Reminiscences of a Futures commentator

Research and production of the retrospective 500th print issue of Futures magazine produced a number of memorable moments.

Futures Editor-in-Chief Dan Collins, our editorial staff and interns and I spent many days (and bottles of Purell) sifting through the past 499 issues, identifying the critical moments and movers in derivatives trading that Futures magazine has covered during the past 43 years.

The 500th issue represents a faithful compendium of these milestone events.

Perhaps the most entertaining result of our exhaustive look-back is the “favorite covers” post that Dan put up online. It is (perhaps as an unintended consequence) a rich visual history of both an evolving (trading) industry, as well as an evolving (print) communication medium. You should take a look.

My favorite moment of researching the 500th issue occurred when I spoke with the co-founder and original visionary behind the publication. It took a couple of days to track down Edgar Lofton, now 86 years old, retired and living in Virginia.

Lofton’s story has the entrepreneurial and risk-taking underpinnings that any trader can relate to.

After his 22-year naval career as an aviator and several years as an ad agency copywriter in New York, Lofton was visiting a friend in California and saw several egg futures charts on his coffee table. Yeah, egg futures. He was intrigued and began to consume everything he could about the commodity trading industry. He was convinced that the industry was poised for growth.

Lofton was right. Shortly after talking his boss, Leon Rose, into leaving his job they co-founded “Commodities” and printed the first issue in February of 1972; then watched as a new industry emerged.

On May 16, 1972, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s International Monetary Market opened for business, listing seven foreign currency futures contracts. Throughout the 70’s inflation and volatile interest rates further fueled the development of financial futures and in 1977, the Chicago Board of Trades introduced trading in U.S. Treasury bond futures. The industry was on fire.

Lofton reminisced with me about Commodities’ early days. “Everyone said it was a bad idea to quit our jobs and start a magazine. We both took second mortgages on our homes and dove into the deep end. We took out an 18% loan with our printer.”

It was long and hard work, “at least 80 hours a week and we never took any vacations”, but the magazine became profitable by the end of the second year, well before the co-founders sold to Merrill Oster several years later. Lofton’s infatuation with futures paid additional dividends: “I bought a seat on the Chicago Board Options Exchange for $10,000 before it opened and I went to Chicago whenever I could, working as a market maker on the exchange trading floor in International Harvester and Gulf and Western stocks.”

Edgar Lofton did more than take risks which provided well for his family. He also provided a rapidly growing industry with a platform to voice opinions and educate end users regarding all the innovations and new products that were coming to market in rapid fashion.

Our 500th issue is a tribute to Commodities magazine creator Edgar Lofton's vision.

We invite you to take a closer look inside Futures #500, and to consider the limited-time 50% OFF special promotional offer to subscribe to Futures magazine.

 

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