A friend of mine, who shares my weakness for making ill-fated investments, recently bought a share of Berkshire Hathaway. That's the flagship company of Warren Buffett, who recently surpassed Bill Gates as the nation's richest human. Like many of us, Buffett started with a modest bankroll, only he managed to turn his into $13 billion-plus. We've seen oil magnates, real estate moguls, shippers and robber barons at the top of the money heap, but Buffett is the first person to get there just by picking stocks.

While we've all been puttering around with our own portfolios, buying what Mario Gabelli likes,...

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