So You Bought Apple Stock in 1980

You lucky dog

Steve Jobs stands beneath a photo of him and Apple-co founder Steve Wozniak from the company’s fledgling days. (Kimberly White / Reuters)

Everybody knows that going back in time to make yourself stinking rich is not advisable. (See: Biff Tannen.) But let’s just say, for the sake of a thought experiment, that you have access to a time machine and little regard for the integrity of the space-time continuum.

You’re totally going back to 1980 to buy Apple stock, right?

That’s the year Apple Computer went public. (It dropped the “Computer” from its name to become Apple Inc. in 2007, right in time for the introduction of a transformative device: the smartphone.)

If you had spent $1,000 on Apple stock in 1980, you would have been able to buy about 45 shares at $22 apiece. But! Apple shares have split four times since then—when a stock splits, it increases the number of shares an individual has—which puts the adjusted initial offering price at closer to 39 cents a share. Using that figure, an investment of $1,000 in Apple back in 1980 would yield close to $272,000 today.

You don’t actually have to go back to the Apple IPO to see the potential for an investment windfall. Imagine you’d invested $1,000 in Apple in April 2003, when shares bottomed out at $6.56. Today, those shares would be worth more than $226,000. (Remember that’s taking into account a 2-for-1 split in 2005 and a 7-for-1 split in 2014.)

But, hey, that’s the thing about investing. No one really knows what’s going to happen. Sometimes you get lucky, other times not so much. Back in 1982, The New York Times cautioned against investing in hyped-up tech companies like Apple.

“Strong performance of a new issue in its fledgling months, of course, is no guarantee of longevity,” the newspaper wrote at the time. “Dozens of offerings from last year are currently outright disasters, and even the most talked about deals of the past two years—Genentech, Apple Computer, and Cetus—are all trading significantly below their offering prices.”

After boasting the then-largest initial public stock offering in United States corporate history in 1981, the biotech firm Cetus fell apart in the early 1990s. Genentech, another biotech pioneer of the era, was acquired by Roche in 2009.

For what it’s worth, the legendary investor Warren Buffett is still betting on Apple—despite his general reluctance to invest in technology companies. Buffett said back in May that his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, has 9.8 million shares of Apple. If that’s still the case, several market watchers have pointed out, the recent uptick in Apple’s value means Berkshire Hathaway likely made more than $60 million off the investment in a single day last week.

The lesson here: The best way to get filthy rich off Apple is to have a time machine, exceptionally good luck, or a whole lotta money to begin with.