When The Crowd Discovers Your Indie Stocks

You know how when your favorite underground band hits it big it you almost can’t help but hate that band?  This revulsion to the sudden widespread popularity of something you had to yourself can also occur in your stock portfolio.  And it feels just as weird.

In the early 90’s, I was way into the band Blues Traveler.  I’d seen them several times at some lower east side dive bars that I was definitely underage for and on the H.O.R.D.E Tour with a then-unknown Dave Matthews Band as opening act.  I had all the Blues Traveler albums (and bootlegs) and I thought harmonica virtuoso John Popper was The Man.  And then they put out this poppy, pandering, cheesy single – complete with Wizard of Oz-themed video – called Run-Around.  It became a radio hit nationwide and every 15-year-old girl at my high school loved it.

So of course, Blues Traveler was out of my life forever.

I’m starting to feel that way about Silver Wheaton ($SLW), a story I’ve been involved with since the single digits (“it’s the miner without a mine!”).  Riverbed Tech ($RVBD) has been my cloud computing stock since $22, now it’s become everyone’s cloud computing stock.  I’m also getting the same feeling about IMAX Corp ($IMAX), a stock I’ve been buying on and off since 2003 when the Co-CEOs first came up with the idea of getting studios to convert mainstream movies and conventional theaters to their 70 mm format.

These stocks have broken out in a major way, market capitalizations for them are now in a new league versus where I first began buying them.  And it makes me cringe to hear them mentioned…so I’m cringing a lot lately because they’re on everyone’s lips.

Now of course, this is exactly backwards.  When you’re extremely early to a story and it begins to play out exactly as planned, you should be elated.  And at the beginning you are elated as the unrealized gains start building up on your brokerage statement.  And then you start to become concerned with the composition of the new shareholder base.  You begin to pray that the rodeo clowns on financial television don’t bring in an army of “bad holders” who will cause a nasty anomaly on the charts with their massive stampede in and their subsequent lethargic exit.

And while this line of thinking may be somewhat childish, there is some merit to it.

When you love a story that begins coming to fruition (because we don’t love stocks after all, but stories are OK), you always end up wishing you’d had more time to accumulate shares – even when you had years to do so.  Everyone knew the iPhone was gonna be huge, but strangely, no one “had time to buy it”.

When you are early to a story and hear other people talking about, there is also an insane need to make it known that you were there first and that, “Yeah, the Green Mountain Coffee thing is pretty cool, but it’s probably played out by now”.  You almost cannot bear to listen to other people telling the story and talking about the investment that you had all to yourself at one point – “20 points ago, man.”

My take?  Let that nonsense go.  I put on Blues Traveler’s Save His Soul disc the other day and you know what?  It’s still ridiculously awesome.  Know what else is ridiculously awesome?  Being early to a story and being right, all cringing aside.  Don’t allow the sudden popularity of “your” stock make you hate it.  Be emotionally possessive about something else, not your investments.


OK, a quick list of bands that I was pretty early on and I temporarily hated when they got bigger…

Wilco, the Fugees, Pete Yorn, the Arcade Fire, Gorillaz, Franz Ferdinand, Smashing Pumpkins, the New Pornographers, Snow Patrol, Weezer, Vampire Weekend, Onyx, the Arctic Monkeys, Live, the White Stripes and Wolfmother – Just off the top of my head.

I remember specifically how each of these bands went from being “mine” to being “corny and played out”.  But I got over that, because they all deserved to break out and I was just being a baby.

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