This blog post originally appeared on RealMoney Silver on Oct. 13 at 10:04 a.m. EDT.
"What we have learned from history is that we have not learned from history."Dreams of avarice provided a once-in-a-generation orgy of speculation in the late 1990s and a new class of investors emerged back then -- daytraders. It's now official: Daytraders might be returning (at least one is in Boca Raton!), so a know-nothing bunch of vagabonds who contributed to the last bubble could now contribute to the new one. How can I be sure?
-- Benjamin Disraeli
I speak from firsthand experience, and I want to tell you a true story about my favorite daytrader from the old days.This particular daytrader, Biff Marksman -- his name has been changed in order to protect innocent subscribers from him! -- is an old acquaintance. Biff operates out of an area of Boca Raton, Fla., a locale that former SEC Commissioner Breeden once described as a town where there are more sharks inland than in the waters surrounding it. A town where the Mercedes, quiche and opulence run wild! It is the capital of the daytrading community, and in the late 1990s, it was the capital of brokerage boiler rooms as well. It is Biff's (the ultimate daytrader) home. I hadn't heard from Biff until yesterday, as I thought that he was cured from the leveraged daytrading influence that took the U.S. and the markets by storm in the mid to late 1990s, contributing to a mushrooming in margin debt, the ultimate speculative rise in our markets and the eventual -- or should I say inevitable? -- piercing of that bubble. I thought his next unprofitable foray from 2007 to 2009 (and the credit crisis that stamped out his profits) coupled with a $10 million loss from a fraudulent security he purchased in late 2009 were enough to rid him of his market jones. Apparently, I was wrong! But first a little background. Of the daytraders and plungers extant, there are few that have experienced greater ups and downs than my friend, Biff. Similar to most daytraders, Biff had a real job owning a door and window business, but as stocks mounted their speculative ascent 12 years ago, his primary vocation took a back seat to trading stocks. Biff operated out of his den and turned about $500,000 into almost $15 million in a matter of 24 months by daytrading the most speculative stocks extant. From 1998 to 2000, I spoke to Biff about 20 times a day. In most of our conversations, Biff ridiculed me for not "getting on the bandwagon" and trading the most speculative four-letter stocks on the Nasdaq. Our conversations were one-way, as Biff did the talking, or, in most cases, the gloating, as his disinterest in the companies' business and models was legion. Coherence of thought and clarity of expression were not Biff's forte.
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