Trade has been a part of human history for thousands of years. More than 1,500 years ago, people traded silk, spices, tea, ivory, cotton, wool, precious metals, and even ideas. The exchange of science, technology, language, culture, philosophy, and religious beliefs was as important as the exchange of goods.
Now, the most active trading assets are very different —it’s stocks, crude oil, currencies, and crypto. In the last 200 years, many traders have made vast returns. Some managed to maintain their successful streak, while others got lucky once, only to lose it all.
Who are the greatest traders of all time? What about those who became famous because of their worst mistakes and biggest losses? This article will cover them all: those who caused some of the biggest stirs in financial markets with their wins and losses (in no particular order).
1. Peter Lynch
Peter Lynch became one of the most successful traders of all time during his time at a major investment brokerage Fidelity. His career was relatively short but incredibly fruitful. Lynch has worked as a textiles and metals analyst from ages 25 to 33. Then he took over Fidelity and ran it for 13, retiring at age 46. At the time, averaged a remarkable annual return of 29.2%.
Lynch detailed his trading approach in his books One Up on Wall Street and Beating the Street.
2. Peter Schiff
Peter Schiff started his trading career at Shearson Lehman Brothers brokerage. Shortly after, he acquired a brokerage firm and renamed it Euro Pacific Capital.
From 2006-2008, Schiff appeared on CNBC and Fox, along with other TV networks. He was often laughed at for his pessimistic views on the housing market, one of which was, “Today’s home prices are completely unsustainable.” But as it turned out, he accurately predicted the 2007 housing market collapse and the subsequent 2008 financial crisis. He was also correct about the massive rally in 2020 and 2021.
3. Steve Cohen
Steve Cohen is another scandalous trader. He is the founder of one of the most successful hedge funds ever, SAC Capital Advisors, which is now defunct. At its peak, the firm managed $16 billion in assets.
But in 2013, Cohen pleaded guilty to insider trading. He was never charged but agreed to pay $1.8 billion in fines and has been barred from managing funds for clients.
4. Jim Simons
Jim Simons, “the Numbers King”, incorporated his own mathematical model into his trading strategy. After building a successful career as a mathematician and professor, he realized that pattern recognition could be applied to financial markets. And he was correct.
His quantitative trading hedge fund Renaissance Technologies now manages about $55 billion in assets. His other firm, Medallion Fund, uses a black box strategy only available to owners and employees and is worth $10 billion.
5. Ed Seykota
Ed Seykota, a featured trader in the book Market Wizards, developed and utilized one of the first computerized trading systems. He first tested it on a mainframe IBM computer and sold it to the brokerage house. Over a 16-year period, the system returned 250,000%.
Ed Seykotahad one of the most interesting ways of presenting a trading strategy— in a song called Whipsaw Song.
6. Jim Rogers
Jim Rogers began his career on Wall Street shortly after graduating from Yale. After working at Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder only for three years, he left the form to start Quantum Fund (now worth $3.3 billion).
Rogers’s way of making trades is rather controversial—he focused on placing highly leveraged trades based on global macroeconomic events. But when asked for advice, he consistently warns others not to follow his approach.
7. George Soros
The question “who is the most successful trader in history?” doesn’t have one right answer. But ever since George Soros made a huge trade against the British Pound, which netted him $1 billion in returns, he has been a legend in the trading world.
After becoming “the man who broke the Bank of England,” Soros used his knowledge of economic trends on a regional and global level to build an investment empire. Currently, he is the largest private funder of groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights.
You can learn a lot from famous traders in history, from wins and failures. Every trader on this list has a unique experience, so consider doing a deep dive on those whose stories interested you the most.
Of course, such ratings can differ depending on many factors. Let’s see who are the top traders now, according to our analyst’s opinion!
Tony is a financial analyst of the Binomo team. He is a trader with many years of experience in the market. Tony is the face of our YouTube and Instagram channels and is doing everything to help traders achieve new heights.