NEAL CONAN, host:
This is Talk of the Nation, I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Many investment advisers tell us that stocks could be a bargain right now and that we should definitely try to hold on to the stocks we got until the market inevitably rises. But a lot of people aren't listening to conventional wisdom or want to diversify. So when Wall Street is out on the savings account, interest rates seems a little paltry, many turned to alternative investments, gold, wine, livestock, art and other collectibles like comic books, of course they all have their risks too. If you've made an alternative investment call and tell us your story. Our phone number, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com and you could also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.
Later in the program, final arguments the case for John McCain and Barack Obama on domestic and foreign policies. We begin today when former George W. Bush speech writer Michael Gerson makes the conservative case for Senator McCain on domestic issues. But first, alternative investment and we begin with Mark Craddock, the manager of Comic Book World in Florence, Kentucky. Mark, nice to have you with us today.
Mr. MARK CRADDOCK (Manager, Comic Book World): Hi, Neal. Thanks for having me.
CONAN: And as people pull money out of the stock market, are they putting it in the comic books?
Mr. CRADDOCK: Yeah they have. One of the things we've noticed here in Kentucky is that honestly we've been kind of dealing with the recession for at least 18 months. So this kind of started for us a while ago where we noticed more and more investment and gain from buying and selling key high condition back issues specially books that had been certified by the Comics Guarantee Corporation, a third party.
CONAN: So these are - this is not going down to your local newsstand and buying the latest edition of "X-Men". You know, this is going back and buying "Spiderman" number one.
Mr. CRADDOCK: Most of it, yes. Now, you can get some good short term gains occasionally, you know in the last few years we've seen that with titles like "Ultimate Spiderman" or "Walking Dead" but most of this is occurring with high condition of CGC qualified key Marvel and DC back issues of the last, you know anywhere in the last 70 years.
CONAN: So, the condition is certified by an independent examiner and often the comic book is taken out of that normal plastic back and put in some tight sealed plastic.
Mr. CRADDOCK: That's correct. And most of the - I mean, books at CGC graded a lot. The industry for the most part uses the over three price guide, a CGC book a lot of times will earn anywhere from two to six times, its equivalent value once it's been graded.
CONAN: Now, there is a comic book's price guide that's published every year.
Mr. CRADDOCK: Yes.
CONAN: And sellers don't need to be warned or often you can look and say, geez my "Green Lantern" number two is worth $880 or first of all may not be in perfect condition.
Mr. CRADDOCK: Exactly and it often isn't.
CONAN: And also, that's the price to buy it not the price to sell it.
Mr. CRADDOCK: And that's a very good point and something that a lot of customer specially with the rise of Internet sellers like eBay don't often understand. And you know, if you've got a Kias you like, think, you can sell off pieces of your collection and good money. But local stores like us, we buy the whole collection. And when you kind of average things out, we generally for instance pay 50 percent but when you figure it out that you're moving everything and selling everything, a lot of time your investment with us a much better investment in the long run.
CONAN: Because you'll buy those "Sergeant Fury and His Howling Commandos" too?
Mr. CRADDOCK: Exactly, yes. In a year or you know, "Nova" or whatever and not just your "Green Lantern" two.
CONAN: What's the hot book right now if you had one in your hot little hands, what would it be?
Mr. CRADDOCK: Well, I'll tell you, for us it would be early "Justice League 1, 2, and 3" earlier this year, we had the highest copies yet graded by CGC and made a really good return for us on our investment and for the person who sold them to us, worked out great for both of us, he was a long time friend and customer and I think everyone came out very happy. You know, honestly we are interested in all aspects of comic back issues because we you know, local store have a market for lower end stuff and high end. So we're interested in everything but you know, we're always on the lookout for high-end Marvel and DC collections.
CONAN: And so, do you think that comic books especially these high end silver aged comic books that you're talking about, this good investments you think?
Mr. CRADDOCK: I think so. And you know, I think a lot of people honestly have been doing this because you know, it's like anything else, if you understand what you're investing in, you're going to invest better. You know, overall we always get - especially our owner Paul Mullins always get the return - a better return on his comic investments than his investments in the stock market. And he'll say to himself it's because he doesn't have to rely on someone else to help make the decisions, he - or understand the market's up and down turns, he understands the market himself and can react better, react faster and just make a better investment in a far, far shorter term.
CONAN: So in other words, he may not know very much about JenTek(ph), but he knows whether the issue of "Fables number one" is worth this much or that much?
Mr. CRADDOCK: Exactly. And that's one of the things anyone should, I guess caution themselves. You know, back in the 90s a lot of people gotten in trouble with speculation because they just were not - they weren't collecting in the right ways, and they weren't being as sensible as they should be. You know, and that's - hopefully people have a local store they can talk to. And there are certain Internet sites that a lot of people talk that you'll meet other people with similar interest like Comics Link or Heritage Auction, but you know hopefully your local store is who you start with because that's - I mean, all of our business starts and end here with the people we've worked with for almost 30 years and then we have lots of mail order customers that we've met through shows and other stuff and you know you build a reputation and you work on a relationship with them.
CONAN: Well, Mark Craddock, good luck to you. Thanks very much for talking to us.
Mr. CRADDOCK: Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: Mark Craddock, the manager of Comic Book World in Florence, Kentucky with us by phone from the store there in Florence. And joining us now is Jennifer Levitz, she's at the studios of WGBA, our member station in Boston where she's a reporter for the Wall Street Journal wrote an article, when stocks tank some investors stamped to Alpacas and turned to drink. And Jennifer, thanks very much for being with us today.
Ms. JENNIFER LEVITZ (Reporter, Wall Street Journal): Hi, Neal. Thanks for having me.
CONAN: And you had something in you piece about a comic books index which indeed was out performing the stock market.
Ms. LEVITZ: Yes, that's right. The silver age comic book pricing index. This is 32 frequently traded comics from the 1960s, it was at 14.2 percent in the 18 months ending in July. While the standard enforce 500 stock index was down 11 percent in the same period.
CONAN: But comic books are hardly the only items you turned to you mention, turned to drink wine a big investment.
Ms. LEVITZ: Yes, that's right. I talked to a man who in Atlanta who took $120,000 and invested in champagne. Mostly, he bought a 400 bottles mostly 1996 vintage and he even bought a storage unit, climate controlled and he just said that it - his comment to me was that it sure beats looking at a Meryll Lynch monthly statement.
CONAN: And if worst comes to worst and it all goes bust, he's got something to drink.
Ms. LEVITZ: That's right. And he referred to them as liquid assets.
CONAN: Of course he would. But - and nevertheless interesting, he had to spend money to - that climate controlled unit to preserve his investment. Interesting. And, how did you come up with this story idea? I mean, who suggested - there's an awful lot going on here.
Ms. LEVITZ: Yes, right. Well, we've been doing a lot of stories at the Wall Street Journal about how people are reacting to the stock market volatility. And in talking with investors - I spoke with a woman in Vermont, and she said you know, I got out of - I sold my mutual funds, I got out of it, I couldn't take it anymore. And I said, what you do and she said, I bought some cows.
Ms. LEVITZ: And - yes. She bought some cows, and she called that her commodity play and she said, you know, I just wanted something that I could see out my window. I wanted something real and she intends to breed them for meet and sell the milk and so forth - and so I spoke with some - with some historians and it turns out that in down markets, investors have long turned to hard assets. The idea that is if you invest in something real, it won't every disappear even if its value declines, but traditionally, the safe haven has been a home, a second home or real estate - but in this downturn, it's different because that is also sinking.
Ms. LEVITZ: So more people are looking at completely different things.
CONAN: I have...
Ms. LEVITZ: Cooking spots...
CONAN: As well, regular listeners will know. I do have a collection of comic books. I don't have to feed the comic books nor milk them.
Ms. LEVITZ: Right. Right and I think there's another advantage for people, too in that if you have something - a tangible asset that you can look at and feel, you get - you kind of get to enjoy it while you have it.
CONAN: Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah. All right, let's get some callers on the line, 800-989-8255. What is your alternative investment? Danielle is with us. Danielle calling us from Lake Tahoe in California.
DANIELLE (Caller): Hello.
CONAN: Hi, Danielle.
DANIELLE: Good afternoon.
CONAN: Good afternoon.
DANIELLE: I'm calling to mention my - what I think is sort of my quirky side investment which is - And it's sort of gender specific but it's high fashion labels, clothing and accessories. And I do this mostly for women's apparel and also there's a really kind of raging market for baby and toddler boutique branch.
DANIELLE: Yeah. So, what I'm able to. This has been sort of a boom for this hobby because I've been finding some amazing deals especially online and yeah, my information base is growing and I'm getting more and more familiar with hot items and things that I can re-sell on down the line. And it's the foremost, form for that with obviously be eBay.
CONAN: Right. And when these things arrive, you just put them in the attic in a box?
DANIELLE: Well no actually, some - well, mostly I use them because you can use apparel gently and keep it in great condition and if this is - if the label is - has enough stir about it and the particular item, you'll find a buyer so you can recuperate some of your investments. I feel like I'm getting a good price because of the down economy and then I can recuperate some of my investment later on.
CONAN: What's the best single deal you've made quickly?
DANIELLE: Probably selling a Missoni scarf. It's an Italian brand and the scarves are especially popular this time of year.
CONAN: And you bought it for how much and sold it for how much.
DANIELLE: Sold it for six, sorry - bought it for $60 and, great deal and sold it for $220.
CONAN: Not bad. All right, Danielle, good for you. Thanks very much for the call.
DANIELLE: Thank you.
DANIELLE: Thank you.
CONAN: What are your alternative investments if you're not putting your money in stocks or mutual funds? Where are you putting it? More of your calls in a moment, 800-989-8255. Email us firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Wild market swings have caused wild mood swings for investors and though most experts agree we shouldn't panic and pull our money out of stocks right now, a lot of folks are looking into harder assets like gold or mushy ones like worm farms. Well, it's better than the Sealy and Serta alternative. If you've made a particularly interesting alternative investment, no it doesn't count if you're drinking your booze. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us email@example.com. You can also check out our blog and other listener stories at npr.org/blogofthenation.
Our guest is Jennifer Levitz, a reporter with the Wall Street Journal who wrote a piece, "When Stocks Tank, Some Investor Stampede to Alpacas and Turn to Drink." There's a link to that story on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. And this is Steve, Steve calling us from Oregon in Ohio.
STEVE (Caller): Yes, hello.
CONAN: Go ahead, please.
STEVE: Thank you for having me. This is a great topic, timely of course. And what I want to talk about is electric guitars. I have several vintage electric guitars and I can't give you direct number as far as the difference between a stock market but it does blow the stock market away. For example, I have a 1962 Thunder telecast that I purchased about a year and a half ago for $800. It's worth approximately between 15 and $20,000.
CONAN: Wow, that's a pretty good - and you have several, is this a sideline of yours?
STEVE: Well, I'm a guitar player so, you know, it's like breaking windows, you can't stop with one.
CONAN: No, I guess you can't.
(Soundbite of laughter)
STEVE: If I see a good deal, I just can't pass it up and fortunately we have the funds purchase these things because I'm the inventor of the laser level. I talked to you - I was actually, about three weeks ago.
CONAN: Oh cool.
STEVE: Yeah, anyway. You'll like the guitars are incredible. There is a book called vintage guitar price guide and it's about an inch thick book comes out every year.
CONAN: Are - is there any market in vintage laser levels?
STEVE: They're not vintage yet.
CONAN: No. I see.
STEVE: They're quite new. There's a market for the new ones, of course. But this book lists all the vintage guitars and of course, the American ones are the top ones. There's really nothing else that even compares to American guitars.
CONAN: Either electric or acoustic, Martin guitars are worth quite a bit of money. I wonder, you're a guitar player said you take down these vintage instruments and get to play them.
STEVE: That's the beauty of this. I can take a 1962 telecaster to a club and play it live and if it gets a little nick in and who cares it has plenty in it. And now, the ones that look, worn or used actually will fetch more than the ones that look pristine. And that sound crazy. Just because it has sold, it has been played, broken and as opposed to a new shoe and a used shoe that would fit perfectly on your foot.
CONAN: I think the - don't they call that patina or wear?
STEVE: Yeah, yeah. We just call it - what do we - we call it aged or, you know, just...
CONAN: Beaten up. Yeah.
STEVE: Actually now there are guitars being sold brand new by Fender that are aged in the factory to make that look like a used 1962 vintage guitar. They...
CONAN: That must be a great job Steve to be a guitar ager at Fender.
(Soundbite of laughter)
STEVE: That would be incredible. All you have to do is make them look ugly, bust them up, bump into them, sand them a little bit, rub against something and...
CONAN: Smash them over an amplifier.
STEVE: Yeah. And it's incredible, really. If you look at the detail, unless you're an absolute expert, you wouldn't know the difference, really. It's astonishing. Well the guitars are incredible. I would encourage people to look into that because I'm now probably shooting myself in the foot because everyone here is and they'll raise the price of a guitar I might be buying next weekend.
CONAN: Steve, continued good luck with the laser levels and with your guitars too. Appreciate it.
STEVE: Thank you so much for the call.
CONAN: So long. Bye-bye. And Jennifer, vintage instruments, classic collectors item.
Ms. LEVITZ: Yes, you know, it's interesting because right after my story ran, I got an email from a man who talked about vintage guitars, and he sent me an index. He said that there was an index, an investment pricing index that he showed at vintage guitars out-pacing the S&P. So, I think he might be on to something.
CONAN: Well, we're hearing people calling with success stories of course. Joining us now from - by phone from his office in Montgomery, Alabama is Joseph Borg, director of the Alabama Securities Commission. Thank you very much for being with us.
Mr. JOSEPH BORG (Director, Alabama Securities Commission): Neal, thanks for the invite to be with you today.
CONAN: And we're having you on because there are risks associated with such investments.
Mr. BORG: There's always risks in any investment, Neal and certainly the gentleman who just talked about the guitars certainly seemed to know what he was talking about. It's certainly over my head because that's not an area that I know much about. And the problem is that all the listeners need to watch out because let's face it, from past experience con artists follow the headlines and they're going to use any worries and fears in the markets today to find quote "alternative investments." that we've been talking about now.
Now a gentleman, who now happens to know his guitars was probably doing that way before this market crisis came on up. And let's face it, if history's any guide, there are a lot of the investments that we've seen whether they're - and you mentioned the worm farms from the '70s, and we've seen the emus and the ostriches and the antique gold coins and the more sophisticated ones, ones like foreign currency trading and off shore tax shelters, but you know, these investments a lot of times, is they're not going to be worth the paper that they were printed on.
CONAN: Really? I mean, totally valueless.
Mr. BORG: Oh, a lot of them. Now, that's not to say that everything that's an alternative. Of course, not. If you happen to know your gold coins, but I can give you a case that we investigated to some years back, this was when we - when the Y2K and everything was going to collapse in 2000?
Mr. BORG: They were selling these antique gold coins because they were an alternative investment and they would hold their value. Now, if you looked at the coins real carefully, you could tell they were really antique gold coins. Think about this one, Neal. They had BC printed on the front.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BORG: Takes a little thinking but hopefully most of the listeners got the irony in that one.
CONAN: Of course, if they were common - current fakes, they'd say BCE. So anyway...
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: What red flag should people look out for besides BC stamp on a...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BORG: If they're being sold as investments, and here's the important thing. It doesn't make a difference if they're selling anything from real estate to alpacas to gold coins, if they're being marketed as an investment, being represented as something that's going to go up, those investments need to be - those individuals need to be licensed and those investments in most cases need to be registered. So there's a place you can go in every state in the country and that's your securities regulator for your home state.
And say, you know, I'm getting told I should buy off-shore tax shelters or they're selling me gold coins as an investment, and they have it as investment company out of Canada or wherever it may be. Those folks have to be licensed in that state, you know? And if they're not licensed, then the products are unknown and not registered then, probably hold on to your wallet because those folks probably have no business doing business with your listeners.
CONAN: So, beware when you get the offer on the chinchilla farm.
Mr. BORG: You'll have to be very, very careful. If it's an area that you're not familiar with, then, you know, like the gentleman who was speaking earlier, he knows his guitars. He went through them with - he knew that ages and years in the mint. Obviously he's going to do well. And if you have that particular expertise, that's one thing and you want to use that as a sideline for an alternative investment, some hobbies turn into some pretty good investments. But for the most of us, looking at the markets today and saying, oh my God, everything's crashing, I need to pull out today.
Well, you know, we'd like to caution everybody out on Main Street against making these uninformed or sudden decisions just because there's a Wall Street crisis. Now is the time to look at your portfolio and decide which of these companies I really think are being hammered that maybe shouldn't be quite so hammered or which ones have got good operations that they're going to come back because if you sell out at the bottom, well, there's your losses. You don't lose money until you sell it.
CONAN: Yeah. I wondered those ancient gold coins that had BC stamp on the - do they also have caveat emperors(ph) stamped on them?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BORG: Well, there is a lot of caveat emperor buyer beware in most investments to say the least. Certainly if you buy from reputable companies in the securities area, there's something call suitability. I cannot, if I'm a securities dealer, sell a high tech, high-risk stock to someone who is 85 years old and tell them it's safe. That agent who sold that and that company that sold it are going to be very liable for violations of law. Unfortunately, with the alternative investments whether it's new types of precious stones or could be anything from oil and gas drilling equipment for that matter. You've got to be a lot more careful. And if you don't know what it is, you know, chances are you want to stay away from it. If you don't have the expertise in a particular area, you're not going to get it overnight. Use common sense. Some things really are too good to be true.
CONAN: Joseph Borg, thanks very much for the advice, appreciate it.
Mr. BORG: Thank you very much.
CONAN: Joseph Borg, director of the Alabama Securities Commission with us by phone from his office in Montgomery, Alabama. And, here's an email from Michelle in Overland Park, Kansas. My husband insists that his classic cars are in fact an investment and not a hobby, well I agree that he certainly - has a lot invested in late 1960s to early 1970s muscle cars. I'm not entirely convinced this is a good investment to see actual return in a down economy. As with many collector investors, you can only realize a profit if you're willing to sell what you invested in. Can you part with those comic books or those muscle cars to cash out that appreciation? I must say, my argument was always the comic books would help pay for the college education of my children. Both of my children are out of college - well out of college, and I still have all of the comic books. Let's see if we can get another phone call on the line. And this is Sarah(ph). Sarah is on the line from Paddock Lake in Wisconsin.
SARAH (Caller): Hi. Thank you. Good afternoon.
CONAN: Good afternoon.
SARAH: I had to pull out money from my 401(k) and so the like the collector I am, I put some money into some of the Star Wars figures that I collected. Now, when I buy them, if they're cheap enough, I always buy two. I'd buy one that I can take out and I can see and have fun with and I keep one. And I keep it in the package and I keep the wall, and keep it safe and smoke free and all that good stuff you have to do. And I watch how they go up and down, and this is kind of a long run investment or 10-15 years or so. But down the road, the springs will start to go up and move down, and I can sell the ones that are still boxed that were doubled.
CONAN: Now, isn't there one that is the Holy Grail for Star Wars figures collectibles?
SARAH: Yes. I don't go that far back. I actually started with the newer, the last three movies which would be the first three. But one of them would be the Darth Vader, one of the first Darth Vaders that came out in '76, I believe, and it's got a light saber that slides out. And if you have that exact thing, carded or not - and carded means that it's in the package - that is a phenomenal buy. They also have ones that have some errors in them and those are also phenomenal buys.
CONAN: And I suppose the Darth Vader without the light saber if you've been so careless, well, that's probably worth considerably less.
SARAH: Yeah. It's got to be, it's a slide-out light saber that comes out of it and relatively good shape. If the light saber's broken or doesn't slide the right way, the exact right thing, then yeah, it goes from several thousand down to several dollars.
CONAN: Sarah, thanks very much for the call and have a good time.
SARAH: Thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an email from Heather. "My husband had been using collectible card games as an alternative investment for years. In particular, he deals with "Magic: The Gathering." His current collection is worth about $20,000. We also know other families who trade magic cards over eBay to supplement their income average around $2,000 a month. That's a nice supplement. Lately, I have a client who invests in quilts. For example, she bought a quilt for $450 had it appraised and it's actually worth $1,200." Well, thank you very much for that, Heather. I wonder, Jennifer Levitz, are you hearing similar stories?
Ms. LEVITZ: Yes, I am. One of the more interesting ones I heard about was parking spaces. These are in some cities where there's a lot of shortage of parking spots, people can buy parking spaces. And people are buying them and renting them out to other people. So I've talked to several people who are doing that in Chicago. They'll buy a parking spot for $2,900 and rent it out. So they do a real estate investment, but kind of like a bite sized one.
CONAN: Doesn't sound like anywhere near as much fun as a Darth Vader with a light saber.
Ms. LEVITZ: No. No. Exactly. But I've heard of gold coins, the parking spaces, condos in Peru, Alpaca's, mini cows, the guitars.
CONAN: The mini cows. I forgot about the mini cows.
Ms. LEVITZ: Antique guns.
CONAN: Antique guns, too. Well, that's one of the longest established markets in guns. Anyway, we're talking with Jennifer Levitz of the Wall Street Journal. Her article "When Stocks Tank, Some Investors Stampede to Alpacas and Turn to Drink." You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And let's get Jake on the line. Jake with us from Bartlesville in Oklahoma.
JAKE (Caller): Hey, how are you doing?
CONAN: Very well. Thanks.
JAKE: I'm recently invested in guns, myself. I don't know if it's the stock market tumbling like it did, but I just run across some really good deals recently and thinking I might a flip a quick buck on them.
CONAN: And are you expert enough to tell a good deal from a bad one?
JAKE: Well, I know about "The Shooter's Bible," I can look it up real easy.
CONAN: So there are guides to these sorts of things so you can tell?
JAKE: Oh yeah. There are all kinds of publications about stuff like that but "The Shooter's Bible", that's pretty well known one.
CONAN: And you sell these and buy them online or at a store, at the shows or what?
JAKE: Well, I've bought three guns in the last two weeks. And I bought two of them off individuals and one from a pawnshop and I got all of them really, I got them for about half of what they're worth in my opinion. I recently bought a Mac 10 for under $400, and I know they're going for quite a bit more than that and this thing is in mint condition.
CONAN: That's an automatic weapon, a machine gun.
JAKE: Well, it's a semi-automatic.
CONAN: It can go to automatic fire if you want it to.
JAKE: Well, you have to have a federal firearms license to do stuff like that.
CONAN: Yes. Of course, they are illegal when they have that attachment. That's right. Jake, good luck to you.
JAKE: Thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an email from Michael. "I'm convinced the safest, most useful investments these days are vintage and some modern fountain pens. They are something very satisfying about an investment that can be held in the hand used to express ones' self creatively and timeless, too." Let's see if we can get one more caller on the line. And we'll go to Ron. Ron is with us from Sacramento in California.
RON (Caller): Hi there, Neal. I had some cash from a house that I sold before the housing market dumped. And I'm not taking any money out of mutual funds. I'm going to leave money there. But I have this cash. I'm presently on the highway just entering Sacramento going from Phoenix where I live to Seattle to put my money into a 40-foot sailboat. This is not a really an investment. This is more of an indulgence but when the mutual funds tank, I would be able to sit in the cockpit, put my feet up, drink a martini and touch my boat all the way (unintelligible).
CONAN: You've heard, I'm sure, the old story about the two happiest days in a boat owner's life are the day he buys it and the day he sells it?
RON: Absolutely. And I also it's a whole line in these modern times, fiber glass, that you throw money into. So it's not an investment but it's a tangible good that I will be able to touch and feel and I'll have something after the market goes kaplooey, because cash is not going to be worth too much if things continue to degenerate. So I'll have that little indulgence that'll take me into my dotage.
CONAN: Ron, good luck to you.
RON: Thank you very much.
CONAN: Appreciate the phone call. We're going to end with this email from David in Menlo Park: "Just a comment about the guy investing in champagne. Back in the dot com bubble, I had some shares of anti-Nortel networks. If I had sold them at the top and bought beer with the money, I could have drunk the beer and got more return on the aluminum cans than the stock was worth when it bottomed out." Thanks very much for your time today, Jennifer Levitz.
Ms. LEVITZ: Thank you very much, Neal.
CONAN: Jennifer Levitz a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. She wrote a piece called "When Stocks Tank, Some Investors Stampede to Alpacas and Turn to Drink". Up next, closing arguments in the campaign for president. We're going to hear from poor people today. Two supporters of Barack Obama and two supporters of John McCain. We'll begin with the conservative case for John McCain. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's Talk of the Nation from NPR News.