A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 18, 2008
“The crowd is always wrong” or “The public is always wrong” (Wall Street proverb)

"The crowd is always wrong” or “The public is always wrong” is a Wall Street proverb that dates to at least 1915, where it is cited in the writings of Bertie Charles Forbes (1880-1954), founder of Forbes magazine. The financier Bernard Baruch (1870-1965) also used the phrase.

This proverb takes the public for unsophisticated “suckers”—one version of the phrase is that “the sucker public is always wrong.” Crowds move together, over-buying or over-selling. If you don’t panic and assume the opposite philosophy of the crowd, this proverb holds, then profits can be made.


Wikipedia: B. C. Forbes
Bertie Charles Forbes (May 14, 1880 – May 6, 1954) was a Scottish financial journalist and author who founded Forbes Magazine.

B.C. Forbes was born in New Deer, Aberdeenshire. After studying at University of Dundee, in 1897 Forbes worked as a reporter and editorial writer with a local Dundee newspaper until 1901 when he moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, where he founded the Rand Daily Mail. He emigrated to New York City in the United States in 1904 where he was employed as a writer and financial editor at the Journal of Commerce before joining the Hearst chain of newspapers as a syndicated columnist in 1911. He left Hearst after two years to become the business and financial editor at the New York American where he remained until 1916.

He founded Forbes magazine in 1917 and remained Editor-in-Chief until his death in New York City in 1954, though assisted in his later years by Bruce Charles Forbes (1916-1964) and Malcolm Stevenson Forbes (1919-1990), his two eldest sons.

He was the founder of the Investors League in 1942.

Wikipedia: Bernard Baruch
Bernard Mannes Baruch (pronounced /bəˈɹuk/) (August 18, 1870–June 20, 1965) was a Jewish-American financier, stock market speculator, statesman, and presidential advisor. After his success in business, he devoted his time toward advising Democratic presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt on economic matters.

Google Books
Finance, Business and the Business of Life
By Bertie Charles Forbes
Published by The author
1915
Pg. 180:
In financial circles there is an axiom: “The crowd is always wrong.” The time to purchase stocks and bonds is when nobody wants to buy and everybody is anxious to sell. Prices then are low.

Google Books
How to Get the Most Out of Business
By B. C. Forbes
Published by Kessinger Publishing
2003 (Originally published in 1927)
Pg. 236:
A favorite Wall Street maxim is, “The crowd is always wrong.”

26 May 1927, Bridgeport (CT) Telegram, “Always Wrong,” pg. 14, col. 2:
Edward M. Fuller, founder of the bucket-shop of E. M. Fuller and Company which failed owing its customers $4,000,000, testified that he and his partners operated operated on the theory that “the sucker public is always wrong.” His firm made $100,00 a year on a cash capital of $10,000 until it went wild in its bucketing operations and got caught in the market.
(...)
“The sucker is always wrong.”

9 October 1930, Benton Harbor (MI) News-Palladium, “Sudden Market Rise May Badly Pinch Pessimists” by B. C. Forbes, pg. 17, col. 6:
Wall street has an old adage, “The crowd is always wrong.” Assuredly the crowd was wrong when it excitedly clamored for stocks at ridiculously inflated prices a year ago.

In other words whatever Fuller’s customers guessed Fuller felt safe in guessing the opposite.

Google Books
Easy Money:
A Study of Low Interest Rates, Their Bearing on the Outlook for the Gold Standard and on the Problem of Curbing a Boom

By Lionel Danforth Edie
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
1937
Pg. 133:
The well-known axiom that the public is always wrong is a warning principle to keep in mind but it is not by any means a sure criterion of universal ...

1 March 1938, Bismarck (ND) Tribune, “‘Public Is Wrong’ When It Buys Securities,” pg. 2, col. 2:
Washington, Mar. 1—(AP)—Bernard M. Baruch, who operated in Wall Street for 40 years, told a senate committee Tuesday that “the public is always wrong” when it buys securities.

“I have yet to see an amateur who ever made any money,” Baruch testified before the unemployment committee.

13 June 1938, San Antonio (TX) Light, “Pessimism in Direct Ration to Size” by B. C. Forbes, pg. 7B, col. 8:
Wall street has an adage, “the crowd is always wrong.”

7 July 1938, Nevada State Journal (Reno, NV), pg. 6, col. 5:
...attested to the accuracy of the Wall Street adage that “the majority is always wrong.”

Google Books
Odd-lot Trading on the New York Stock Exchange
By Charles Oscar Hardy
Washington, DC: Brookings Institution
1939
Pg. 62:
...enough to give rise to a tradition that “the public is always wrong,” or is wrong so often that the movements of the odd-lot balance furnish a serviceable…

28 December 1946, Winnipeg (manitoba, Canada) Free Press, “Wall Street Market Reflects Investor’s Caution At Year End” by Elmer C. Walzer, pg. 16, col. 4:
NEW YORK, Dec. 28 (BUP)—Wall Street continues to anticipate a year-end rally in the stock market.

The growing trend towards unanimity in this expectation is worrying the old timers who recall the old Wall Street adage that when the Street in unanimous in anything it is usually wrong.

Google Books
The Wall St. Thesaurus
By Paul Sarnoff
Published by I. Obolensky
1963
Pg. 245:
The public is always wrong.

Google Books
Wall Street: The Other Las Vegas
By Nicolas Darvas
Published by Lyle Stuart
2002
Pg. 56:
That last has given rise to another cynical Wall Street saying, namely, “The public is always wrong.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Saturday, October 18, 2008 • Permalink