Poloron Products: Memory is Made Up by Van K. Tharp, Ph.D.

van tharp bkA note to readers: While Dr. Tharp’s content is timeless, this article is from our newsletter archive and may contain outdated information, missing links or images.

Many of you have heard the story of my first stock purchase at age 16.   Fortune Magazine listed a mobile home manufacturer called Poloron Products as having the greatest increase in earnings per share, so I bought 100 shares at $8.   I watched it go up to $20, and then down to $4.  At that point, I bought another 100 shares and it went down to $2 where I bought an additional 100 shares. Then it fell  to zero.  I made nearly every mistake that I possibly could in this trade.

For the past 10 years, I have wanted to frame some shares of Poloron along with my story as a reminder.  During the days when I originally purchased Poloron, the broker gave me the actual shares, but because I thought they were worthless, I lost track and have no idea what happened to them. I have been searching for Poloron shares through eBay and companies that sell old stock certificates for a while now.  I finally found a certificate recently and bought it for $5.   Even though the certificate was for only for 8 shares instead of my 300 shares, it is still symbolic of my first market experience.

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When I received the certificate I was shocked.  My memory tells me that I bought the first 100 shares of the stock in about 1962 when I was 16; the price change took place over the next four years.  The certificate I just purchased was dated 1983 even though my memory was that Poloron Products went bankrupt in the 1960s.  No way was I watching it in 1983.   Could it be that I made an even bigger mistake and lost a stock certificate that had real value and perhaps even went beyond $20 per share at some point?

So what happened? There are several possibilities:

  1. Could it be a different company?  No, it’s Poloron Products. They sold mobile homes, picnic containers, snow mobiles, etc.,—which is also what my company sold. That leads me to believe it is the same company.
  2. Did I remember the dates incorrectly? Did the company go bankrupt and then resurrect itself?  No, I read about the journey into snow mobiles and that was in the late ’60s and early ’70s, however, I Googled the company to find, that in fact, it did go bankrupt in 1981.  But this certificate was dated 1983 and it says the company was founded in 1937, so it was the same stock and was still active in 1983.
  3. In my mind, Poloron Products was bankrupt when I was an undergraduate in the mid-1960s.  Did I just ignore a perfectly good stock for 10 plus years thinking it was bankrupt?  If so, that would be another huge mistake that I didn’t know about.  Or did it just become worth only a few cents and so I wrote it off as bankrupt?
  4. If the company was a penny stock in 1983, why would someone only buy 8 shares?  They would have paid less than the $5 I just paid for a worthless certificate in 2013.
  5. My memory tells me that when I bought the stock, it went straight up to $20 over a few years, and then it plunged to zero within another few years.  Obviously, that was completely wrong in some way.  But that’s how I remember it.

The net result of all of this is just further proof that our memories are fabricated by our minds.   I discovered additional proof of this phenomenon when I recently realized that Libby Adams and I had totally different memories of our various meetings in the past.  I thought her version was made-up and my version was correct.  Who knows now?  Perhaps it’s all just shared illusion.

I would be interested to know how much of history is made up of memories that may or may not be accurate.  Certainly it is colored by the minds of those who write it.  I’m currently reading a book about John Rockefeller.  The author comments about how inaccurate prior Rockefeller books are, and, of course, he is right.  He says that he found some secret, private interview that Rockefeller recorded late in his life.  But those memories of Rockefeller in his later years were probably as accurate as my Poloron memory.  Of course, when I write about Rockefeller and the money game it will all be my own invention and perhaps none of it will reflect what really happened.  Or perhaps, as A Course in Miracles says, the past is all an illusion.  Did it happen at all?

I’d like to explore the illusion of Poloron some more and you may be able to help me.

  • Does anyone know how I can find the prior stock symbol for Poloron?  Right now, I can’t remember it or find it.
  • Does anyone know how I can get data of Poloron’s price history from 1962 through 1983?
  • Does anyone know how to find out exactly when Poloron ceased to exist?

If you have insights on how I can find the answers to my questions, please email me. I might as well know all my mistakes, including thinking the company was bankrupt when it wasn’t and then losing the “worthless” certificate.

I suppose if I really want to play with this particular illusion, I could always find a back issue of Fortune from around 1962 that lists Poloron as the top stock in earnings per share growth.  But what if that doesn’t exist either?  I’m not sure I want to enter the Twilight Zone…or perhaps I’m already there.  You, the reader who is probably 100% sure that your viewpoint is correct and that you don’t make such mistakes, probably think I am in the Twilight Zone.

This situation with my Poloron experience highlights the problems with looking at past trades. Perhaps now you understand why I have my Super Traders do an exercise in which they list everything they can remember for each year of their life.  It’s an exercise to show how we create our imaginary past.  What’s the difference between your experience of this moment and a memory of what happened 10 minutes ago, or yesterday or perhaps 20 years ago?

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