests that the ticker tape before 1915 showed prices as a percentage
of par; I'd like to see what that looks like.
October 29, 1929 ("Black Tuesday")
- The U.S. stock market (as represented by the Dow Jones Industrial Average)
rose 496.5% from 63.90 on August 24, 1921 to 381.17 on September 3, 1929.
The Dow then declined 89.2% from 381.17 on September 3, 1929 to
41.22 on July 8, 1932 (see the image showing the three-year decline, a page down from here).
- Note that many people were leveraged 10-to-1 back then,
so they were wiped out long before this 89.2% decline ran its course. For example, suppose that
you put down $100 of your money to buy $1,000 worth of stock, making up the shortfall using $900 borrowed from your broker.
Then your "margin rate," defined as position margin (i.e., what you put down) divided by position value (i.e., value of what you bought),
is only 10%. Any margin trade has a multiplicative gain/loss factor of 1/[margin rate]. So, the multiplicative
factor equals 1/10%=10 in this case, meaning that the impact on your wealth of any percentage movement in the stock price
you bought is multiplied 10-fold.
Thus, a newly established position is wiped out by a single 10% decline in the value of your stocks (because you lose 10x10%=100% in that case).
If your broker fails to liquidate your position in time and your stock declines by more than 10%, then you lose more than 100%.
That is, the stock you sold is not enough to pay back the loan from your broker, and you are on the hook for further
debt that must be repaid from other assets. If you do not have enough other assets to pay back the loan, then you are bankrupt.
- The month of October in 1929 is most commonly associated with the beginning of the depression-era
three-year downward slide in stock prices. On "Black Thursday" October 24, 1929, the market dropped dramatically
at the open, but recovered (with help from the trades of leading Wall Street bankers) to end the day down only 2.1%. On "Black Monday" October 28, 1929, however,
the market fell 13.5%. On "Black Tuesday" October 29, 1929, the market fell
11.7%. On Wednesday October 30, 1929, the market bounced back 12.3%. (We saw similar reversals of fortune
in October 2008, though not on consecutive days: October 13, 2008, up 11.1%; October 15, 2008 down 7.9%;
October 28, 2008, up 10.9%.)
- The five largest up moves and five largest down moves after Black Tuesday
and before the trough of July 1932 were, in chronological order:
October 30, 1929 (+12.3%),
November 6, 1929 (-9.9%),
November 14, 1929 (9.4%),
June 22, 1931 (11.9%),
September 24, 1931 (-7.95),
October 5, 1931 (-10.7%),
October 6, 1931 (-14.9% reversal when President Hoover moves to restore confidence in the U.S. banking system),
December 18, 1931 (9.4%),
January 4, 1932 (-8.1%),
February 11, 1932 (9.5%). So, this was a volatile time period.
- Overall, the three-year decline in the markets
from 1929 to 1932 was almost twice the size of the Global Financial Crisis decline from October 2007 to March 2009.
Remember, however, that you could use much more leverage in 1929, 10-to-1, compared with only 2-to-1 nowadays. So,
that made the depression-era decline even worse. To offset that, however, the proportion of the population owning stocks
back in 1929 (roughly 5%-7%; Perlo ) was much less than it was in
2008 (roughly 62%; Gallup ).
The percent of U.S. adults holding stock in 2020 was about 55% (Gallup, 2020).
- Here is a 12-minute podcast about stock ticker tape and the crash of 1929. He
hypothesizes about the impact of tape delays (see the delay meter picture below).
- I obtained the first 1929 ticker tape image below from the Web site
for the Museum of American Finance, with their permission.
They write that their piece of tape comes from approximately the first 45 minutes of NYSE trade
on Tuesday October 29, 1929 ("Black Tuesday"). Unfortunately, the right-hand side quarter of their image has been cropped. The New York Times
carried a story on January 29, 1997, reporting that the Museum bought this tape for USD5,000, at an auction
in Strasburg, PA, having come from a private Boston broker who saved it, and it remained in the family until sold.
(Collection of the Museum of American Finance, NYC. Used with Permission.)
- The following six images come from a U.S. collector who asked me about his ticker tape. My opinion is that his tape is 100% genuine.
You can see that the prints on this example are not as crisp as those on the example from the Museum of American Finance, because different
ticker machines printed differently. The two examples do give, however, identical ticker symbols and prices. Note that the two
examples complement each other because each example contains information that is not clear on the other example.
Comparing the two examples, I am guessing that this example shows approximately the first five minutes of the NYSE ticker on Black Tuesday.
Click on the images to get a magnified image.
December 12, 1960
- I saw this Edison ticker machine + tape for sale on eBay in September 2019.
The eBay description said that the tape was from the last day that the
machine was used, that the machine was from "Frank Zygmunt estate," that
it weights over 40 pounds, and has dimensions approximately 48x13x13 inches on stand, and 13x8 inches without the stand. I dated the
tape to Monday December 12, 1960.
April 15, 1965
- I saw this tape for sale on eBay in September 2019. The tape is from
Thursday April 15, 1965. The vendor said that he visited the NYSE as a child with his parents,
and that (as far as he recalled) there was a stock ticker in the visitor's gallery and that
they were invited to take some tape as a souvenir, and he took several feet.
August 22, 1966
- I saw this piece of tape for sale on eBay in March 2021. I was quite surprised to find it was from
the same week as the next two pieces. I thought that this piece may also have come from Mr. Ramsay, but the vendor
said no. It came via a family member who he thought had visited the NYSE on that date. Compare
the ink color and paper color with those of the next two pieces; the prints here are nice and clear and you can
still see the #56 Purple ink, but the color has faded a bit.
August 25, 1966
- This is my original piece of ticker tape, given to me by Mr. Ramsay. I put a ruler on it, and it is exactly 1 inch wide. I have about
10 feet of tape. Note that someone has circled several key figures. I put an image of part of this tape over the top right corner of the cover of a book I published in 2000.
The purple ink has retained its color, even after 50+ years. I showed this to finacne major students in my class,
telling them that they were welcome to touch it if they wanted to, because it was likely the only piece they
would ever have the chance to touch in their life.
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, or both.
- 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." Elsewhere I read that
if the tape delay was more than one minute, the handles would be dropped, and volume information might be dropped also,
unless the volume was 5,000 shares or more. 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 (I also had to do this with the ash tray example further below).
My code still returned the same unique date.
Ash/Pin Tray Example: December 7, 1967, and November 19, 1968
- These artistic ticker-tape ash/pin trays were advertised on eBay in August 2019. Like the August 26, 1966 tape,
the handles are missing, and I needed some special code to identify the day(s).
These say "A DECORATIVE CRAFT - Florentia - HAND MADE IN ITALY" on the reverse. The buyer of these
contacted me and told me that these are roughly seven inches in diameter, which surprised me at first. Most of the tape is
from Thursday December 7, 1967. One piece of the tape (with prints for MDE, LSG, HCA, RST on it), however,
looks a little different from the others. After some careful deduction, I am convinced it is from
Tuesday November 19, 1968. I suspect these ash trays were made in late 1968. There were ticker machines on
ocean liners and in foreign cities. So, the ticker tape may have been printed in the US and carried to Italy,
or it may have been printed in Europe to start with. It may even have been printed on a boat headed for Italy!
Ash/Pin Tray Example: November 21, 1968
- In 2021, I was sent pictures of an almost identical ash/pin tray. I dated it with 100% certainty to Thursday November 21, 1968.
Jewelry Box Example: December 7 (and possibly 5 or 11), 1967
- In 2021, I was sent pictures of a jewelry box prepared with almost identical patterns. I dated some of the ticker tape as
being from Thursday Dec 7, 1967, with 100% certainty. Some of the other tape is from Dec 5, 7, or 11, 1967. In practice, it
is likley all from the same day (i.e., December 7, 1967). The prints did not show up clearly on the images
that were sent to me (e.g., see below). So, I asked the owner to read them carefully. He made some understandable mistakes reading
the prints (e.g., sending me three ticker symbols that have never existed, and misreading a price stamp), but we figured
it out in the end. It was a very enjoyable piece of detective work.
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. The prints here
are very clear and the ink color is excellent.
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." If you
know where this quote is from, please use my email, below, to let me know. (See further discussion of ticker tape parades
further down this page.)
May 1, 1985
- This piece is a full 10 years later than the previous tape: Wednesday May 1, 1985. I saw this for sale July 10, 2020 on eBay, out of New Jersey.
It looks like a full reel of tape. It is surprisingly badly faded, but the interior appears less faded.
This is the latest-dated tape I have seen printed using what looks like Western Union's old
#56 Purple, Ticker Ink.
- I matched ten prints: GIS, ROK, MCN, LTV, AVP, NGE, MOB, D, HZN, and IU.
Oddly, I think I see "QMAN" on the tape, but I can find no record of that stock. My best guess right
now is that it was a CBOE equity option on the old Manville Corp (I do find the ticker QMAN mentioned in the
manual to the old Berkeley Options Database, but it was delisted two years earlier; perhaps it got re-used for
the same purpose). If you know what QMAN was, please let me know.
May 23, 1991
- Well, I thought this was impossible. This piece and the next come from the 1990s. I found the following image at Getty's Web site.
It is their property, but they have it mislabeled at their site as being from the 1970s. Note that this tape lists
ticker symbols in alphabetical order, and without volumes, rather than in trading time order.
Sure enough, after double checking, I can confirm that these are all closing prices on May 23, 1991.
March 31, 1994
- I found the following piece for sale on ebay. The vendor said it came from an estate sale in Chicago.
At first, I thought it was some sort of fabrication/fake. I contacted someone in the U.S. who suggested that
it is not a fabrication of any sort, but rather that in discount broker offices in the 1990s, the brokers would
sometimes use an old ticker machine that had previously been retired. Perhaps the machine was not well maintained,
which explains the "sloppy printing, cheap ink, and a residual line produced from a dirty (inky) pressure roller."
The paper also appears to be quite roughly cut. I have seen ticker timer tape
(as used by physicists) for sale on Amazon.com that has this same rough-cut look; I do wonder whether that was used here.
Note that the ink used here is not Western Union's old
#56 Purple, Ticker Ink
of the older tape above.
My contact suggested that this ticker machine would have been in the broker's front office because some, perhaps older,
customers expected to see a ticker machine in a
brokerage office. Also, it added a little noise to the office which gave an air of busy-ness. Also, some of the older
brokers had lived with ticker machines all their lives, and did not want to give them up. Note that the following day,
Friday April 1, 1994, was an exchange holiday for Good Friday. I suggested to the vendor that someone knew they were going to have a
long weekend, they felt relaxed about it, and they grabbed the tape to take home for their kids to play with, or
just for fun, or something like that.
June 13, 2001: Replica
- A contact sent me the following image, below left. He thinks it came from an eBay auction in 2002. The prices are in decimals, for the
first time. At first I thought they were prices on 16ths, 32nds, 64ths, etc., and only rounded to two decimals, but no, these
stocks stopped trading on 1/8ths etc. about five months before this date, on January 29, 2001
(see this LA Times Article).
- I checked every date from January 2, 1930 to Dec 29, 2017, and there is only one date that matches the prices on
this decimal ticker tape. Nothing else comes close to matching. It is Wed June 13, 2001. In addition to the prices on
the tape matching only that day, the price changes, for example, AOL 52.56+0.46 match exactly the closing prices from
the previous day, Tuesday June 12, 2001. That is, for each of the five price stamps, if I take the + numbers and add them
to the closing prices from the previous day, I get the price stamp on the tape. However, these price stamps are
definitely not the closing prices on June 13th. So, they must be prices sampled strictly within the trading day,
with a price change to indicate the change from the previous day's close at that point during the day. I have not
seen ticker tape before where the individual stock price is given along with the change from the previous day's close.
Two other odd things about the tape are that it does not have volume and my eye tells me it is 0.75 inches wide, and
not the old 1 inch wide tape.
- AOL is America Online, SNE is Sony Corp, RSH is Radio Shack, GMH is GM, GLW is Corning Glass.
- My contact told me that in 2001 there was a company making replica universal tickers that printed real-time quotes
when hooked to a computer (see www.stocktickercompany.com).
He said that this would also explain the thinner tape, as one inch tape is "too fat" for a universal ticker to operate
smoothly. He said that the replica couldn't print fast enough to track the entire market. So, you created your own
list of stocks to track, and it limited itself to those companies. He said that they sold a dozen or more machines
in the first few years to brokerage firms and museums. They also sold custom ticker tape printed with whatever you wanted.
I contacted The Stock Ticker Company in June 2018 and they replied to confirm that they were the only folks with working
stock tickers in 2001, and so it looks like it was produced on one of their machines. I also included below right an image from their
Web site showing tape coming out of one of their machines. As of July 2018, they advertise a very handsome
working Universal Stock ticker replica
for $22,995 and rolls of 0.75 inch wide ticker tape for sale
for $99.95 per roll.
November/December 1983: Fabrication
- An eBay purchaser sent me these images. Although this purports to be genuine ticker tape, it is a fabrication.
There is no date with recorded NYSE prices on these stocks that line up with the price stamps on the tape.
- This fabrication is a double-sided piece of tape, commemorating a record-breaking deal in AT&T stock.
The dates are within the few months just before the breakup of the old Ma Bell company into the baby bells.
Before the breakup was complete, there was an overlap period in late 1983 when the old AT&T
traded side-by-side with the new AT&T stock which would not be officially listed on the NYSE until February 16, 1984.
During that overlap period, you could buy the old AT&T (ticker symbol T) and the new AT&T (ticker symbol "T WI")
at the same time. The "T WI" stock trades would not settle until the new stock was subsequently
issued (mid-February 1984). So, it is called "when issued" stock. The little W over the I stands for
when issued. (The stock does not yet exist, but you are trading it based on its near-future listing.)
- Neither side of this tape is an actual stock ticker tape printout from the day indicated because
the prices shown did not all exist on those days.
This is a commemorative fabrication, created after the dates on the tape. It suspect that it was printed
on an actual ticker machine, but I cannot tell for sure. If so, it was run through twice, to print both sides.
- I think someone gave the printer a December 6, 1983 newspaper with the December 5 prices for
FNC, NL, AXP, ACY, C, BHC, TEI, and CAT, along with the actual trade prices in T and "T WI" from November 30
and December 1, respectively, and the numbers were merged and printed on or soon after December 6, 1983.
December 6, 1983 is the only day in the database that is consistent with these non-AT&T prices.
- One side of the tape is more faded, probably from sitting on a desk facing one way for years. It looks
like plastic screws have replaced the original steel ones. Note that the handle has been dropped in several
places (e.g., National Lead NL at 16 and CityCorp FNC at 35 1/8). In total, the tape reports $856.4 million worth of T and
"T WI" stock traded. These were likely to be "block trades" negotiated in the "upstairs market" at the NYSE.
Loeb (The Critical Link between Investment Information and Results, Financial Analysts Journal,
May-Jun, 39(3), pp. 39-44) discusses trading costs for such trades, but does not extend to block trades
of this record-breaking size. My educated guess is that the market maker who handled these trades (the vendor said
he was at Goldman) made at least $50 million by brokering the deal. It could easily have been double that.
(...and this is in 1983 dollars!).
October 1996: Fabrication
- I saw the following item for sale on eBay during August 2019. Although it purports to be genuine ticker tape, it is a fabrication.
The first entry looks like it says October 31, 1996, but there is no date any time between 1930 and 2017 inclusive with
recorded NYSE prices on these stocks that line up with the six price stamps on the tape.
- I can match four of the six prices on October 31, 1996 and November 1, 1996 (DIS, IBM, CPB, WMT). On October 31, 1996,
however, XON had a low of 87 7/8 and a high of 89 1/4. So, 83 5/8 is not a valid price for XON on that day. Similarly,
on October 31, 1996, GM traded between 52 5/8 and 53 7/8. So, 48 3/8 is not a valid price for GM on that day. A similar argument
applies on November 1, 1996. I think this is a modern creation, perhaps printed on an old ticker machine, but perhaps just printed
on a laser printer using a scan of some 1990s tape and Adobe Photoshop.
- Like the following fabrication, I wondered if October 31, 1996 (that's Halloween) was the date someone retired,
or it might be a Lucite block to commemorate some merger or acquisition deal.
The Campbell's Soup trade is very large (nine million shares; see "how to read ticker tape" below).
I found a CNN page suggesting that
a Campbell's Soup heir sold nine million shares on this day for $720 million (corresponding to this trade at $80).
I wonder if the broker who handled this trade produced this Lucite fabrication as a memento for those involved.
The vendor confirmed (August 20, 2019) that the Lucite block came from the estate sale of a NY broker.
The slotted round-headed screws on this fabrication and the next are consistent with the fabrication being at least 10 years old,
but perhaps the screws are new old stock. This one looks like it has faded from years on a desk near a window.
This one and the next look like the same person made them.
March 2005: Fabrication
- I saw the following item for sale on eBay during 2018. Although it purports to be genuine ticker tape,
the quotes are in decimals, which places it after January 2001, which seems unlikely unless it is a fabrication or a replica.
The first entry looks like it says March 10, 2005, which is consistent with decimal pricing, but there is no date any time
between 1930 and 2017 inclusive with recorded NYSE prices on these stocks that line up with the stamps on the tape.
- I can match three of the five prices on September 1, 1998 (HD, KRB, ACF) and another three
on March 25, 2004 (HD, KRB, LU), and there are 25 days where I can match two of the prices,
including two days in March 2005 (KRB, ACF), but on March 10th, 2005, only one price matches (ACF).
The closest days bracketing March 2005 that match the price on MRK are February 23, 2004 and June 21, 2007.
So, I think this is a modern creation, perhaps printed on an old ticker machine, but perhaps just printed
on a laser printer using a scan of some 1990s tape and Adobe Photoshop.
- I wondered if March 10, 2005 was the date someone retired, and if these are the prices at which
the retiree liquidated a large portfolio, perhaps at some time around that date, plus or minus a year or two,
but not all on the same day. Alternatively, it might be set in a Lucite block to commemorate some merger or acquisition
deal. I noticed, for example, that KRB stopped trading on December 30, 2005.
- A contact suggested it might have been printed using a replica from
The Stock Ticker Company, but I think that seems unlikely in this case (because the tape appears to be 1 inch wide, not
0.75 inches wide, because the prices don't match any genuine day, and because the print quality is so poor---all
in contrast to the June 13, 2001 example above).
- I saw the following item for sale on eBay during April 2020. The vendor has old unused Western Union
ticker tape reels for sale. The pack clearly states 3/4 inch width, as seen with the ruler. The last image
shows that as you get close to the end of the reel, the edge has purple ink as a warning. I have seen the same
thing on rolls of receipt paper in the supermarket, but I have never seen a piece of imprinted ticker tape with
this ink at the side of it.
This section is based on multiple sources, including Barron's Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms (2003),
and Barron's Finance and Investment Handbook (2003).
- First, I hope it is obvious that the ticker symbols (e.g., "GE" for General Electric,
and "PN" for Pan American) are called "ticker symbols" because they were printed on the ticker
machine, and the ticker machine was called a "ticker" machine both because of the loud ticking noise it made
as the symbols and prices were printed and because the minimum allowable price variation (an eighth of a dollar for
high-priced stocks in the old days) is known as a tick. (So, all prices and price changes printed on
the ticker are in multiples of one tick). You can hear a stock ticker in the first few seconds
of this old movie clip.
The movie is about Thomas Edison, who invented the best-known ticker machine, but the ticker
machine was invented by Edward Calahan in 1867, patented in 1868, before Edison's 1871 invention,
patented in 1873. Here is another short movie clip with
The glass dome over the older machines suppressed the noise to some extent---in addition to helping
to keep the machine's innards clean.
- From 1975 onward, a consolidated tape was printed that included prints from different exchanges. An ampersand
symbol sits between the ticker symbol and the exchange identifier.
So, looking at the April 9, 1975 (b image) tape, we see "EK&X 90 3/4", which says that
Eastman Kodak was traded at 90 and three quarters on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.
"A" was for the American Stock Exchange (AMEX), "B" was for Boston, "C" was for the Chicago Stock Exchange or Cincinnati (there is
disagreement in my readings), "M" was for the Mid-American Stock Exchange in Chicago, "P" was for the Pacific Stock Exchange (most likely San Francisco),
"T" was for the Third Market (i.e., OTC, mostly Nasdaq), "X" was for the Philadelphia Stock Exchange,
"O" for other markets (including INSTINET). No letter indication means it was executed on the NYSE.
- When a price is preceded by an "s", the number preceding the "s"
indicates how many round lots (i.e., 100-share lots) were traded.
So, "SPS 5s10" on the April 9, 1975 (b image) tape, indicates 500 shares of SPS traded at $10 per share.
No "s" indicates a single round lot of 100 shares.
- For 10,000 or more shares, no abbreviation is used. For example, on the March 31, 1994 (figure b) tape I
see "MAX 10s4.13.16" which means 1,000 shares of MAX traded at 4 and thirteen sixteenths. I also
see "COL 110.000s39 5/8" which I read as 110,000 shares of COL traded at 39 and five eighths. I think that the dot followed by
three zeroes means that the number preceding the dot is in 1,000s, and the number after the dot is an actual count (in this case zero).
- I already mentioned the handle being dropped to save time. In addition, if you look at the April 9, 1975 (a image) we see
"WMB 5s 34 1/4. 5s 1/4" meaning 500 shares of WMB at 34 and one quarter, followed by another 500 at 34 and one quarter.
We also see "GE 45 1/4 1/4" meaning 100 GE at 45 and one quarter followed by another 100 GE at 45 and one quarter.
- Sometimes, however, when a tape delay was in progress, repeated transactions at the same price were not printed.
- On the May 18, 1973 (a image) tape, we see "T 52 3/8 T.WS 2s6 1/4" meaning one round lot (i.e., 100) shares of
AT&T executed at 52 and three eighths, followed by 200 AT&T warrants executed at 6 and one quarter. Warrants are
stock options issued by the company, rather than ones issued by the CBOE.
- Two very small "s" symbols stacked on top of each other are used to indicate that the count of shares following
is for a stock that does not have a round lot of 100. For example, on the NYSE higher-priced
preference shares and inactive stocks might have a round lot of only 10 shares. On other exchanges
the size of a round lot in such stocks might differ from 10. The unusual size of the round lot is not given
on the tape.
- When a transaction is reported out of proper sequential time order, a note ".SLD" was appended. We can see that on the
August 25, 1966 (a image) tape where it says "TDY.SLD 3s90 3/5".
- OPD indicates an opening transaction that has been delayed.
- SLR followed by a number indicates a seller's option and the number of days to maturity.
- When an error was made, CORR (for correction) preceded the corrected price. Such a correction can be seen on the March 31 1994 (c image)
where it says "CORR TFS 3s47". ERR or CXL indicate that the following information is to be ignored.
- Different share classes are also indicated. For example, on the March 31 1994 (c image) we can see "VIA.B 5s" (but I cannot see the price)
for Viacom class B shares. In the October 28, 1929 envelope, you can see BO.B for B-class stock.
- Other information is also given, like approximate volume in the last two hours, or level of the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the
Transportation Average, or the Utilities Average, or the Financials Average.
We can see this in the August 25, 1966 (b and c images) tape, where the reader of the tape (Mr. Ramsay?) has
circled some of the information.
- I can see "LSO.XD" for LSO stock that is ex-dividend on the August-26-1966 (a image) tape.
- ".WS" means warrants and ".WD" means when distributed. Note that WS for warrants, WI for when issued, and WD for
when distributed are symbols that are still used for the same purposes by the NYSE (NYSE, 2015).
- A prefix of "Q" indicates that the company is
in receivership or bankruptcy. A suffix of "Pr" indicates preferred stock. A suffix of ".CV" indicates convertible stock.
- A "W" stacked above an "I" means when issued, as in the AT&T breakup example above.
- I still do not know what "S" stacked above a "T" mean, which can be seen in images above.
I do note that for Homestake Mining (HM) shown at 48 1/8 on May 18 1973, the stock had rocketed up
65% over the previous two months (and 100% over the previous 4.5 months). So, my best guess is that
S/T means a short sale. I wondered, but rejected, whether it signaled a stock split, but this stock
had had no recent splits, and it kept going up, hitting $99 per share eight months later on January 15, 1974,
before decreasing again. The $99 stopping point is an example of reversals caused by limit orders
to sell, known as the "Osborne Effect" (Crack, 2020, pp410-411). Please let me know if you know for sure
what the S over the T means.
- I do not know what the little "8" means in the BHW quote on
the Edison ticker tape picture, above. It says "BHW 49 1/4 .8 49. 1/2", which
looks like one round lot of BHW (Bell & Howell) at 49 and a quarter, but I have not seen the "8" before, and I do not know
why there is a period between the 49 and the 1/2. Could the 8 signify an odd lot, and then 49 shares at 49 and a half?
I doubt it. Please let me know if you know.
- 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. Compare the pattern on the tiled floor with the pattern on the ash/pin trays shown above.
- Ticker Tape Parades
- I think the first ticker tape parade in New York was an impromptu one 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 along a section of Broadway in NYC
known as the "Canyon of Heroes."
- Commemorative NY Ticker Tape Parade Envelopes
- During September 2021, I was contacted by Douglas Deacon in the U.S. to examine his
commemorative envelopes decorated with ticker tape from NY ticker tape parades (the May 1963 and January 1969 examples below).
This was my first time seeing envelopes decorated with ticker tape. He also sent me the 1929-1934 example, though this one
is owned by someone else. I then also found the Apollo 11 example online, which was described as having been sold
for $800. If a parade takes place during the business day (and I think they did), then the ticker tape from the
parade is unlikely to be from that day, and is likely to have been set aside in advance.
I was able to date both the May 1963 and January 1969 examples as being from two days prior to their respective parades,
which is exactly what I would have expected.
- The ticker tape from the August 13, 1969 Apollo 11 parade,
however, is dated to either April 22, 1969 or April 25, 1969 (it can be no other date, but I could not
pinpoint the exact day). These dates are four months prior to the parade. I have two competing hypotheses.
First, higher up on this page, I gave the 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." There were no parades between January and August of 1969. So, this
ticker tape could easily have been genuinely hoarded for four months, and thrown in August. Second, perhaps the envelope
is a fabrication, having had the tape stuck on it four months earlier, getting date stamped on the day in question. If so, then
it is a misrepresentation, because the tape was not thrown on the day in question. My opinion is that the Apollo 11 item
is genuine, because of the quote given above, and because of the absence of any parades between January and August of 1969.
- Unable to Date (too faded):
- October 28, 1929: This is interesting for four reasons. First, there is only one day before 1935
that CK and ND traded at these prices. It is Monday October 28, 1929, the day before Black Tuesday.
Nevertheless, someone has written, incorrectly, in pencil on the tape that it is from October 29, 1934.
CK is Collins and Aikman, ND is National Dairy Products Corp. (now under Kraft), and BO is Baltimore
and Ohio RR. Second, Note that BO is BO.B. I assume that this is BO's B-class stock. Third, this envelope,
and the one above, are signed by Herman Herst Jr., the famous stamp dealer/collector, author, etc. Herst was born
March 15, 1909, which makes him only 20 when he collected this tape, and only 25 when he sold the envelopes,
while working in the bond department of Lebenthal & Co. (which appears to still exist at the
same address, 120 Broadway, NY, which is just one block from the NYSE). Note also that 120 Broadway backs onto Nassau
street, where Herst dealt stamps in the 1930s and 1940s. Herst died, January 31, 1999, aged 89.
Fourth, you can see that this tape is the narrower 3/4"-wide tape as compared with the 1"-wide
tape seen in the envelopes below from the late 1960s.
- Monday May 20, 1963 (for Gordon Cooper Mercury 9 NY Parade on Wednesday May 22, 1963):
- Wednesday January 8, 1969 (for Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, and William A. Anders Apollo 8 NY Parade on Friday January 10, 1969):
- Either April 22, 1969 or April 25, 1969 (for Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins Apollo 11 NY Parade on August 13, 1969)
firstname.lastname@example.org.NOSPAM (on average one week before reply; remove ".NOSPAM" before mailing).
- Crack, Timothy Falcon, 2020, Foundations for Scientific Investing:
Capital Markets Intuition and Critical Thinking Skills, 10th Edition.
- DTC, 1984, The Depository Trust Company, Annual Report, 1984.
- NYSE, 2015, NYSE Symbology, Ver 1.0c, March 23, 2015. 14pp.
- Saad, Lydia, 2020, "What Percentage of Americans Owns Stock?," Gallup
poll. Available here.
- Perlo, Victor, 1958, "People's Capitalism" and Stock-Ownership,
The American Economic Review, Vol. 48 No. 3 (June), pp. 333--347.
Available here; Library access needed.
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Last Updated: December 22, 2021