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Which companies to list in the database ... and which to reject?
My Decision Tree shows a graphical view of my process for deciding which companies to include in this catalog. As an alternative, try my My Online Decision Tree. It walks users through the entire process that I use.
This page discusses my selection concepts in more detail.
I want to avoid wasting time. I spend an inordinate amount of time explaining why certain companies are not in the database. I would like those hours back.
There are huge numbers of questionable companies in what I call the "Gray Area." Those are companies that are somewhat close to railroading for any number of alleged reasons. The number of companies in the Gray Area is a function of the number of companies in the database. As the universe of acceptable companies grows, the number of closely-allied companies in the Gray Area companies grows much, much faster.
To illustrate, let me use the volume of a sphere to represent the number of all railroads and railroad-related companies in North America. If we expand our definition of "railroads" (the diameter) by only 10%, the number of possible companies (the volume) that might be included in the project grows by 33%!
The point is that a small expansion in the definition of "railroads" creates magnified growth in the number of companies I need to track.
Many collectors think I should be more inclusive in the types of companies I include. I respect their contributions and their opinions. If I were making a living doing this, I would be more willing to commit more time to the Gray Area.
This project is strictly a volunteer effort. All income from all catalogs I've sold since 1995 equates to roughly two to three week's income from my main occupation. This is a labor of love, not a money-making venture.
With that reality as a backdrop, I hope readers understand that my experience is clear. Instead of being more inclusive, I must be more restrictive in the companies I list. In fact, every time someone insists I expand my project in one direction or another, I realize I have failed to adequately explain my project. Whenever that happens, I tighten the project definition even more.
Central purpose. This catalog is intended as a guidebook for people who collect railroad certificates.
One of my secondary tasks is compiling and maintaining a complete list of "railroad" and "rail-related" companies that operated in North America. That allows immediate and painless expansion of the project as more and more certificates appear. If company names sound like they might have been railroad companies, I include them. 70% of the companies listed in my database sound like railroad companies.
Conversely, if companies sound like they belong in other industries, I exclude them.
The title of my catalog is Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads. I hope that title fully indicates my cataloging focus.
Keeping my eye on my target market. In creating the title for my catalog, I wanted to inform collectors about what they would find inside. I have always assumed that collectors who buy my catalog or look at this website expect to learn about collectible railroad certificates.
I doubt average collectors would search my catalog for information about certificates from brewing companies, steel companies, mining companies and utilities. Never mind that several companies from each of those industries owned rails and locomotives as adjuncts to their main business purposes.
Let's look at it another way. Let's imagine a catalog for mining certificates from North America will appear at some time in the future. I seriously doubt collectors of railroad certificates would think of looking in a catalog about mining certificates to learn about certificates from the Union Pacific Railroad. I mention that company because the Union Pacific Railroad Company owned the Union Pacific Coal Company, a company that mined hundreds of millions of tons of coal from southern Wyoming over a seventy-five year period.
Practical matters. It takes thousands of hours per year to describe certificates and record prices from legitimate railroads and closely-related companies. Every minute I spend on non-railroad certificates is one minute less I have to spend on my core project.
Given the choice, I hope that collectors of railroad certificates would want me to spend my time describing and pricing stocks and bonds from railroads.
Again, please examine my Decision Tree for a graphical understanding of my project.
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