Stock Market Investing Dartboard

The Stock Market Investing Dartboard was a feature of the Wall Street Journal newspaper.

For 14 years (1988 – 2002), the WSJ ran a series of highly publicized contest between a group of professional investors, and an “Investment Dartboard”.

Four journalists chose stocks by throwing darts at stock tables, and over a six month period, compared their investment gains to those of four stocks chosen by pros.

Over the years, this “Investment Dartboard” competition became a popular feature of the newspaper, and was very widely publicized.

The competition began as a fun way to test the “efficient market theory” as espoused by Princeton professor Burton Malkiel. In his 1973 book “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”, he stated: ” Taken to its logical extreme … a blindfolded money throwing darts at a newspaper’s financial pages could select a portfolio that would do just as well as one carefully selected by experts”.

Darters will note that no actual dartboard was ever used, just lists of stocks posted on a wall. The journalists who threw the darts were not blindfolded, but the results were presumed to be random. Each group chose and tracked a portfolio of four stocks for six months, and the results were compared to each other and to the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Over the years, the pros always beat the dart board. In 1999, WJ readers were allowed to participate by emailing in stock choices. Except for the final year, the WJ readers’ choices fared worse than the other groups, having average losses of around 4%.

The contests’ results, after 142 contests:

 

Darts……………………………………… + 3.5% gain

Dow Jones Industrial Average…….. + 5.6% gain

Professional Investors……………….. +10.2% gain

 

The Investment Dartboard contest was retired in 2002, as the WJ said that it had run its course as a feature.

One might guess that part of the reason for its demise was that, like any one-sided contest, it had simply become boring.. the Darts never won.