Wall Street has seen its fair share of all-star investors who have made their fortunes off of well-timed allocations. Whether it was George Soros breaking the pound, or Warren Buffett's laundry list of financial successes, there are dozens of examples of stellar investing returns. Though hindsight is 20/20, especially with investing, looking at past successes can help teach investors important lessons for the future.
1. Apple Inc (AAPL) at IPO
We took a list at some of the greatest choices investors have ever made (or could have made) and narrowed it down to 10 examples. Some of these were included simply for the large gains that were made. Others did not necessarily have the largest gains, but were instead very tough calls that few made to separate themselves from the pack. Here is our list for the best investments of all time.
Without a doubt, AAPL has been one of the most polarizing stocks over the last decade, as Steve Jobs and company developed a technological juggernaut that quickly became one of the most valuable companies in the world. The stock debuted on December 12th, 1980, at a measly price of $28.75 per share. Adjusted for splits and dividends, the stock is currently up approximately 1,980% since then. Had you bought in at the IPO and sold out at AAPL’s all-time high of $702.1 on 9/19/2012, you would have returned a handsome 2,342%.
2. Gold in 1970
Technically, we could stretch this back as far as the 1800s but we wanted to focus on investments that were actually possible for anyone still in the financial world today. Just prior to Nixon abandoning the gold standard in 1971, the precious metal was worth approximately $36 per ounce; that would quickly skyrocket as inflation and the metal’s “safe haven” appeal would draw in investors of all kinds. From 1970 until now, holding gold would have returned 3,500% and that figure jumps to 5,200% had you sold at its all-time high.
3. Penny Stock Explosion for CNQR
This choice made the list based on the overwhelming gains it produced for anyone brave enough to buy into what was once a penny stock. Concur Technologies Inc (CNQR) provides travel and expense management systems for companies around the world. The stock crashed during the bursting of the Internet Bubble and fell as low as $0.3125 per share in 2001. After working its way higher for the next few years and shrugging off the 2008 recession, the stock skyrocketed to a high of $123.45 per share in February of 2014. Had you invested $10,000 in CNQR at its low and sold out at its peak, you would have $3,950,400 today, a return of 39,404%.
4. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) at Its Debut
This investment comes at the hands of none other than Warren Buffett. When his company, Berkshire Hathaway, made its public debut on 3/17/1980, its stock was worth $290 per share, quite steep for an IPO. The Oracle of Omaha continued to work his magic over the years, and BRK.A now trades somewhere in the range of $190,000 per share. Buying at the IPO would have returned you 65,400% today, and an astonishing 66,980% on the stock’s all-time high of $194,530.
5. Treasuries in Late 2008
As markets began their descent in mid to late 2008, the Treasury market caught fire, jumping approximately 30% in just a matter of months. Though those gains are far from earth-shattering, a movement of that nature in U.S. T-bills is unheard of. Also, keep in mind that anyone who shifted out of equities and into Treasurys missed some of the harshest tradings sessions that Wall Street has offered over the last decade.
6. Selling out of the Nasdaq in Late 1999
The Internet/Tech Bubble hit technology stocks especially hard; the Nasdaq has yet to reclaim the levels it saw in late 1999 and early 2000. Though Wall Street euphoria surrounded this index, there were a number of dissenters who feared it to be a bubble and sold out. Those investors avoided big losses as the index sank approximately 80% over the next two years. This one makes the list as a very tough and unpopular call that proved to be an incredibly wise decision as time progressed.
7. Domain Squatting
Early on in the internet era, domain squatting was a popular get-rich-quick scheme. People could buy just about any domain name for a few bucks and sit on it until a company wanted to purchase. Though not thought of as a traditional investment, a number of people turned huge profits off of this activity. Check out what some of the most basic websites are worth today:
8. Farmland in the 1960s
Famed investor Jim Rogers has long urged investors to purchase farmland, as its value has been skyrocketing over the years. The purchase is much more of a hassle than simply buying a stock, but it has produced some major gains for the landowners. Adair County, Iowa, farmland, for example, was worth $180 per acre back in 1963. That land is now worth $6,884 (as of 12/31/2013), a jump of 3,724%.
9. Bitcoin in 2011
The cryptocurrency bitcoin has taken the world by storm in just a few short years, as its value has skyrocketed along with the skepticism surrounding it. Had you invested in bitcoin in 2011, when it was worth approximately $0.05, you could have made an earth-shattering return of 2,253,540% by selling out at its recent high of $1,126.82. This is, of course, assuming that you would have been able to get your money out, something of an issue for anyone involved with Mt. Gox.
10. The Dow Jones in 1932
Although this pick will pre-date many investors today, we felt we had to include it given the circumstances surrounding the time period. Coming out of the Great Depression, investor sentiment was about as low as it could possibly be. Putting any trust in the stock market was nearly impossible as many had just seen their life savings evaporate before their eyes. Still, if you had the guts to invest in the Dow Jones in 1932, you would have been up approximately 39,565% today, as the index is sitting at all-time highs.
The Bottom Line
Investing takes guts, and in some cases bold decisions can pay off (though they tend to fall flat more often than not). This piece is in no way suggesting that investors should make bold predictions with their money, but more of a look back at history for fun.
There are countless other examples of great returns, so feel free let us know which ones we missed or that you think we should have included on Twitter @TraderHQdotcom.
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.
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