Value investing vs speculation – from Margin of Safety book by Seth Klarman – relevant for buyers of Bitcoins, Ripple and any other highly speculative offerings which are based on circular reasoning

In the book „Margin of Safety“ the following paragraphs can be found:

The greedy tendency to want to own anything that has recently been rising in price lures many people into purchasing speculations. Stocks and bonds go up and down in price, as do Monets and Mickey MantIe rookie cards, but there should be no confusion as to which are the true investments.

Collectibles, such as art, antiques, rare coins, and baseball cards, are not investments, but rank speculations. This may not be of consequence to the Chase Manhattan Bank, which in the late 1980s formed a fund for its clients to invest in art, or to David L. Paul, former chairman of the now insolvent CenTrust Savings and Loan Association, who spent $13 million of the thrift’s money to purchase just one painting. Even Wall Street, which knows better, chooses at times to blur the distinction. Salomon Brothers, for example, now publishes the rate of retu rn on various asset classes, including in the same list U.S. Treasury bills, stocks, impressionist and old master paintings, and Chinese ceramics. In Salomon’s June 1989 rankings the latter categories were ranked at the top of the list, far outdistancing the returns from true investments.

Investments, even very long-term investments like newly planted timber properties, will eventually throw off cash flow.

A machine makes widgets that are marketed, a building is occupied by tenants who pay rent, and trees on a timber property are eventually harvested and sold . By contrast, collectibles throw off no cash flow; the only cash they can generate is from their eventual sale. The future buyer is likewise dependent on his or her own prospects for resale.

The value of collectibles, therefore, fluctuates solely with supply and demand. Collectibles have no t histo rically been recognized as stores of value, thus their prices depend on the vagaries of taste, which are certainly subject to change. The apparent value of collectibles is based on circular reasoning:

people buy because others have recently bought. This has the effect of bidding up prices, which attracts publicity and creates the illusion of attractive returns. Such logic can fail at any time.

Investment success requires an appropriate mind-set. Investing is serious business, not entertainment. If you participate in the financial markets at all, it is crucial to do so as an investor, not as a speculator, and to be certain that you understand the difference. Needless to say, investors are able to distinguish Pepsico from Picasso and understand the difference between an investmen t and a collectible. When your hard-earned savings and future financial security are at stake, the cost of not distinguishing is unacceptably high.


Lesson to investors: check the underlying value, return of what you are investing in. That will eliminate so many risk factors, speculative decisions.

A 2019 version of the book Margin of Safety might include the fact that websites like Marketwatch have special pages, linked on the landing page, which lead directly to Cryptocurrencies. Also the fact that many banks have or had desks 2017 and 2018 that focus on Cryptocurrencies.

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