Skilled investors do not consider a stock's price to be indicative of quality, but for those interested in statistics and the history of the stock market, looking at the reasons behind some of the most expensive stock prices in history can be educational.
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Berkshire Hathaway ($3,476)
Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) is the holding company of famed investor, Warren Buffett. Notable companies under the Berkshire umbrella include Geico Auto Insurance, Helzberg Diamonds and The Pampered Chef. Buffett, long a critic of short-term trading, has kept the A shares at a high valuation in order to decrease the volatility that comes from short-term trading. In January 2010, Berkshire's B shares (NYSE:BRK.B) underwent a 50 to 1 stock split, bringing its price down from around $3,476 to about $69.50 per share.
Seaboard Corp ($2,615)
In July 2011, Seaboard Corporation (AMEX:SEB) reached its record high of $2,615 per share.
Seaboard Foods is one of the largest producers of grain and agriculturally-derived products in the United States. The marine division provides shipping services to the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America, and Seaboard milling facilities process and sell grain products all over the world. The company may be best known for its 50% stake in Butterball Turkey.
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. This propelled the company's stock price to $1,000 in 1907.
SEE: Why Are Corporations So Concerned About Their Stock Prices?
NVR, Inc ($938.00)
NVR (NYSE:NVR) is a homebuilder operating under the names Ryan Homes, NVHomes and Fox Ridge Homes, among others. It markets in 14 states, building and selling homes, as well as offering mortgage financing and title insurance. NVR hit an all-time high of $938.00 in July 2005.
The housing crisis took a toll on the company, reducing its price to $332.77 in February 2009. It has since recovered and once again is approaching record highs.
Technology giant Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) reached its record high in October 2012, making it one of the highest-priced stocks in history. Best known for its popular search engine, Google produces revenue through advertising, publishing tools and its Android operating system. Apple's introduction of an initially inaccurate maps app brought Google Maps to the forefront, after Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized and recommended other products, including Google's mobile app site.
Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) passed Exxon as the largest company in the world with a market capitalization of more than $540 billion. It reached its all-time high in September of 2012 on the back of a 2012 gain of more than 70%. Since reaching all-time highs, the maker of the iPhone, Macintosh computers and the iPad, has seen a severe pullback, but many analysts believe that more all-time highs are imminent, with price targets as high as $1,110.
General Motors ($697.00)
General Motors (NYSE:GM) now has a stock price under $30, 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 it was passed by Toyota. GM led the way in automobile innovation but also in complicated corporate structure. 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 re-emerged, 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 translate to a better company. These stories, rather, 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.