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I think that Buffett achieved returns way north of 50% from around 1951-1955. I recall seeing someone break it down here on a thread a while back. I don't have access to "The Making of an American Capitalist" right now, but I think you can pretty much back it out from that. Buffett went from around a $10,000 net worth in 1951 to something like $160,000 in 1955, without earning much more than $10,000 at any point. That implies a pretty hefty return.

I recall in the book there are a few pages describing those years. Buffett was pretty eager and brash in the Graham-Newman days. He was going nuts that Graham was too conservative (one of those times he had "more ideas than money") and did a lot of trading in his private account. Lots of stuff like the cocoa-bean arbitrage that is mentioned in the book and also by Buffett himself in the recently posted U of F talk. He probably couldn't put too much to work there, but it was basically a risk-free arbitrage that provided ridiculous annualized returns.

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