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What if I use that knowledge to pull off the greatest onion trade that the world has ever seen? His idea is kind of the fantasy of all commodities traders. In , he decides that he is going to corner the onion market. This is something that you mainly hear about in movies when you need some sort of motivation for the evil guy.

You know, I just cornered the market in gold, Mr. Bond, and now you will do my bidding.

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When it's not in the movies, this is really hard to do. Cornering the onion market it means that Vince Kosuga needs to get his hands on virtually all of the onions in America. And he has to figure out where to put them. Well, he was building - it was a big shed of corrugated aluminum - I mean, huge. And he had a conveyor in there, and he was filling it with onions.

So he was stockpiling all the onions from his farm. And he's not just doing it on his own farm. All around the country, Vince starts buying up onions - millions of them. He was doing this in New York. I understand he was doing it in Michigan, Texas, and I think he had a partner or two out in California. So they were doing this throughout the United States.

So Vince has to do all of this completely in secret because if he doesn't and the market finds out what he's up to, the price will go up and up and up before he has a chance to buy all the onions. And after he starts stockpiling onions that are already out of the ground, he looks around and says, well, wait a minute. What about those onions that are growing right now? And this is where his expertise as a trader comes in because he is able to buy futures contracts - essentially saying to farmers, as soon as the onions come out of the ground, I want them.

I want to buy them. So Vince and his business partner, Sam Siegel - he's a produce distributor, he's a trader, too - they start buying up all of the available futures contracts on onions. By the time fall of rolls around, Vince Kosuga has wrapped up the entire market. So he owned all the loans in the futures market. And he owned all the onions in the United States, basically.

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He cornered the market. And here's why cornering a market is such a big deal. Vince Kosuga could set the price for onions. Whatever he wants, people have to pay; otherwise, no onions on your burgers.


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So of course, Vince wants the price to go up. He keeps the onions off the market, he creates an onion shortage. And then when the price is high enough in December of , Vince makes his move. Vince and Sam call in a bunch of onion bigwigs - growers, distributors - all to a meeting in Chicago. They say fellas ph , this can go one of two ways. You can buy a bunch of our onions we've got stored up at the price that we demand or we can just dump all these onions on the market all at once. We can destroy the price of onions for the rest of the year.

They don't really have a choice.

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They are in the onion business, and Vince is threatening to blow the whole thing up. In the end, they agreed to buy almost 9 million pounds of Kosuga's onions. He's amazing, and for pretty much anyone who's ever cornered a market, this is as far as it goes. He bought all the onions low, he drove the price up, and when it came time to sell, he made a killing. And if Vince had stopped here, he would have been an absolute legend. Kosuga did not stop there. He didn't just want to make a killing; he sees that he can make two killings.

He has such a powerful hold on America's onion supply that there is this second opportunity to make money. It's just waiting for him if he plays it right. And he thinks about this. And there is a way in the futures market that you can basically short the market. You can make a big bet that the price will go down. And once again, Vince Kosuga can make the price go down. So he starts to quietly make bets against the price of onions - that the price will go down. And he's making the bets day after day after day, and when March hits, Vince Kosuga springs his second trap.

And we say flood the markets, we're not meaning this in this theoretical inside markets kind of way.

No, he physically takes his onions from his secret warehouses, he loads them up, and he basically says to all the other traders in Chicago, surprise. But wait a minute. Does this mean there are physical trucks filled with onions driving into downtown Chicago?

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Trucks, train cars - all of Vince Kosuga's onions coming into Chicago. And of course, the onion market goes haywire. Normally if you're a futures trader and because of your contract you get delivered a bunch of onions, you just sell them on to someone who wants them, a produce distributor or someone. That's the way the market normally works. But with all these onions coming into Chicago, the price falls through the floor. Onions are basically worthless. No one wants to get stuck with Kosuga's onions. You can imagine all those traders walking to work the streets of Chicago every morning seeing these huge bags of onions piled on every loading dock, the train yards filled with onions, everywhere, onions.

The mesh bag that you put 50 pounds a bag of those onions in, the bag alone, empty, costs 20 cents. A pound bag of onions, they went to 10 cents a bag. As long as there had been futures trading in onions, no one had ever seen a price that low. You couldn't sell onions. You could not give them away. They called hospitals, schools, whatever. They tried to get rid of as many onions as they could, and the rest of them they dumped in the Chicago River.

And of course, there was one man who had made a huge financial bet that the price of onions would drop to nothing, and that man was Vince Kosuga. That's a lot of money now. And a lot of people took a beating on Vince Kosuga's onion corner. Other commodities traders, farmers who had counted on being able to sell their onions for a profit, now were growing a worthless crop. Yeah, onion farmers were really upset.

And in Michigan, they, in fact, called their congressman, a gentleman by the name of Gerald Ford, future president, and they said, Jerry, we have got to stop this craziness with the onion futures. He gets Congress to hold hearings.


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They talked to economists. They talked to onion farmers. They talked to Uncle Vince.

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Kosuga's lawyer tells him, listen. No matter what you do, do not perjure yourself. Do not lie to Congress. He was on the stand, raised his hand, and said, is your name Vince Kosuga? He said yes, he said, you live in Pine Island, N. Yes, do you have a farm there? Yes, they said, Vince, we understand that you own 97 percent of the onions in the United States. He said that's incorrect. I own 98 percent.

So he didn't perjure himself is what I'm guessing was in his mind. There were loss against market manipulation, but they were super vague and hard to enforce. And Vince kept saying to Congress He said if it's against the law to make money in the United States, then I'm guilty of something. But of course, it is not against the law to make money. In the end, Kosuga had his trading license suspended for 10 months, and he had to pay a small fine.

Now, at this point, Congress could have passed a law reforming parts of the onion trading world, perhaps limiting the amount of the nation's onions that one man could own. But onion farmers were pissed. They had always complained about speculators, city slickers, using the futures market to get rich and ruin the little guy. And now they had proof that speculators could destroy an entire market. Congress listened to the farmers, and they chose the nuclear option.

And to this day, to this day, you cannot trade futures in onions. And it's the only agricultural product that's specifically outlawed like this, the only one. You can trade in soybeans, wheat, corn, no problem. But onions, forget it. And so farmers, theoretically, should live happily ever after, no speculators to mess around in their market, except for one thing. Not much changed in the onion market. The price of onions would still unexpectedly shoot up and crash down without warning just like it always did. Even without Vince Kosuga, onion farmers still faced the prospect of making a bunch of money one year and losing it all the next.

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