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Active Travel Bugs in 2020


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I have finally accepted that the fate of my bugs is completely in the hands of others.  All I can do is prepare my trackables as though they must last for years of handling by many cachers.  It is a task undertaken with the certain knowledge that half the bugs won’t survive even one year, won't survive handling by as many as six cachers, and that 10-13% will disappear after each release (see here). That said, I also know a handful of my trackables are 10+ years old and others have been moved by 60+ cachers.


Thus, except for that first year, when I still believed all my bugs had a future, I have never known how many of them are active at any one time.  So, I thought I would try to obtain an estimate at the end of 2020.


I defined a trackable in circulation as one having at least one retrieval, visit, or drop log during the calendar year 2020. I reject discovery logs as untrustworthy.  I started with the Owned Trackables link on my Dashboard at Geocaching.com, I sorted the list with the Last Log function, the oldest logs at the end.  I then pasted part of each line of the list into a spreadsheet.


After removing duplicates, the final tally came to 1,421 trackables which is 33.6 percent of all trackables (4,229) released in the years 2010 through 2020.  This is a number much greater than I would have guessed, but the total includes the 435 trackables released in 2020.


The table below is an accounting of trackables released in years past, but have survived long enough to yield at least one log in 2020.  The first column is the year of release, the second column is the total number of bugs released in that year.  The row across the bottom shows the sums of the columns above.


Read the table as follows.  For the year 2010, a total of 240 trackables were released. Of these, 16 had survived to have at least one log in 2020.  The 16 value is 6.7% of all the trackables released in 2010, and 0.4% of all trackables released 2010 through 2020.  Skipping up to the year 2020, there were 435 releases and 435 logs, including the logs for my releases, mostly into my own containers.  The 435 releases in 2020 were 10.3% of all trackables released 2010 through 2020.  From the bottom row we learn that the 1421 bugs logged were 33.6% of the 4229 total bugs released before 31-Dec-20.


It is hardly surprising that the trend in the percentages of surviving trackables decreases toward the past…with age comes more encounters with cachers and caches, each of which presents new sets of risks.  However, there seems to be an attenuation, or leveling off, of the rate of loss in the oldest trackables.  If the rate of decline was the same throughout, the line would eventually reach the zero baseline. This attenuation suggests some trackables are persisting better than others, a circumstance that requires me to start a formal investigation of my oldest bugs.  I already know why they are persisting, but I have to prove it to the satisfaction of others.


This post is an excerpt of a larger project.  The full text, including background and more about the methods are here. 


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I'm one of those people that like tinkering around with data, I like your project! I'm also very impressed with the sheer number of TB's that you've released!


Question: of all your TB's, do you release any proxies? So far, all of mine have been stay-at-home TB's, with only proxies being sent out into the world.


I'm curious if it's possible to correlate the attrition with other factors - such as "pretty" TB's being more likely to be pocketed, or high-risk cache areas where caches are more likely to be taken out by other factors (such as storms or fires) and being archived / destroyed with the TB's still in them.


Edit: another question - do all your TB's go out with hitch hikers, or have you sent some out with just the TB tag? (Apart from GeoCoins which don't have a hole to add a chain or ring)

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Re the number, I honestly didn't set out to make so many TBs, it just happened.  In the beginning I had some health issues that kept me housebound for long periods.  Then making them just got to be a habit.  I'm a geezer now and there aren't many other options for entertainment, anyway. 


I have never done proxies, but have been tempted more than a few times.  I used to do research for everyone of my travel bugs, but especially for my Art series.  I released a bunch of M C Escher drawings only to have someone pick all but one of them over the course of a week.  This was early on and I felt like the time I had spent on them was utterly wasted.  That happens often enough that I think about proxies again, but while I still hate losing bugs, I haven't spent any time looking into how proxies are made.  The one thing I have done to save some money (not considering my time) is purchase bulk numbers and send them out on laminated images.  But to continue this long-winded response, I truly enjoy doing the preliminary research, assembling bugs, and following their that the loss of bugs is still just a little short of the threshold where I will throw up my hands and quit.


I have thought a lot about the "pretty" idea, it probably should be termed the attractive issue.  I honestly have a hard time predicting what will last.  I have sent out some large glass beads that are well into what I would call pretty, and predictably they do not last long.  I have sent out a lot of other things with military themes...they go pretty fast compared to poker chips and beads, but anything smacking of the Marine Corps usually won't get past 3 or 4 cachers,  That said, I have a very large Army 1st Cavalry patch that has been bouncing around in Europe for years.  Similarly, I released some state flag patches, and as soon as the Ohio and Kansas flags hit their states, they disappeared. In the end, it is in the eye of the beholder, it is not necessarily beauty.  I try to release things that are unusual (no beanie babies or toy John Deere tractors), but not so much so that someone will want it for a trophy...but sometimes I can't help but send out one that even I would like to keep. 


The only bugs I send out without a hitchhikers are the ready-made trackables.  Things like the recent Maker Madness, Witches, Zodiac and Carnival tags.  To be honest, I only buy them to eventually compare their survivorship with those of my own making.  It is probably pointless, but I put a pop rivet in the holes of those ready-mades just to make it more difficult for someone to put one on their own keychain.  We can't do anything about a thief, but maybe we can keep the honest people honest.


I see you are from Darwin, Australia.  If you were inclined to keep records on your trackables, it would be fun to see how they perform so close to Asia.  I just don't get many of mine going to Asia proper, but quite a few will get to Australia.  They don't move very quickly because, like the western US, there is a lot of space and few people.  Now that truly was long-winded

Edited by shellbadger
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I'm very much in the shallow end of the kiddy pool when it comes to TB's, I've only got 9 active (so far). Three I'm still holding, so I'll ignore those.


Of the six that are active, three are still sitting in the caches I dropped them in (I'm reasonably certain of, there aren't any other logged visits), two were picked up then dropped off again (though I think one is MIA as the cache it was dropped into has had 8 visits but nobody has mentioned the TB).


The sixth one I can't make up my mind if it's been picked up by an avid, travelling cacher, or by an armchair logger. It's had heaps of Visit logs, they appear consistent with someone caching while travelling but they seem to occasionally cover some rather long distances (and cross state borders) which doesn't seem too likely. If it was someone who travelled for work (such as a truck driver) then I wouldn't expect them to be visiting so many caches, if it was someone on holiday then I wouldn't expect them to travel so far so consistently. If you're interested in having a look, it's my Lego plate TB.


As for TB's in Darwin, I suspect there is a "collector" lurking around because I've seen a number of TB's disappear out of caches without proper logs. :( 


However, all my TB's are proxies - I keep the original TB's at home. For me, the important part is the code, so I have no issues sending the code out to travel and if they go missing then I can wait a while and then re-release them on a new proxy. I made a different post on how I prefer to make my proxies (out of aluminium) for relatively cheap. I've also released a few with the old "laminated bit of paper" to see how long they last and I have on my to-do list to try some wooden ones using one of these toner to wood transfer techniques. I also want to try some simpler aluminium ones using just a bit of aluminium and some metal letter and number punches to put the code onto it.

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4 hours ago, Unit473L said:

As for TB's in Darwin, I suspect there is a "collector" lurking around because I've seen a number of TB's disappear out of caches without proper logs. :( 


My other 2/3rds is a collector.   She has hundreds of trackables belonging to her.  I do too.  

A hoarder is not a collector...

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I suspect if I had known about the rate of attrition, I probably would have gone with proxies at the beginning.  I also would have bought bulk numbers, if I had thought I was going into trackables the way I have.  But then again, where would I have put several thousand originals.   I would have to clean up my office to display them.



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I'm from Australia, and a basic TB tag is (on average) about $9 here, so I don't plan on getting anywhere near as many as you have. The best value (short of bulk) that I've found is either the charm sets of six for $30 or the sets (like the Wonders) of 7 for $33 so they end up just under $5 each. Though I'd love to do a bulk order of custom TB's either for me to release or as giveaways for completing a set of caches. I placed an order from our local reseller for 3 of the charm sets but they only had two left and they were discontinued - so no more of those.


Having posted yesterday about my TB's just sitting, today I got an email about someone picking up one of my TB's. It's off on a new adventure! :D 

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