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Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edin Lefevre

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Reminiscences of a Stock OperatorReminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edin Lefevre was first published many many years ago and tells the first person fictional tale of Larry Livingston, a stock speculator in the early 1900s. It was widely believed that the character was based on Jesse Lauriston Livermore and in this version of the book, the connection is made concrete through annotations by Jon Markman.

Despite being considered an investment classic, I had never heard of it in part because it’s a classic in the sense that it gives a fantastic account of the financial system in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It’s more history than investing education though it has a healthy dose of both, especially with Markman’s annotations. You can preview it at Google Books and even the few pages of the preview give you a very good feel for how the book is.

Livermore, on which the book and the character Livingston is based, won and lost millions of dollars speculating on the stock and commodities markets during the early 1900s, even making ten million dollars over the course of a month. The annotated version links the fictional story of Livingston with the reality of Livermore to provide a much richer experience. Without it, and a clear understand of what is truth and what is fiction, I think the original probably would’ve fallen more into the fictional bucket for me. Having the annotations put the story into context and gave more credence to the story (did Lefevre make it up or did that really happy? Annotations make it clear what’s real and what was “editorial license).

For me, the book was an entertaining way to learn about some financial history. For example, on page 299, the Lefevre’s story mentions Ponzi and the annotations go into Charles Ponzi’s scheme in much greater detail. Ponzi promised 50% returns in 45 days by investing in “international reply coupons.” These international reply coupons were real coupons, they were created in 1906 to facilitate global shipping and redeemable into country-specific postage. Ponzi claimed to arbitrage postage rates… not an unbelievable idea right? Well, except he didn’t invest it and was outed in a Boston Post series. Ponzi only served 10 years (Bernie Madoff sentenced to 150 years!).

It’s a fun book to read, I learn something interesting every time I open it up (I didn’t read it cover to cover, though I feel like I should), and it’s a fun time if you like this sort of thing.

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9 Responses to “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edin Lefevre”

  1. And $10 MM was real money in those days.

    A worthwhile book.

    Mark

  2. Mrs. Frugal says:

    Reminiscences is one of my favorite trading books as it gives great insight into the mind of a trader and psychology of trading. I have the audio book and we often listen to it on road trips. (I think I’m revealing just how geeky I am)

  3. Ray says:

    Reminiscences of a Stock Operator is a great book. Another interesting book is Once in Golconda. I can’t believe no one has mentioned this book in the media as it’s about the head of the NYSE who gets busted for running a ponzi scheme. Madoff was the Chairman of Nasdaq at one point and both men’s status kept people from asking questions. I guess Mark Twain may be right: history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.

    I think no investor should be allowed to buy a share of stock without reading classic financial books like these. Reading 10-15 financial classics would surely keep a good many people from making dumb mistakes that cost investors plenty. If you’re interested in more great financial classics just google: Wiley Investment Classics.

  4. matt says:

    Wow! Thanks for turning me on to this book. The illustrations are so well done. I am looking forward to diving in.

  5. This book is on my coffee table right now! Though there are many versions published, the annotated and illustrated version is by far the best. The original illustrations from the Saturday Evening Post are worth the price alone. Consider the timeless investing insight as an added freebie.

  6. Where Are the Customers’ Yachts? by Fred Schwed is another classic.

  7. jsbrendog says:

    nice. maybe i will check this out. it is always good to have as much information ona subject as possible, including historical. plus, you know what they say about history. those who do not learn from it are doomed to repeat it.

  8. Bender says:

    Great book on trading.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t cover the end of the story. After making and losing several fortunes, he lost what would be his last fortune and ended up sucking on the business of a gun.

  9. eric says:

    The cover looks so familiar to me…hm. Well thanks for the review anyways!


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