With such a lack of seemingly high-quality new issues, it’s hard to get excited about the IPO market these days.  It’s worth remembering, though, that all of today’s largest companies got their start somewhere.  For the largest publicly traded company in the world, that start was 37 years ago today.  That’s right, Apple Computer (AAPL) began its life as a publicly traded company on 12/12/1980, just after Ronald Reagan was elected President and a month before the Iran hostage crisis came to an end.  A lot has changed over the last 37 years, and there have been some major swings for Apple and the US stock market, but at this point, things have never been better for either of them.

The chart below shows the performance of Apple’s stock since its IPO in December 1980.  Not including dividends, the stock has rallied more than 33,500% from a split-adjusted price of 51 cents to its current price of $172 in what has been called one of the greatest wealth-creating engines of all time.  Earlier in this century, as the iPod’s popularity peaked and the iPhone took off, the term “Apple Millionaire” was coined as thousands of investors saw their net worth surge by simply buying and holding the stock.  Where Apple will ultimately top out or what new product they will launch next is anyone’s guess, but even if the returns are good for the next 37 years, they will never match the last 37 years.  The question is, what stock will be the Apple of the next 37 years?  With so few IPOs, the pickings are slim.

While Apple’s 37-year run of gains has been nothing short of breathtaking, bitcoin enthusiasts can’t be bothered with such pedestrian returns.  As just another sign of how out of this world the rally in bitcoin has been, the chart below compares Apple’s performance since its IPO to bitcoin, going back to just 2010. Back in July 2010, bitcoin was trading at seven cents per share compared to today’s price of $17,148.  That’s a gain of 24,497,327%!  You read that right- almost 25 million!  When you compare Apple to bitcoin, Apple just looks like its moving along the zero line.  With a market value of $290 billion, bitcoin is still less than half of the market cap of Apple, but it has done all of this in just over 7 years compared to 37 years for Apple.

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