What is a 'Little Board'

Little Board is a slang term primarily referring to the former American Stock Exchange (AMEX). It can also describe any exchange that is not the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Little Board originally referred to the New York Consolidated Stock and Petroleum Exchange.

BREAKING DOWN 'Little Board'

Little Board is the antithesis of the Big Board, the term used to describe the NYSE. In the early 20th Century Little Board applied mainly to the Curb Market, the precursor to AMEX. At that time, brokers trading small-cap stocks gathered on the street to exchange securities not traded on the floor of the large New York Exchange. Some traders worked along the curb near the NYSE at Broad and Exchange Streets, hence the name.

The New York Curb Market opened its own trading floor on Trinity Place in 1921, and changed its name to the New York Curb Exchange in 1929. In part to distinguish it from the New York Stock Exchange, the market changed its name to the American Stock Exchange in 1953. By 1960 the AMEX encompassed $23 billion of listed stocks. In 1975, the AMEX launched its options market. In 1993, it introduced the first ever exchange-traded fund (ETF) and the Standard & Poor's Depository Receipts (SPDR), focused on investing in the Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500 Index. In 1998, it merged with the market of the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ), the first fully automated exchange.

Little Big Board?

At one point, the Little Board grew to be fairly large. Near the turn of the millennium, it posed a serious competitive threat to the NYSE, which had lagged in the trading of new financial products like ETFs and options, as well as the stocks of burgeoning computer and technology companies. Indeed, companies like Microsoft and Apple first went public on the NASDAQ exchange.

NASDAQ spun off from AMEX in 2000 and 2001, but in 2008 the NYSE parent company, then known as NYSE Euronext, bought the original AMEX exchange for $260 million in stock. The AMEX's name and branding went through several iterations. It's now known as NYSE MKT. It is still known mostly for trading in small-cap stocks, options, ETFs and closed-end funds.

Mergers Mean Fewer Boards

With consolidation and the growth in electronic trading, many of the old physical trading floors, and thus the terms Little Board and Big Board no longer apply. In 2012, the original AMEX Little Board trading floor at 86 Trinity Place closed down; the exchange now trades on the NYSE floor on 11 Wall Street.

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