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Trackables Move More Frequently in Europe Than in US

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For each of my trackables, I record the date of release and the dates of all subsequent drops (or changes of possession).  The total number drops divided into the total days between the dates of release and last drop is the average movement interval for that trackable.  Low interval numbers mean frequent movement, higher numbers are slower movement.  To understand these numbers on drops a per-year basis, see the Conversion Table below.


My trackables are not uniform.  Some are just a tag alone in circulation, whereas most are the usual dog tag attached to items of varying sizes, shapes and materials. This post is the first step in comparing endurance and rates of travel among trackables that can be confidently sorted into discrete groups, poker chips, flag patches, laminated images, etc. In the meantime, I will report on the observed drop intervals in some of my oldest trackables as a whole.


The present sample includes only trackables released in the years 2010-2015. Old trackables have the advantage of yielding values that will not change, because all but a handful have been missing for 5-10 years. Those few trackables that are still active, including some released in 2010, all have total drop numbers above 50, out to 75.  This project does not extend that far, with drops numbers only to the range of 40-44. Furthermore, for higher drop totals, once they get beyond 50, an excessive interval will have only a barely discernable effect on the average.


I keep up with my trackables by theme or series. The Sample Organization Table below shows the names of the series and part of the organization for this project. The values between the green columns are those intervals from trackables having made only 1-4 drops.  The values between green and gold columns are intervals for trackables having made 40-44 drops.  Not shown are seven other intermediate data sets in 5-drop increments.


The abbreviations in the table are as follows: n, sample size; %, the percent of the series n; Ave, the arithmetic average interval; Min, the minimum interval observed; Max, the maximum value observed.  A description of the trackables in in each series will be done in a later post, although the titles make many of the forms evident.


The gray line in the graph has nothing to do with the drop intervals but, but is the sample sizes within each interval range…in a happy circumstance, the same scale as for intervals could be used.  That line is essentially the same survivorship curve posted before, but with data pooled into discrete drop ranges.  By almost any standard, a sample size of 885 for the 1-4 range is more than adequate. However, because of the high rate of attrition, the sample sizes drastically decrease through the other drop ranges, finishing with a 23 total for the 40-44 range.


I elected not to graph the actual maximum and minimum values shown on the table.  Instead, I used the mean of all the maximum (red line and red numbers) and minimum (blue line and blue numbers) values for each series. To have graphed the 1819 maximum for the Country Flags would have increased the distortion of the scale and merged the colored lines at the bottom, an important part of the graph. The averages (black line) are those for all the intervals in each interval range, not the averages of the averages, as for minimums and maximums.


I showed in previous posts that around 95 percent of my 4500+ trackables are released in the US, mostly in northwest Texas.  Furthermore, among all my trackables that survive to make 15 drops (around 13%), only half are in the US, most of the others are in Europe.  Of those in Europe, only a little more than 200 were released there, another 700+ were independently taken there by other cachers.  Thus, we may interpret that the part of the colored curves to the left of the 15-19 interval range result mostly from trackables in the US, and the curve to right is mostly from trackables outside the US, mostly Europe.


The important point to be made is that at the left side (US) of the table and graph, the average drop interval is 132 days, or a rate of just over three drops per year.  At the right, the average interval is 65 days, or almost six drops per year.  Clearly it is the high extreme intervals (years, in many instances) on the US side and the lack of extremes on the right that most influence the average values.


These data are part of the reason I am willing to state that trackable in Europe move almost twice as often (on average) as those here in the US.  That more trackables last longer in Europe, will be addressed, in part, in the next post.




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Thank you, I love reading the hard data posts you share. Much better than guesses or anecdotal evidence.


I wonder how much of a difference the different cultures make? USA tends to be a roughly homogenous culture (it certainly doesn't look that way from the inside looking out, but from where I sit, I don't see huge cultural differences between the different states). On the other hand, Europe is a melting pot of different countries - many of which have been actively hating each other for generations. With all their borders mushed up against each other, and all countries having a few mobile demographics of travelers (both the young adventurer and grey nomad types) means that they would all have a fair number of people constantly moving around.


Though less so in the last few years due to that little pandemic thingy people keep going on about. That kinda put a dampener on many people's travel plans. 

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I absolutely believe there are there are significant regional and cultural differences toward logging and handling trackables here in the US, as well as internationally.  I have the sense that best cachers everywhere are the same,  but there may be more uncommitted or indifferent cachers is some places than others.  The problem is I can't figure out how to tease away other factors that might cloud the issue. 


On a quick glance at data, I might conclude that Wisconsin and other states of the Upper Midwest are the best places for my trackables, in terms of frequency of movement and longevity.  However, I note that these trackables are consistently moved by the same few cachers.  What does that mean? 


On the other hand I might conclude that Texas is the absolute worst place for trackables, since about 60% of them go missing here.  Half of my trackables are gone before five drops.  The problem is, Texas is large enough that it can take more than five drops to escape the state.  Is it fair to make comparisons to contiguous states, or states out of reach of five drops? 


Texas has some large urban areas, but most of the state is rural, like most of the western states.  Perhaps not to the same extent as Australia, but we have have some large regions without caches or cachers...I personally have roadside caches that average only 2-3 visits per year, and the best ones are 35.  By contrast, look at a cache density on the caching map of Germany or the the Netherlands.


Furthermore I have trackables in caches on mountains of Colorado and Utah that have not been visited for years, there is nary a one in the European alps. 


Then again, we are playing a game with neither rules nor consequences for bad behavior...what should we expect?

Edited by shellbadger
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2 hours ago, shellbadger said:

On the other hand I might conclude that Texas is the absolute worst place for trackables, since 80% of them go missing here.


It would be fascinating to see a similar study on TB's released in all states. If most TB's are going missing after a few drops, then it stands to reason that most TB's would go missing in their home states. If someone was dedicated enough (and had the funds) to drop one TB per state, then go back to the start and go again for an even spread of starting points across all states, then we'd have a better sample set to say which state(s) have the best / worst failure rates for TB's.


2 hours ago, shellbadger said:

Then again, we are playing a game with neither rules nor consequences for bad behavior...what should we expect?


Very valid point - especially when trying to control for variables! Did this Tb go missing because it was shiny? Did this other TB last longer because it was shiny? Part of the TB lottery I guess.

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