If You'd Put $1,000 Into Amazon Stock 20 Years Ago, Here's What You'd Have Today

Amazon stock has lost more than $400 billion in value since its all-time high, but bulls say it's only a matter of time before it reclaims its heights.

An Amazon delivery box amzn stock amazon stock
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Shares in Amazon.com (AMZN) remain stuck around 25% below their all-time high set more than two years ago, but AMZN stock has nevertheless done extremely well by truly long-term shareholders. 

It's perhaps understandable if Amazon's legendary returns go overlooked after what transpired last year. In an annus horribilis, shares in the e-commerce and cloud services giant lost half their value in 2022. And while AMZN is up about 70% so far in 2023, it does remain well below record highs. 

So let's have a look at the full picture. Amazon, which began life as a modest website for book buyers, went public in 1997, and has since generated truly outsized wealth for shareholders. Indeed, Amazon stock ranks as one of the 30 best stocks of the past 30 years, according to an analysis by Hendrik Bessembinder, a finance professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

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Between its initial public offering in 1997 and December 2020, Amazon stock created nearly $1.6 trillion in wealth for shareholders, according to Bessembinder's model, which includes cash flows in and out of the business and other adjustments.

Amazon's emergence as the nation's largest e-commerce company is only part of the story behind its extraordinary wealth creation. The firm is a giant in the fast-growing industry of cloud-based services, a leader in streaming media and has enjoyed explosive growth in revenue from digital advertising.

Amazon has been quite busy in the analog world too. For example, it owns the Whole Foods grocery store chain and built its own freight and logistics operations. The latter operations comprise a vast assemblage of distribution centers, as well as fleets of commercial aircraft and trucks.

AMZN stock took a turn for the worse in 2022, however, erasing a large chunk of its hard-won wealth creation. From its peak to today, the company has shed more than $413 billion in market capitalization.

Bulls contend that investors and traders overreacted to the post-pandemic slowdown in Amazon's traditional retail business. More importantly, the market neglects to value Amazon stock properly when accounting for its Amazon Web Services cloud business, bulls say.

For these reasons and more, much of Wall Street says Amazon stock is a top pick. Indeed, of the 53 analysts covering AMZN stock tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, 39 rate it at Strong Buy, 13 say Buy and one calls it a Hold. That works out to a rare consensus recommendation of Strong Buy, and with very high conviction to boot.

The bottom line on Amazon stock?

Amazon stock

(Image credit: YCharts)

Which brings us to what $1,000 invested in AMZN stock 20 years ago would be worth today.

But first things first. As you can see in the above chart, if you had invested $1,000 in Amazon stock in late August 2003 and sold at its height in early July 2021, you would have grossed nearly $70,000. 

Today, that same $1,000 investment is worth more than $52,000. That's still a fabulous return, of course. By comparison, the same sum invested in the S&P 500 over the same time frame would theoretically be worth $6,172 today.

If past is anything like prologue, Amazon will eventually reclaim its historically lofty heights. For its entire history as a publicly traded company, Amazon stock has generated an annualized total return of almost 32%. The S&P 500 generated an annualized total return of 10% over the same span. 

Put another way, Amazon stock has more than tripled the performance of the broader market since it went public. Bulls have every expectation that it will keep that streak alive.

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Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer, Kiplinger.com

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.