Nicolas Darvas’ trading method

Nicolas Darvas: Box Indicator Made Him $2 Million In The Stock Market

Nicolas Darvas (1920-1977) was a Hungarian-American dancer turned self-taught investor. He gained fame for his unique trading method outlined in his book “How I Made $2,000,000 in the Stock Market” (1960). Darvas relied on technical analysis, particularly focusing on price and volume patterns, using a “box theory” approach. He emphasized buying stocks at new highs with strong momentum and cutting losses quickly. Despite his success, Darvas eventually shifted focus to writing, lecturing, and real estate. His legacy as a pioneering trader and author continues to influence investors today.

If you’re curious about how a professional dancer, Nicolas Darvas, outwitted Wall Street and accumulated a $2 million fortune in the stock market, this article is for you. It cuts through the complexity to explain his revolutionary ‘Darvas Box Theory’ and how investors today still use his strategy to seek financial success.

Table of contents:

Key Takeaways

  • Nicolas Darvas, a self-taught investor and ballroom dancer, accumulated over $2 million in the stock market within 18 months using his self-devised BOX theory. $2 million might not seem that much today, but this was in the 1950s, so it was a fortune.
  • The Darvas Box Theory focuses on trading stocks that reach new price highs with high volume, buying when the price breaks out of the defined range, and selling when it reaches a specified profit level.
  • Darvas’ trading principles include buying stocks at new highs, combining technical analysis with elements of fundamental analysis, and using a disciplined approach with stop-loss orders to manage risk.
  • Darvas didn’t use backtesting like we do today; this was before the computer era, but he was systematic. His approach was as close as you get to backtesting at the time.

Who is Nicolas Darvas?

Nicolas Darvas was much more than a professional ballroom dancer. Born in Hungary in 1920, he fled to Istanbul at the tender age of 23 to avoid the turmoil of World War II. His life took an unexpected turn when he delved into the world of stock trading. In his spare time as a dancer, Darvas immersed himself in over 200 books about the stock market and speculators, dedicating up to eight hours a day to his studies.

This self-taught investor made a name for himself when he developed a unique stock trading approach, which led him to earn $2,450,000 in just 18 months during the 1957-58 bull market. His primary source for stock selection was Barron’s magazine, a classic stock market text, and despite his touring schedule, he successfully traded using cables and telegrams to send orders to his broker.

His investment method, known as the “BOX theory,” involved waiting for a stock price to break out of a defined “box” range before buying and subsequently selling when the price reached a desired profit level. This investing method became the cornerstone of his remarkable journey to financial success.

Nicolas Darvas’ views on investing and the market often carry philosophical undertones and was sometimes called a philosopher.

Nicolas Darvas, a professional dancer turned successful stock trader

Was Nicolas Darvas a trader who also was a dancer?

Nicolas Darvas was both a dancer and a successful trader. He became famous for making a lot of money in the stock market in the 1950s. Nicolas Darvas was a Hungarian and born in Hungary, Darvas received his education in economics at the University of Budapest. Fearing the impending threat of either Nazi or Soviet control, he made the decision to leave his homeland in June 1943 at the age of 23, armed with a counterfeit exit visa and fifty pounds sterling, seeking refuge in Istanbul, Turkey. Eventually, he reunited with his half-sister Julia and together they formed a dancing duo, performing across Europe and the United States.

What is the Nicolas Darvas’ Box Theory?

The Darvas Box Theory is a trading strategy that targets stocks displaying specific behaviors. Darvas was doing a form of trend following and looked for stocks reaching new highs in price alongside substantial volumes of trades. A ‘box’ would be plotted to encapsulate the stock’s recent peak and trough in pricing, essentially capturing the range of its price movements within a certain timeframe. The upper boundary of this box corresponds with the stock’s recent high point, while its lower boundary aligns with its recent low.

Its elegance lies in the theory’s straightforward approach. A breakout above the Darvas box signals an opportunity to buy, indicating potential for continued upward movement in the stock’s price.

On the flip side, if prices fall below the bottom threshold of the threshold, it triggers a signal to sell on account that it may denote a weakening momentum for the stock. This technique allowed capitalizing on strong uptrends and sidestepping downtrending stocks by adhering to these simple rules.

Darvas was a losing trader before he started using the Darvas Box. But he was systematic and went through all his trade, and that is where he found where he was wrong. This is why you must have a trading journal!

Nicolas Darvas’ trading method

How can I apply Nicolas Darvas’ trading method?

Applying the Darvas Box Theory to your trading strategy can be done with ease. Initially, look for stocks that have hit new highs and shown a significant surge in volume, these are prime candidates for applying the Darvas box method.

Once such stocks are identified, delineate their recent peak and trough prices to establish the confines of the box. A stock is considered to be within a Darvas Box when it ascends past its previous high but subsequently retreats close to this peak level.

During a bear market, if there’s an upward breach through the upper boundary of this established box, that signals an opportunity to purchase. To safeguard against losses, position your stop-loss order at what was previously the top limit of that surpassed box.

Continue building on your investment as successive boxes are overcome by raising your stop loss up to each new ceiling created by these breaches. This secures any accumulated profits you’ve earned along the way.

It’s important not only from which industries you pick stocks, but also considering growth sectors—Darvas had faith his technique particularly thrived when applied in markets where innovative offerings could stir enthusiasm among both consumers and investors alike.

However, we believe it’s important that you make trading rules that can be backtested and applied to historical data to find out if they have worked in the past. The markets have changed and evolved a lot since the 1950s!

Nicolas Darvas Trading Method

What were Nicolas Darvas’ key principles for successful trading?

Nicolas Darvas’ key principles for successful trading were discipline, buying new highs, and putting stop-loss orders at the stock’s recent lows.

According to Darvas’ method, when a stock’s price exceeded its prior peak yet retreated only slightly from this level, it indicated formation of what he termed a “Darvas box.”

In combining his techniques, Darvas employed basic fundamental analysis alongside his technical approach. He sought out sectors featuring cutting-edge products and focused on businesses demonstrating robust financial performance—particularly in times of market instability.

When Darvas observed atypical trading volume within a given stock, he constructed one or more “Darvis boxes” around its tight pricing corridor. If the stock broke past the upper boundary of an existing box—which informed him not only to buy but also how best to set up subsequent stop losses—he recognized it as an opportune moment to enter into or scale up his position in that trade.

His strategy included progressively elevating the stop-loss orders each time another box was surpassed while continuing until such time as these stop-losses were activated signalling him it was time to exit the trade.

Did Nicolas Darvas primarily trade stocks or other assets?

Nicolas Darvas primarily traded stocks and developed a method that includes:

  • Targeting stocks at their peak prices
  • Creating a ‘Darvas Box’ by marking off recent price highs and lows to establish entry points and stop-loss levels
  • Purchasing stock when it surpasses the box’s upper limit
  • Increasing his position as additional boxes are surpassed
  • Elevating the stop loss order with each newly formed box

Finally, he was adept at making timely decisions about when to sell stocks for optimal profits.

While his focus was on stock trades, Darvas’s techniques based on technical market analysis and understanding market sentiment can be translated across diverse assets within financial markets, including those found in securities trading. As such, whether one is delving into trade involving:


-currency pairs (forex),

-various commodities or other financial instruments,

The strategies rooted in the Darvas Box Theory might prove beneficial. His book “How I Made $2,000,000 in the Stock Market.” Where he was the author delineates these concepts extensively and suggests how adopting systematic methods could help pinpoint prevailing trends among traded assets.

How did Nicolas Darvas select stocks for trading?

Nicolas Darvas selected stocks for trading centered around stocks that:

  • Reached new peak price levels
  • Demonstrated an uptick in trading volume as key signals
  • Established a “Darvas box”, signifying a consolidation phase with the potential for upward movement, defined by recent peaks and troughs.

Upon breaking through the upper boundary of an existing box, Darvas would follow these steps:

  1. Initiate a purchase of the stock
  2. Position the stop-loss order at the level where it had broken out from
  3. Continuously engage more shares into his position upon Breakouts while elevating his stop-loss orders accordingly to safeguard gains and minimize possible losses.

He also incorporated elements of fundamental analysis into his decision-making process by focusing on corporations with consistent strong earnings records within sectors anticipated to perform well against market trends.

What indicators did Nicolas Darvas use in his trading?

Nicolas Darvas didn’t use indicators in his trading – he used price and volume action.

Nicolas Darvas devised a trading strategy that emphasized the importance of both price and volume as key signals. His method involved concentrating on stocks making new highs and using a boxed framework, which he established by charting lines across recent peaks and troughs to determine entry points as well as stop-loss parameters — these are known today as Darvas boxes, emphasizing stock momentum.

To this technical approach, Darvas also integrated elements of fundamental analysis into his selection process for stocks. He gave special attention to sectors featuring innovative products and sought out companies demonstrating robust earnings consistently over time. This multifaceted tactic allowed him to weigh the technical dynamics involving price and volume alongside substantial considerations related to corporate performance metrics and sector-specific trends.

How did Nicolas Darvas manage risk in his trading?

Nicolas Darvas managed risk by using stop loss orders and buying new highs. By doing so, he created pre-defined exit points that would trigger if the stock price declined. When new boxes were breached, indicating upward momentum, he increased his investment in the trade while simultaneously raising the level at which his stop loss order was placed, effectively securing profits and reducing potential losses.

Darvas’ approach also emphasized a disciplined mentality when trading in the market—a key element in managing risk efficiently. His strict adherence to discipline not only ensured that he stayed true to his established trading plan, but also helped him navigate through emotional volatility associated with market fluctuations. The practice of such self-discipline meant that Darvas could:

  • Apply his chosen trading strategies systematically
  • Keep unwavering attention on following his planned course of action
  • Control emotional reactions during periods of market volatility
  • Adjust appropriately as different conditions presented themselves within the marketplace
  • Risk Management

What are the main characteristics of a Nicolas Darvas box?

The main characteristics of Nicolas Darvas’ box are that it’s a trend-following trading strategy and that he buys new highs. He was not afraid of buying stocks that were already up a lot!

The Darvas Box Theory is a fundamental component of Nicolas Darvas’ approach to trading. This trend-following system responds to market shifts rather than trying to forecast them. To form a box:

  1. Locate a stock that has reached a new 52-week high.
  2. Witness three successive days where the price does not surpass this high.
  3. Set the top of the Darvas Box at this new peak level.
  4. Establish the low point of the box at what was previously seen as the breakout point prior to achieving this new high.

When there’s an upward movement in stock price just beyond by several points from atop of the darvas box, it triggers an indication for purchase, suggesting likely commencement towards greater highs ahead. Whereas if prices retract falling within confines beneath the bottom limit, then implies probable sell signal due to caution against failed upwards push formerly anticipated.

The simplicity and efficacy associated with using patterns driven by both Price Volume creates dynamic toolset enabling keen insights amidst transactional decisions within markets involving stocks.

Can beginners effectively use Nicolas Darvas’ approach?

Beginners can effectively use Nicolas Darvas’ approach. However, we suspect it has lost some of it’s power because markets have changed and evolved.

Those new to trading can adopt Nicolas Darvas’ method by concentrating on sectors experiencing growth and tracking selected stocks for fluctuations in price and volume, which aids them in practicing the formation of Darvas boxes. This technique helps fledgling traders harness market momentum through technical analysis when identifying when to enter or exit a trade, offering an organized way to engage with the stock market.

Newcomers may find motivation knowing that Nicolas Darvas didn’t amass his fortune instantly, but rather turned $10,000 into $2 million over time through persistent education, application, and fine-tuning of his approach toward stocks. As such, initial setbacks should be seen not as defeats but as valuable lessons—stepping stones that facilitate mastery of their own box theory applications within trading practices.

What are the common mistakes beginners make when applying Nicolas Darvas’ method?

The most common mistake beginners make when applying Nicola Darvas’ method is that they don’t formulate trading rules that can be backtested.

Also, newcomers usually miss out on daily monitoring of stock prices and volumes, a vital practice for determining when to establish a Darvas box correctly. They frequently overlook the necessity of concentrating their efforts on growth industries—an integral component of Nicolas Darvas’ approach to choosing stocks.

Some beginners omit increasing their position size and shifting their stop-loss orders higher as subsequent boxes get surpassed—a fundamental tactic within the Darvas strategy designed to harness market momentum effectively.

Lastly, rookies tend not to adhere strictly to recording trades meticulously and conducting post-trade analysis — a process essential in improving one’s trading strategy according to Darvas’ disciplined philosophy.

Are there any recommended resources for learning more about Nicolas Darvas’ trading strategy?

If you have an interest in exploring the stock market through Nicolas Darvas’ trading method, there are a plethora of materials available to assist your study. Darvas wrote several instructional books about his approach to the stock market, most notably “How I Made $2,000,000 in the Stock Market” and “Wall Street: The Other Las Vegas,” which delve into his investment ideology and tactics.

Multiple online platforms provide educational content on the Darvas Box theory. Sites like Investopedia host detailed explanations of this topic while various trading services might offer instructive webinars and video lessons designed to teach how this strategy can be applied during actual trades.

For those wishing for interactive learning experiences and exchange with peers within the same field, participating in forums centered around trading could prove useful. These communities are venues where traders gather to discuss strategies such as the darvas box theory, share practical insights from their personal experience using it within markets including stocks, potentially deepening understanding for new or seasoned traders alike.

How did Nicolas Darvas handle emotions while trading?

Nicolas Darvas handled emotions by detachment to money, was disciplined, and being systematic and sticking to his trading plan.

This approach enabled him to maintain objectivity and bypass decisions driven by emotion. Employing stop-loss orders was integral in safeguarding his investment as well as securing profits, providing him an established escape route thus mitigating emotional influence.

Darvas created a buffer between himself and Wall Street’s daily hubbub and speculative chatter by engaging in trading via cable while he traveled internationally for dance performances. This physical separation helped shield him from the stress induced by incessant market shifts outside regular trading hours. By laying down strict guidelines for when to buy or sell stocks, Darvas essentially mechanized decision-making within his trades—a methodology later known as the darvas documented system—effectively curbing emotional interference in handling market operations.

Did Nicolas Darvas use fundamental analysis alongside technical analysis?

Nicolas Darvas did use fundamental analysis alongside technical analysis.

Nicolas Darvas, while well-known for his expertise in technical trading strategies, didn’t ignore the merits of fundamental analysis within his approach. He had a preference for companies demonstrating consistently strong earnings, especially during times when the broader market exhibited volatility or unpredictability. His attention was also drawn to growth industries believed by investors to surpass general market performance.

Darvas’ method uniquely combined both technical and fundamental analysis techniques—enabling him to identify stocks that presented robust patterns on their charts along with sturdy foundational business metrics. By evaluating both price movements and volume in conjunction with a company’s operational health, Darvas could make more educated decisions in stock trading.

What timeframe did Nicolas Darvas typically trade on?

Nicolas Darvas typically traded on daily bars. Nicolas Darvas focused on analyzing stock prices and trading volumes on a daily basis, which served as the foundation for his decision-making process in trading. His method, known as the Darvas Box Theory, originated during the 1950s—a time when access to information was much slower and before real-time charting became available. As a result, his approach to trading might span multiple days or even weeks while he awaited appropriate signals from his “boxes”.

Yet it’s important to understand that the principles of the Darvas Box Theory are versatile. They’re not confined to any single timeframe. No matter if you engage in day trading, swing trading, or prefer holding investments over longer periods, you can tailor the box theory strategy by Nicolas Darvas to suit your individual timeline preferences when making trades.

How long did it take Nicolas Darvas to develop his trading system?

Nicolas Darvas spent many years learning from his mistakes to develop his trading system.

Just like Nicolas Darvas, understand that building a successful trading system isn’t an overnight achievement. Darvas turned a $36,000 investment into more than $2.25 million in a three-year period while developing his trading system. His trading career began in the speculative Canadian stock markets before moving on to the New York Stock Exchange, where he refined his trading philosophy.

He spent countless hours studying the stock market and applying a distinctive fundamental filter to identify trading candidates. The development of his trading system involved careful observation of stock volume and the creation of a watch list from which he would select stocks to trade within a narrow price range defined by precise rules. Darvas’ method of trading evolved over several years as he learned from his experiences in the Canadian markets, applied his strategy in the New York Stock Exchange, and continuously refined his techniques.

Did Nicolas Darvas have any specific criteria for entering or exiting trades?

Nicolas Darvas established stringent guidelines for entering and exiting his stock trades. His method included the following steps:

  1. Identifying stocks that reached new high prices.
  2. Creating a “box” to define the range between recent peaks and troughs, setting both an entry point for buying and a stop-loss order level.
  3. Purchasing shares when their price surged past the box’s upper limit.
  4. Placing a stop-loss order at that same upper boundary once it was crossed.

Should additional boxes be surpassed, Darvas would proceed to:

  • Increase his position in the trade,
  • Elevate his stop-loss order to safeguard accumulated profits while reducing potential losses,
  • Execute a sale if there was a drop through the bottom of any box since such an event suggested that the upward trend had lost momentum.

By adhering to these precise conditions for trading activity, Darvas successfully leveraged favorable price shifts while curtailing losses during downturns in stock prices.

Were there any specific patterns Nicolas Darvas looked for in the market?

The special pattern that Nicolas Darvas looked for for was stocks setting new highs.

Nicolas Darvas continuously searched for patterns that suggested lucrative trading prospects. He zeroed in on stocks reaching new heights and employed his box theory to spot these opportunities. A stock entered what he termed a “Darvas box” when its price surpassed a previous high but then retraced back to a level not significantly lower than this peak.

Volume was another critical factor for Darvas. It served as a significant signpost indicating whether or not a stock was primed for substantial movement. When he recognized abnormal volume levels within a particular stock, he established boundaries using the Darvas box method—capturing tight price ranges—and proceeded to purchase the stock if it surged past the upper limits of its current box. This action triggered him to institute stop-loss orders and contemplate expanding his position in that trade.

What were some of Nicolas Darvas’ notable trading successes?

Throughout his career, Nicolas Darvas achieved numerous significant trading successes. The most impressive was undoubtedly his ability to turn a $10,000 investment into over $2,000,000 in just 18 months during the Bull market of the 1950s. His initial success in the stock market came from an investment in BRILUND, where darvas invested and made a profit of $8,000 after the stock price rose from 50 cents per share to $1.90 within two months.

Another significant success was his trade in BRUCE stocks during a hostile takeover, where he earned a net profit of $295,000. By effectively applying his unique trading strategy, Darvas was able to accumulate profits that totaled over $2,000,000 from trading stocks like UNIVERSAL CONTROLS, Texas Instruments, and THIOKOL CHEMICAL.

How can I adapt Nicolas Darvas’ principles to my own trading style?

You can adapt Nicolas Darvasæ principles to your own trading style by backtesting strategies that buy stocks setting new highs.

Incorporating aspects of Nicolas Darvas’ methods could be a beneficial addition to your trading practices. Employ the principles of the Darvas Box Theory by identifying stocks that display distinct box formations coupled with an increased volume upon their departure from these boxes. Adopt his disciplined approach by distancing yourself emotionally from trading scenarios, focusing purely on stock performance rather than developing attachments or being swayed by market fluctuations.

Just as Darvas maintained meticulous records of his trades through a journal, so too should you document your transactions and thought processes. This practice facilitates objective analysis and strategic refinement for enhancing your overall trading methodology. Embrace self-reliance when making trade decisions to mirror Darvas’ path toward becoming an autonomous trader proficient at navigating without heavy reliance on third-party recommendations or brokerage insights.

By dedicating yourself to ongoing education and exhibiting steadfastness in applying these precepts, you can mold the tenets set forth by Darvas into a customized framework suitable for advancing your endeavors within the realm of trading—thereby striving towards greater proficiency in this competitive arena.


In summary, Nicolas Darvas’ transformation from a skilled dancer to a wealthy stock market investor underscores his distinctive and disciplined trading methodology: His innovative Darvas Box.

Nicolas Darvas’ impact on the investing world has left a lasting legacy, making this concept closely related to him.

The theory emphasizes the significance of stocks reaching new highs alongside rising volume, continuing to be an effective strategy in modern trading. For traders at any level of experience, applying Darvas’ methods could enhance their performance in stock trading.

But the main takeaway is that he became successful after being very adaptive and learned from his mistakes. He achieved that because he kept notes and recorded all his trades.

Here you can read more about famous investors and traders.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Darvas Box Theory?

The Darvas Box Theory constitutes a trading strategy that capitalizes on the momentum of stock prices, premised on the expectation that ascending prices will persist in their climb and descending prices will maintain their fall. Traders employing this method seek out stocks experiencing surges in trade volume, and they delineate “Darvas Boxes” by sketching lines across recent peaks and troughs of stock price movements.

How effective is Darvas box?

Traders find the Darvas Box Theory to be exceptionally useful in markets that exhibit strong trends because it concentrates on stocks demonstrating robust momentum. This theory delivers unequivocal indicators when there’s a price breakout from the darvas box, which may signify the initiation of a fresh trend.

Did Darvas use stop-loss orders?

Indeed, Darvas implemented stop-loss orders as a cornerstone of his strategy to minimize losses. He would relinquish his holding in a stock if it retreated into its previously established box or breached the lower threshold.

Can beginners use the Darvas Box Theory?

Certainly, those new to trading can utilize the Darvas Box Theory, which employs a systematic method in navigating the market by leveraging price and volume as principal indicators. Nevertheless, it is critical to cultivate consistent practice and discipline for its successful implementation.

What were some of Nicolas Darvas’ notable trading successes?

During the bullish 1950s market, Nicolas Darvas remarkably transformed $10,000 into more than $2 million within a mere 18 months and amassed substantial gains from trading in stocks like BRILUND and BRUCE.

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