A stock's price is not necessarily indicative of quality. However, looking at some of the highest stock prices ever can be educational for those interested in the history of the stock market.
Berkshire Hathaway ($347,400)
Berkshire Hathaway is the holding company of billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Notable companies under the Berkshire umbrella include Geico Auto Insurance and Helzberg Diamonds. Berkshire is also one of the largest shareholders of Apple (AAPL), Bank of America (BAC), and Coca-Cola (KO). Buffett's success as an investor led to a fantastic increase in Berkshire's share price. Berkshire Hathaway A shares (BRK.A) reached an eye-popping level of approximately $347,400 before the coronavirus market crash in early 2020. For individuals interested in investing in Berkshire, the company's B shares (BRK.B) are much more affordable.
In April 2019, Seaboard Corporation (SEB) reached its record high of $4,699 per share. Seaboard Foods is one of the largest producers of grain and agriculturally-derived products in the United States. Furthermore, the marine division provides shipping services to the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America. Seaboard milling facilities process and sell grain products worldwide. The company may be best known for its large stake in Butterball Turkey.
NVR (NVR) is a homebuilder operating under the names of Ryan Homes, NVHomes, and Fox Ridge Homes, among others. It markets in many states, building and selling homes, as well as offering mortgage financing and title insurance. NVR hit an all-time high of $4071.13 in early 2020. The coronavirus crisis took a toll on the company, reducing its price by almost 50% in March 2020. However, it recovered most of those losses within a few months.
Amazon (AMZN) was still hitting new highs as of June 2020. The company's stock suffered an initial pullback during the 2020 bear market. However, it soon became clear that Amazon would benefit from the coronavirus crisis as consumers shifted their shopping online. The online bookstore turned everything store recovered from a terrible plunge below $10 a share after the dotcom bubble burst. Amazon's founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, went on to become the wealthiest person in the world.
Alphabet / Google ($1,532.11)
Technology giant Alphabet (GOOG), which is best known for its Google search engine, reached a record high of $1,532.11 in early 2020. Google produces revenue through advertising, publishing tools, and its Android operating system. Apple's introduction of an initially inaccurate maps app also brought Google Maps to the forefront. Apple CEO Tim Cook actually apologized and recommended other products, including Google Maps.
Calumet and Hecla ($1,000.00)
Calumet and Hecla was a copper mining business that began mining in Houghton County, Michigan. The company exceeded all expectations when, in 1906, it produced nearly 100 million pounds of copper. That propelled the company's stock price to $1,000 in 1907.
Apple (AAPL) passed Exxon as the largest company in the world in 2011. It reached its all-time high in September of 2012 on the back of a 2012 gain of more than 70%. After reaching all-time highs, the maker of the iPhone, Macintosh computers, and the iPad, saw a severe pullback. The company had a 7-to-1 stock split in 2014 before the share price could fully recover. On a split-adjusted basis, Apple repeatedly hit new record highs between 2014 and 2020. However, $702.10 remained the all-time price high for Apple without adjusting for splits.
General Motors ($697.00)
General Motors (GM) had a stock price under $30 as of June 2020, but the history of the iconic automaker is long and storied. According to The New York Times, GM was the largest automaker in the world from 1931 to 2008, when Toyota passed it. GM led the way in automobile innovation but also in creating complicated corporate structures. In September 1916, GM hit a record high of $697 per share but collapsed shortly after because the market for new automobiles dried up. In 2009, the Great Recession forced GM to file for bankruptcy. It later reemerged, but with the federal government holding 500 million shares.
The Bottom Line
In the eyes of an investor, price does not necessarily reflect value. A more expensive stock does not always translate to a better company. Instead, these stories relate the journey from idea to income—from genius to growth—all laid out on a tapestry woven by the ever-evolving machine of American capitalism. At the time of writing, Tim Parker owned shares of APPL since 2012.