Stock certificate collectors, an endangered species, still proudly display their relics
In the simple office where investment advisor Amadeu Zamboni Neto, age 48, lives in the São Paulo neighborhood of Perdizes, there is enough space for a secretary's desk, chairs for meetings with clients, and a cabinet crammed with stock certificates of low value, scarce liquidity and infinite sentimental value. The 530 or so documents stored by Zamboni include IPO stocks from state-owned telecom Telebrás, as well as stocks from auto parts manufacturer Mangels, from the Companhia Energética do Maranhão (Cemar), and from Lark, a logistics operator with only three trades recorded on the exchange over the past five years. "A pile of paper gathered over a lifetime of working in the financial market", he summarizes. In the beginning, Zamboni would gather these stock certificates hoping to assemble a minimum lot and sell it on the Bovespa. In time, he realized that their value was more sentimental than financial. "Take a look at this blue and yellow one. It still has the 'to bearer' coupon. Isn´t it beautiful?", he gushes, displaying a stock certificate from Andrade Gutierrez Concessões.
Zamboni is part of a small group of individual investors that acquire shares with extremely low liquidity just to display them on their desks. The practice of collecting stock certificates hails back to the way in which public companies´ shares were traded until the late 1980s, when investors were free to transfer stock certificates to third parties because securities were owned by the bearer. Issuing bearer shares was prohibited by Law 8,021 in 1990.
The introduction of computer systems in the BM&FBovespa and the advent of digitalized transactions further reduced the habit of collecting stock certificates. "Collectors cherish having the shares in their hands and displaying the certificates to their friends", emphasizes Felipe Mello, an economist with Máxima Asset. "What can you do with a computer document? Show the PC screen to your friends?" The term "share collector" is losing its meaning, as the habit is becoming more and more sparse. “If you tell someone in the market that you're a collector, they´ll understand that you're the ultimate buy-and-holder, investing for the very long term", he says.
Legal advisor and former railway worker Sérgio Feijão, age 51, values rare stock certificates much like Zamboni. In the house Feijão shares with his mother, in São Paulo, he has shares from Ferrovias Ferronorte, which can´t even be sold unless converted into shares of the new group formed by that company. "When Ferronorte became Fepasa, I should have traded my original shares and sold them. But I like being a shareholder, which is very different from being an investor. An investor only thinks about financial return, but a shareholder enjoys being part of the company and contributing to Brazil's progress", Feijão rationalizes.
UNCONVENTIONAL ACTIVISM — As a member of the Railroad Preservation Association, Feijão uses his minority shareholder status to access shareholders' meetings and network with CEOs and directors from the industry's major companies in Brazil. "I ask them for donations for my association. It's the only way I can approach these executives", the advisor confesses. He grudgingly admits that his hobby is on a steep decline. "Unfortunately, the 'good shareholders' are vanishing without a trace", he sadly asserts. "Just the other day, a daughter of a friend in the financial market called, asking what to do with a bunch of old documents her father had left her. The new generations aren't interested in collecting stock certificates", he was sorry to say.
Feijão and Zamboni assembled their portfolios of relics almost involuntarily. They both spent the last two decades buying and selling stocks on the São Paulo stock market and, between gains and losses, they ended up keeping some completely illiquid shares. Zamboni says he sold some of them to acquaintances, during direct auctions on the Bovespa. "This happens in auctions that aren't flashy, don´t alter companies´ shareholding structures, and involve low values, so nobody cares too much", he says. Despite having traded shares from his collection in the past, Zamboni says he wouldn´t do it again. "I have shares from LF Tel, for example. I am this company's only shareholder apart from the controlling family", he proudly states, referring to the La Font group holding, controlled by the Jereissati family.
FROM FATHER TO SON — At age 70, José Teixeira, an investor originally from the state of Paraiba, currently residing in Rio de Janeiro and also known as Teixeirinha, is a collector who explains the market's behavioral change very well. Teixerinha holds shares in 450 companies or so. All of them were acquired in the 70s, 80s and 90s, when it was common to buy small amounts of stock. In his desk are shares from the debilitated bank Banerj, industrial and medical gas manufacturer White Martins, and the first lot issued by Souza Cruz, a stock market veteran listed since 1946. "I wouldn't sell them for anything in the world. Even if I wanted to, who'd want to buy them anyway?".
Teixeirinha's collection will remain with him for the rest of his life. "I enjoy going out for whiskey with my friends and showing them how beautiful these certificates are. I want to leave them to my son, so he can see what his father accomplished in his life", he states. However, the swift transformations in the Brazilian stock market and the extinction of paper-based transactions probably mean that Teixeirinha represents one of the last generations to bequeath stock certificates to their heirs.