KUSTOMER, A. P.S. What do you think of the market? New York. Guenther Publishing Company. .
8vo., original cloth backed paper covered boards lettered in green on upper board. Repair to tear on gutter of title-page otherwise a very good copy.
First edition. Inscribed by the author. A series of 38 humorous fictional letters between an investor, Dave, and his broker Eddie.
While satirical in tone, the letters offer insights into the worries and frustrations inherent in playing the stock market, and foreshadow the crash and subsequent depression that would come ten years later.
“A. Kustomer” was the pseudonym of Jacques S. Cohen. At the time of the book’s publication, Cohen was the head of the Statistical Department at J.S. Bache & Co., a securities firm, and later worked at the firm of Baar, Cohen & Co. He also wrote numerous articles for The Financial World, also published by The Guenther Publishing Co., which was run by Louis Guenther.
Louis Guenther is perhaps best known for the libel and blackmail suit he was embroiled in during the beginning of the twentieth century.
In 1911, George Graham Rice, himself a known con artist, published an article in the magazine Adventure (owned by the
Ridgway Company) accusing Guenther of using The Financial World as a blackmail scam, supposedly threatening various businesses with bad press if they refused to purchase advertising. Guenther fought back, ultimately winning a libel suit against The Ridgway Company in 1915. A few years later, Jacques S. Cohen, apparently unfazed by Guenther’s supposedly unsavory business practices, began publishing his “Eddie from Dave” letters in The Financial World as well as articles under his own name. Apparently unaffected by the scandal, The Financial World continued publishing until it folded in 1998.
From the library of Harry Hoffman, presumably the same Harry Hoffman who was World Secretary of the American Exchange National Bank in New York in 1922. The inscription, which reads, “Harry Hoffman: To my friend and counsellor. Who if he had wisely counselled, perhaps I would not have written this book—Jacques S Cohen Dec 8/1920”, is the only indication that Cohen was indeed the author. Even James L. Fraser, an investment counselor who self-published a revised edition in 1966, did not know the identity of “A. Kustomer”. He writes in his introduction that even Richard Anderson, then-editor of The Financial World, knew nothing of Kustomer’s identity, and that it is, “one of the many little mysteries that often crop up when one digs into Wall Street’s past.”
In 2013, the book was revised, annotated, and privately reprinted again as Letters to My Broker: P.S. What Do You Think of the Market? by Clem Chambers, a financial pundit as well as CEO of ADVFN, a financial market website. He too, did not know the identity of the original author. These reprints are a testament to this odd and obscure little book’s enduring relevance to the financial world.