A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“A cookie a day keeps the sadness away” (12/18)
“Is anything okay?” (Jewish restaurant joke) (12/17)
Progressive Capital of the Nation (New York State nickname) (12/17)
NoCo (Northern Boulevard + Corona) (12/16)
“I enjoy long, romantic walks…to the fridge” (12/16)
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Entry from December 08, 2008
“How to make a small fortune on Wall Street” (start with a large one)

Question: How do you make a small fortune on Wall Street?
Answer; Start with a large one!

This old joke is of unknown origin, but it dates at least to the 1950s. While it’s been used to refer to the stock market, almost all industries have used the joke, including: Broadway, Hollywood, Las Vegas (gambling), sports ownership, ski resort ownership, auto racing, newspaper publishing, book publishing, restaurants, winemaking, farming, ranching, internet technology, biotechnology, airlines, automakers, etc.

The joke was said about the new state of Israel (1948) and appears to have been popular with Jewish-American comedians. Perhaps comedian Jack Benny used the joke first?


28 March 1951, San Mateo (CA) Times, “Broadway Melody” by Leonard Lyons, pg. 16, col. 5:
One American industrialist met an Israeli official at the Algonquin this week, and asked: “How can I make a small fortune in Israel?"..."The only way to wind up with a small fortune,” he replied, “is by coming to Israel with a big one.”

21 April 1957, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. G4:
Get-Poor-Quick Plan
PHIL SILVERS, TV’s Sgt. Bilko, says it’s easy to make a small fortune in Las Vegas...start with a large one!

24 March 1958, Edwardsville (IL) Intelligencer , “Israel Celebrates Tenth Anniversary,” pg. 4, col. 6:
However, since this is a socialist society, no one is rich. Israelis joke that the only way to make a small fortune here is to bring a large one into the country. 

Google Books
The American Way of Life
By Ashley Montagu
New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
1967
Pg. 184:
There is one infallible rule about the stock market: the way to make a small fortune in the stock market is to begin with a large one.

Google Books
The Big Book of Jewish Humor
By William Novak
Photographs by Moshe Waldoks
New York, NY: HarperCollins
1981
Pg. 141:
How do you make a small fortune in Israel?
Come with a large one.

11 March 1983, Marysville (OH) Journal-Tribune, “Ohio WIne Industry Growing,” pg. 9, col. 2:
‘It’s not that we don’t already have very serious winemakers in the state,” she said. “But it is expensive. As the saying goes, the best way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to start with a large one.”

Google Books
The Dentist’s Guide to Investing in the 1980’s
By Karl H. Maragides, Phillip Bonner
Published by PennWell Pub. Co.
1984
Pg. 157:
“The surest way to make a small fortune in the commodity market is to start with a large one.”
-- Stanley Kroll
(The Professional Commodity Trader).

Google Books
Playing for Dollars: Labor Relations and the Sports Business
By Paul D. Staudohar
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press
1996
Pg. 97:
When asked how someone could make a small fortune in professional sports, Layden said, “You start out with a large one.”
(Frank Layden, coach of baketball’s Utah Jazz—ed.)

Google Books
Publishing Lives:
Interviews with Independent Book Publishers in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia

By Jerome Gold
Published by Black Heron Press
1996
Pg. 521:
You’ve probably heard the old joke about the way you make a small fortune in book publishing is to start with a large one.

Google Books
The Essentials of Management Ratios
By Philip Ramsden
Published by Gower Publishing, Ltd.
1998
Pg. 118:
There is another saying well worth noting: Question: ‘How do you make a small fortune on the stock market?’ Answer: ‘Start with a large one.’

Google Books
The Real Estate Game:
The Intelligent Guide to Decision-making and Investment

By William J. Poorvu with Jeffrey L. Cruikshank
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
1999
Pg. 2:
As the old saying goes, “A great way to make a small fortune in the real estate is to start out with a large one.”

Google Books
Bob Bondurant on High Performance Driving
By Bob Bondurant with John Blakemore
Published by MotorBooks/MBI Publishing Company
2003
Pg. 113:
There’s an old joke about how can you make a small fortune in motor racing: start with a large one!

Google Books
Classic New Hampshire:
Preserving the Granite State in Changing Times

By Linda Landry
Published by UPNE
2003
Pg. 194:
“There’s an old saying in the ski industry: ‘How do you make a small fortune in this business? By spending a large one,’” Kris says, settling into his chair.

Google Books
Farming for Us All: Practical Agriculture & the Cultivation of Sustainability
By Michael Bell
Photographs by Helen D. Gunderson
Published by Penn State Press
2004
Pg. 52:
Thus the old joke: Want to make a small fortune in farming? Start with a large one.

ProFutures Investments
How To Make A Small Fortune In Commodities…
By Gary D. Halbert
September 20, 2005
(...)
There is an old saying that goes: The best way to make a small fortune in the commodity futures markets is to start with a large one.  While this might sound amusing, it is absolutely true in most cases.  Any discussion of investing in the futures markets should start with the following caveats: 1) futures trading is extremely risky; 2) you can lose more than you invest; and 3) on a percentage basis, very few individual investors who trade futures make money – most lose money.

Google Books
Newton’s Telecom Dictionary: Covering Telecommunications, Networking, Information Technologies, Wired, Wireless, Satellites, Fiber and the Internet
By Harry Newton
Published by CMP Media
2006
Pg. 833:
small fortune The only sure way to make a small fortune—in telecommunications, networking, computing, or in anything—is to start with a large one. After the Nasdaq Bubble burst in the Spring of the year 2000, many investors made small fortunes by losing their large fortunes. It was called the Tech Wreck of 2000-2002.

Google Books
1001 Greatest Things Ever Said about Texas
By Donna Ingham
Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot
2006
Pg. 137:
Little ol’ boy in the Panhandle told me the other day you can still make a small fortune in agriculture. Problem is, you got to start with a large one.
-- Jim Hightower

Google Books
The Business of Biotechnology:
Profit from the Expanding Influence of Biotechnology

By Yali Friedman
Published by Logos Press
2007
Pg. 140:
Biotechnology is a great way to make a small fortune; as long as you start with a large one.
Cetus Chairman Ronald Cape, 1984

Google Books
The House of Mondavi:
The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty

By Julia Flynn Siler
Published by Gotham
2007
Pg. 351:
Recalling the old saying in the wine business that to make a small fortune, you need to start with a large one,...

The Motley Fool
How to Make a Small Fortune
By Chuck Saletta
October 31, 2007
There’s an old joke about airlines that goes something like this:
Q: How do you make a small fortune in the airlines?
A: Start with a large fortune!

Virtual Bumper Stickers
Sunday, October 12, 2008
How you, too, can make a small fortune on Wall Street:
Start with a large one.

posted by Jim Horning at 9:12 PM

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Monday, December 08, 2008 • Permalink