A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 25, 2012
Alligator Spread

An “alligator spread” is a transaction is where the investor is unlikely to make much of a profit even if the markets move in the direction anticipated, primarily because the investor is “eaten alive” (as if by an alligator) by high commissions. The term ‘alligator spread” has been cited in print since at least February 1977.


Investopedia
Definition of ‘Alligator Spread’
An unprofitable spread that occurs as a result of large commissions charged on the transaction, regardless of favorable market movements. An alligator spread is usually used in the options market to describe a collection of put and call options that may not be profitable.

27 February 1977, New York (NY) Times, “Commentary: Getting Alive in the Options Game” by Albert Haas Jr., pg. 101:
Cynics contend the most popular is the “alligator spread"-the broker makes a great deal of money, and the client gets eaten alive by commissions.

Google News Archive
11 April 1977, The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), “Option trade booms in U.S.” by Ian Anderson, pg. 21, col. 3:
One jaded options player said the favorite options technique is the “alligator spread—the broker makes a great deal of money while the client gets eaten alive by commissions.”

Google Books
Forbes
Volume 127, Issues 8-13
1981
Pg. 203:
“Call it an alligator spread,” says Gastineau. “Transaction costs will eat you alive.”

Google Books
Words of Wall Street:
2,000 investment terms defined

By Allan H. Pessin and Joseph A. Ross
Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin
1983
Pg. 9:
ALLIGATOR SPREAD Slang for an option spread position that offers more in commission dollars to an account executive than to a client who accepts the risks of the spread. In effect, the client’s potential profit on the position is eaten up by the cost of the transaction.

Google Books
Fundamentals of Investing
By Lawrence J. Gitman and Michael D. Joehnk
New York, NY: Harper & Row
1988
Pg. 58:
Alligator spread. Any options transaction in which commissions eat up all potential profit.

Google Books
High Steppers, Fallen Angels, and Lollipops:
Wall Street Slang

By Kathleen Odean
New York, NY: Dodd, Mead
1988
Pg. 184:
A broker who blows a customer out after a point makes a commission at the customer’s expense, but the picture of “blowing out” surpasses the financial harm it describes. So, too, the facetiously named alligator spread, in which the brokers’ cimmissions eat up the customers’ profits, is hardly the equivalent of being devoured by an alligator.

Google Books
Barron’s Finance and Investment Handbook
By John Downes and Jordan Elliot Goodman
New York, NY: Barron’s Educational Series
1990
Pg. 186:
ALLIGATOR SPREAD spread in the options market that “eats the investor alive” with high commission costs. The term is used when a broker arranges a combination of puts and calls that generates so much commission the client is unlikely to turn a profit even if the markets move as anticpated.

Vail (CO) Daily
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Wall Street’s menagerie
Richard Loth
(...)
Alligator: An “alligator spread” in the options market “eats the investor alive” with high commission costs.

Google Books
Jonbull’s Stock Guide:
How to Invest Profitably in a Volatile Stock Market

By J. P. Obienugh
Victoria, BC: Trafford On Demand Pub
2010
Pg. 432:
Alligator spread – The term used to describe a spread in the options market that generates such a large commission that the client is unlikely to make a profit even if the markets move as the investor anticipated.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Monday, June 25, 2012 • Permalink