500 Years of Speculation: Learning From Prior Market Manias

These days, it’s easy to witness some speculative activity in today’s markets and declare, “This is unprecedented.” In this interview, Jamie Catherwood, associate at O’Shaughnessy Asset Management and publisher of Investor Amnesia, joins Real Vision’s Jack Farley to declare the exact opposite: that markets have been “here” before many times. Catherwood outlines how financial bubbles begin, evolve, stretch, and ultimately burst, citing many examples such as British Railway Mania, the 1890’s “Brewery Bubble,” Bicycle Mania, and the notorious South Sea Bubble. Catherwood traces the origin of short squeezes from Isaac Le Maire’s struggle against the Dutch East India Company in 1610 to the 1923 “corner” in grocer Piggly Wiggly. Farley incorporates this history to the recent squeeze in GameStop Corp, which leads Catherwood to recount the emergence of the retail investor. Catherwood ends by sharing the surprisingly long history of “electric vehicle” stocks and connects the ongoing surge in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to “Rabbitmania” among idle Samurai in Meiji Japan. Filmed on March 12, 2021.

Key learnings: History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme. Almost every financial transaction – whether inanely routine or outrageously unscrupulous – has a corollary throughout history, and by studying the past, investors can prepare themselves for the future.

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