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Commodities have allowed nations to survive and thrive, but they’ve also given individuals tremendous wealth-accumulation possibilities. Some of the world’s most enduring fortunes have been built around commodities. Mayer Rothschild, patriarch of the European Rothschild banking family, made a fortune during the Napoleonic Wars by storing and distributing gold bullion to fund the British side of the war effort.

Andrew Carnegie, the self-made industrialist and founder of the eponymous steel company that eventually became U.S. Steel, consolidated the American steel industry and, in the process, became the second-richest man of his time, behind only John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Rockefeller’s impact on the global oil industry through the creation of the Standard Oil Company is still felt today.

Abdel-Aziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s first monarch, consolidated and created an entire nation through the control of crude oil and natural gas riches.

To this day, individuals involved in commodities have been able to generate tremendous wealth. Legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens, for instance, made $1.4 billion in 2005 by betting on the price of oil and natural gas. Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian-born steel magnate, became the world’s fourth-richest person in 2004 as a result of his business activities in the steel industry.

Clearly, individuals who have the foresight to invest in commodities have profited handsomely from this enterprise. You may not be able to build as much wealth as Rockefeller or Al-Saud, but you can still benefit by opening up to investing in commodities.

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