Book Collector

Farzam Khassian
Farzam Khassian

Book collector Farzam Khassian shares his thoughts on his hobby of collecting rare investment and financial books. He has collected more than 1,000 financial books over the years and has inspired Mark Hebner to also start collecting these treasures. It is interesting to note that even 200 years ago, some authors were writing about the danger of speculating in the stock market, the pitfalls of market timing, and the snares of stock picking, while others were writing to influence the public to engage in those same behaviors. It seems some things haven’t changed, although there are more books being written today on the benefits of passive investing with index funds. Reading through antique and collectible books gives a fascinating perspective on the history of investing.

Here Farzam writes about the rare art of collecting financial material. In his words:

In the world of financial books and ephemera, material bound in ring binders or folders are especially scarce and collectible. Here is an example of how the process would start. An individual would purchase a book, and either tucked inside or towards the end of the book, he or she would be exposed to some sort of advertising material from the author offering additional services. These would include advisory services on when to buy and sell stocks, or a detailed course on the nuts and bolts of investing and trading. Some authors would also offer daily, weekly and monthly market letters or charts. Back then, this was primarily the only option available for investors to obtain reliable market information. Old style ticker machines with the glass dome were expensive and only owned by large operators, market technicians and brokerage houses.

Most of the time the subscriber would receive a notebook or a folder, followed by letters, charts and lessons for a weekly or monthly fee. A certain level of commitment and some funds on the part of the subscriber were required to maintain the service and continue accumulating the material. Most of the authors who provided such services had already experienced strong sales of their books, so the contents of these letters and courses were worth reading. 

The letters and lessons were sent on mimeographed sheets measuring about 8 1/2" x 11." The notebooks were designed as either a leather or leatherette 3-ring binder or a 2-hole punch folder with folding bars or metal screws.  

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the ring binding, not many complete copies have survived. Single sheets of paper were easily torn away from one of the rings and eventually completely detached from the notebook. They were also self-published and assembled by hand when a subscriber showed interest and sent money.  For these reasons, these notebooks rarely surface for sale or auction.   

Some of the more unique collectibles which I recall are as follows:

Trendographs by Edwin Quinn - They were published in the mid 1930's and bound in a 2-ring leather notebook. The matching leather box had two compartments. One was used for storing the notebook and the other for storing the chart inserts which Quinn sent for a monthly fee.

The Forbes Stock Market Course - This large 3-ring notebook was published in 1950 and was popular from the start. A thick and heavy instruction course about investing in the stock market. It is still being published today.

How to Make a Cycle Analysis by Edward Dewey (1955, 1956) - Dewey was the President of The Foundation for the Study of Cycles. With over 600 pages, this correspondence course is one of the most elaborate and comprehensive to ever be written. At a cost of $50 (which was a week’s salary in the 1950s), it was expensive and few could afford it. As a result not many copies were printed. A true rarity.