Today in Apple history: Apple steals a financial record from Microsoft

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Tim Cook earnings apple
Yet another financial milestone.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Aug 20: Today in Apple history: Apple steals a financial record from Microsoft August 20, 2012: Apple passes a financial milestone as it becomes the most valuable publicly traded stock ever.

The company it bests to attain this record? Long-time rival Microsoft, which peaked on December 30, 1999. Apple’s surge to the top spot serves as a reminder of just how radically the fortunes of both companies changed over the years.

Apple beats its long-time frenemy

At the time of achieving this financial record, Apple’s market capitalization hit $623.5 billion. That surpassed Microsoft’s $618.69 billion valuation in the closing days of the previous century.

While adjusted for inflation, Microsoft still held the record, Apple’s ascension still proved extraordinary. Throughout the 1990s, Microsoft — a former Apple developer — trounced Cupertino at every turn. Thanks to a series of hit products, however, Apple was now firmly in the driver’s seat.

Apple shares on August 20, 2012, traded at $665.15. Wondering why that’s more than the $217.58 AAPL is trading at as of this writing? This was before Apple’s 7-to-1 stock split in 2014, which vastly increased the number of Apple shares available.

Apple’s rocketship trajectory

Apple’s record wasn’t a huge surprise. Despite the doom predictions the company was hit with after Steve Jobs’ death the year before, Apple was clearly on a roll.

In 2011, Apple overtook ExxonMobil to become the world’s most valuable company. By mid-2012, its stock was more than 50 percent bigger than ExxonMobil, with over $200 billion separating the two companies’ market caps.

Since then, of course, Apple has continued its upward trajectory. After smashing Microsoft’s record, Apple went on to become the first public company in history valued at $700 billion, then $800 billion and $900 billion. Earlier this month, Apple finally achieved an astonishing figure as it passed the $1 trillion mark. Microsoft’s current market cap, by comparison, sits at $823.57 billion.

Did you have the foresight to invest in Apple back when it was (comparatively) cheap? Do you have any horror stories about selling your AAPL holdings before they really took off? Let us know in the comments below.