Investors are often told that the American stock market has been the biggest creator of wealth in global history.
Over the decades, major indices and individual stocks have crept steadily higher as corporate revenues and profits have continued to reach new records.
While the rising tide of American commerce has generally lifted all boats, some companies have clearly been more successful than others. But which one comes at the top of the pile?
What Stock Has Gained the Most in History?
Depending on how you measure the term “gained”, there are contenders for the title. For example, a top-performing stock in history is Altria Group. Counting dividends, this tobacco manufacturer has increased by over 170,000 times over nearly a century of trading.
But Altria’s enormous success has been eclipsed by Coca-Cola, which has appreciated by more than 1 million percent since its 1919 IPO.
Both of these companies remain dominant in their industries to this day, showing the long-term power of leading brands.
What Is the Most A Stock Ever Went Up in a Day?
The biggest gain in value ever posted by one stock in a single day was $191 billion. This return was generated by Amazon in February of 2022 amid a period of high stock market volatility.
Although the stock only gained 14 percent during that trading day, Amazon’s already enormous market capitalization resulted in this record-breaking gain in monetary terms.
What Stocks Have Gone up 1,000 Percent?
The number of stocks that have gone up by 1,000 percent or more over their lifetimes is very large.
Most old and successful companies have managed this feat, though it can take stocks varying amounts of time to increase by 1,000 percent. These include many obvious names, such as Walmart, Amazon, Coca-Cola, IBM, JP Morgan and other famous companies.
It may surprise you to learn, however, that many companies that are far less prominent have also made this list. Consider, for example, the comparatively obscure information management company Iron Mountain.
In 1996, stock in the company traded at slightly under $3 per share. Today, Iron Mountain shares trade for over $52. This represents a total gain of over 1,700 percent. Many other medium and small-cap companies have achieved similar results, proving that even obscure stocks can help investors build their wealth over time.
What Is the Highest a Single Stock Has Ever Gone?
The record for the highest stock price ever was set by Class A shares of Berkshire Hathaway in early 2022. Berkshire, the company headed by famous value investor Warren Buffett, has historically avoided splitting its A shares.
This has allowed the stock to appreciate in value far beyond what most companies would allow without splitting their shares. Berkshire’s Class A shares reached their highest point in March of 2022 when the stock rose to $544,087.
It’s important to recognize that the price of Berkshire shares reflects Warren Buffet’s personal aversion to stock splits. Eliminating splits, many other businesses would have extremely high share prices. Coca-Cola is once again an excellent example, as an original share of the company purchased in 1919 would represent 9,216 current shares.
Given Coca-Cola’s current price of $62.84, that original share would now be worth nearly $580,000. This price also doesn’t reflect the additional return generated by dividends.
In Coca-Cola’s case, the 9,216 shares created per original share would each pay $1.84 today. This translates to an additional return of nearly $17,000 in dividend distributions annually.
Has a Stock Ever Hit 0?
Several stocks have hit $0 per share over the years, indicating that the companies behind them became worthless or ceased to exist altogether.
The process of a stock reaching $0, however, is somewhat complicated. Even heavily distressed companies will usually trade for a few cents per share for some time after dipping below $1. At this point, the stocks are typically delisted from major stock exchanges.
One of the most prominent examples of a stock that sank to $0 per share was Enron, the energy company that famously collapsed amid a heavily publicized accounting scandal in 2001. Because its assets mostly existed only on paper, the company’s stock eventually lost all of its value as investors analyzed new information about its holdings.
Stocks also go to $0 when a company declares Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It’s important to note in these cases, however, that the stock may not necessarily be worthless to the shareholders.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the company’s assets are liquidated and distributed among interested parties, including shareholders. In some cases, this allows shareholders to get some of their money back out of defunct stocks.
What Is the Best Investment of All Time?
Despite its highly speculative nature and lack of intrinsic value, there’s an argument to be made that Bitcoin purchased before the onset of widespread cryptocurrency trading was the best investment of all time.
Between 2011 and 2021, Bitcoin generated a cumulative return of over 20 million percent. For reference, the S&P 500 index has generated a cumulative return of 1.173 million percent since 1926.
Another strong contender for the best investment in history comes from the famous tulip bubble that occurred in the Netherlands in the 1630s. For a brief period, tulip bulbs commanded prices equivalent to those of large mansions. Those who cultivated tulips before the bubble began, therefore, were able to generate almost unimaginably high returns on what was otherwise a non-monetary asset.
Ignoring bubbles that catapulted stocks or other assets into unreasonable price ranges, there are several other contenders for the best long-term investments of all time. These include stocks in massively successful companies like Coca-Cola, Berkshire Hathaway, Altria and Walmart. Early land purchases in major cities can also be considered among the best investments ever made.
Meanwhile, the best wealth-generating investment for the everyday investor has likely been the S&P 500 index itself. While paling in comparison to some of the individual stocks listed on it, the index has moved steadily upward over the course of American economic history.
The S&P 500 has generated an average annual return of just over 10 percent over its history. For example, a young person making a one-time investment of $1,000 in this index in 1960 would have well over $430,000 today as a result.
What Is the Most a Stock Has Lost in One Day?
In terms of total value, the record for the largest single-day loss by one stock was set by Meta Platforms on February 3rd, 2022.
On that day, the company’s stock plummeted, resulting in a total loss of $232 billion in overall market capitalization. It’s interesting to note that this massive loss occurred during the same wave of market volatility that shortly afterward resulted in Amazon’s record single-day gain.
The author has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Financhill has a disclosure policy. This post may contain affiliate links or links from our sponsors.