Abstract Three major commodity booms since the second world war are identified and analyzed. In all three, demand shocks predominated as triggers to the commodity price rises. The first boom, in 1950–51, was caused by the massive inventory buildup in response to the Korean war. The second, in 1973–74, was accentuated by widespread harvest failures and by OPEC's market management, which tripled the price of oil. The third boom started in 2004 and has not yet run its course. This time, the explosive growth of China's and India's raw materials demand has played a key role. The first two booms collapsed as the world economy went into recession and excessive inventories were sold out. The third boom may prove more durable since the world economy continues to expand briskly and commodity inventories have remained small.