Let's not forget the existence of many other distinct possibilities when dealing with microcap, possibly shell stock issues; the two currently being discussed here– simply 'going to zero'' vs. 'shooting up to $100/share'– are not, by any means, the only two possibilities, and in my experience traipsing about the world of Bulletin Board, Pink Sheet and letter/Restricted stock trading, I'd actually deem those the least likely outcomes. Adding to those:

Possibility #3: "The Yawn of Death". Company trades sideways for years - literally years - within a one or two cent range from the current price. (#3A: This, but periodically mgmt issues a few million/hundred million shares, expanding the float and ensuring little or no movement in the price other than possibly slipping agonizingly down towards 'bid wanted'.)

Possibility #4: "The Roach Motel". Company rises from, say, 4 cent per share present price to trading @ 10, even 15 cents per share (or drops to, say, 2 cents per share) - then volume drops to nothing and the bid/offered spread explodes; in former scenario, to 3 bid/20 offered or in latter 1 bid/5 offered, with only a scant bit trading daily.

Possibility #5: "The Long Goodbye". Company rises to, say, 15 cents per share (or $4 per share, for that matter), is suddenly and unexpectedly halted by a regulatory body, and either (#5A) never reopens for trading, leaving you with your sole 'return' reading regulatory proceedings concerning your dead money, or (#5B) reopens to trade 0.0001 bid, offered at 0.0003 for years.

Possibility #6: "The Shapeshifter". Company, with nary a hint of warning, issues a Press Release one day saying it is changing its business from stem cell research to researching and eventually opening the world's first chain of cold-fusion powered laundromats.

The world of corporate finance fairly bristles with avenues and options for locating and funding good ideas and talented entrepreneurs. Scant few - none, that I can recall - have ever come through the drillbit equity markets.

Jeff Watson writes:

Speaking of penny stocks…..are there any good studies out there comparing the vig in penny stocks vs regular exchange listed and NASDAQ stocks? Although beyond the scope of my limited intelligence, I would suspect the vig in penny stocks to be the highest of them all, as high or higher than a game of keno.

Kim Zussman adds:

It is hard enough to find something to buy which will one day go up. But after you buy at 0.05, what will you do when:

1. It doubles? (On the way to 10X or 0?)

2. Stays at 0.04-0.06 for 5 years– giving you plenty of time to get discouraged and sell– only you check back at year 7 and it is now trading over $1?3. You have enough guts to hold until 10X, and realizing this was a miracle, sell. Only to find it was the next MSFT

All hugely successful long-term investments will, along the way, ask what you are made of. For most of us this information is carefully concealed and thus the path is non-navigable.

Vince Fulco comments:

Moreover I would argue the energy required to follow the situation will exhaust the h-ll out of you and absorb the precious time you can use to find vastly more profitable situations. In the mid-2000s, way past the Net burst, a colleague who should know better bot converts and common in a new age company (prefer not to mention the industry to protect the innocent), participating with a top tier Greenwich HF in financing rounds. For the HF, the position was de minimis but whose participation was a great selling point to other investors. The technology underlying the company was patented but time was wasting on it and it faced much bigger competitors. It took only a few days of fact checking and looking through the SEC filings by me to realize something wasn't right. While the company surrounded itself with all the buzzwords of the day and had a great marketing effort, its cash burn was always way too high relative to its size and it was obvious existing shareholders would be diluted ad nauseum if the company were ever to gather sufficient resources to really grow. Deals booked were always tiny relative to the market potential and industry installed base. Bottom line: the red flags were all over the place but you had to be willing to listen and not drink the kool-aid. The majority of penny stocks are simply fool's gold surrounded by a sub-culture whose sole purpose is to tout by any means necessary. Suffice it to say, my Pal is still nursing this POS (piece of %^&*) as we call it in the industry. 

George Parkanyi writes:

Back in 1980-82 I was a stockbroker. One of the guys in the office, Paul C, connected with some guys out in Vancouver who were promoting/pumping a junior coal company. Paul had his clients buying the stock, and some of the guys in the office, including myself bought a little as well. I had about 5 or 6 people in it– some friends and relatives, and for a few weeks it rose nicely and I averaged up the positions.From what I heard of Paul's end of the conversations, you could tell these Vancouver guys had a certain amount of money they were using to work the stock, and the rise was carefully choreographed with orders placed just so and press release this and press release that timed just so. I wasn't paying a lot of attention, but Paul was constantly on the line with the promoters and with his clients. At some point, I forget the reason, my mother wanted to sell her position, so thinking nothing of it, I sold her out at the market at a good profit somewhere in the $5 or $6 range. Not 30 seconds later, some guy is on the phone chewing out Paul about "market orders coming in from his office". Paul looked really uncomfortable and came over to talk to me about it. I remember saying to him, "Are you *^&%$# serious? My mother's rinky-dink order is "messing up their market"? I'm outta here, and you should be too." So as quickly as I could call everyone in the stock, I blew out all the positions– at the market. Within days the whole thing collapsed. I personally got out already on the way down, only because I had to get all my clients out first. Paul and his clients never got out. I can still picture him sitting leaning back in his chair, staring out the window with that blown-up look, absentmindedly swinging his telephone around in circles beside his chair. He took it like a man though, and never held any of it against me.

As a general rule, unless you REALLY know something, never get into these things on the buy side. You need to assume that they are all pump-and-dump operations, no matter what the story. In fact, I remember doing a study at the time and concluded that a great strategy would be take a pool of money and short every Vancouver stock that popped its head over $5. When these things go, they collapse like a house of cards. Sure, a couple would have burned you, but if you did them all you would have made a killing.


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