If You Invested $1000 In McDonalds Stock When Happy Meal Was Launched, Here's How Much You'd Have Now

Zinger Key Points
  • The first McDonald's restaurant was opened in 1940. The chain went on to pave the way for the fast food industry with several firsts.
  • In 1979, McDonald's launched the Happy Meal, a food option aimed at children.

Fast food giant McDonald’s Corp MCD is one of the largest restaurant companies in the world. Launching in 1940, the company set many standards and firsts for the industry, including the launch of an item in 1979 that transformed the fast food market.

What Happened: The first McDonald’s restaurant was opened in 1940 by brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald. The concept was to offer food at low prices, including a 15 cent hamburger that was cheaper than rivals.

Ray Kroc later helped the restaurant franchise and eventually bought out the brothers in 1961.

Over the years, McDonald’s launched several items that helped propel it forward:

1965: McDonald’s IPO

1968: first Big Mac

1975: first drive-thru window

1983: added Chicken McNuggets to menu

2002: Dollar Menu nationwide

Mixed into these offerings from the company, including its IPO on April 21, 1965, was the launch of a new menu item in 1979 that has become a staple of McDonald’s and copied by many other restaurants in some form.

Guatemalan businesswoman Yolanda Fernandez de Cofino is credited with inventing the Happy Meal, an offering for kids that now includes a main item, side dish, drink and toy or book. Fernandez de Cofino was the owner of the first franchised McDonald’s in Guatemala and saw the menu items being too big for kids, which led to offering a kids' meal, which was adopted by the chain worldwide.

In 2022, McDonald's attempted to play into a feeling of nostalgia by offering Happy Meals for adults. The restaurant giant teamed up with Cactus Plant Flea Market, a streetwear brand, to offer an exclusive line of merchandise and limited toys that could appeal to adults. 

The adult Happy Meals come with a Big Mac or 10 piece Chicken McNuggests along with fries and a drink. The toy in the Happy Meal is a collectible figurine based on old McDonald's mascots Grimace, Hamburglar and Birdie along with new chracter Cactus Buddy. 

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Investing $1,000 in MCD Stock: McDonald’s shares were trading at around $46.25 at the time the Happy Meal was introduced in June of 1979.

A $1,000 investment could have purchased 21.62 shares of McDonald’s stock at the time.

McDonald’s had stock splits of 3-for-2 in 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1987 and 2-for-1 splits in 1989, 1994 and 1999.

After the stock splits, the 21.62 shares would be 875.61 shares today.

The $1,000 investment in McDonald’s stock would be worth $222,886.53 today, based on a current price of $254.55 for McDonald’s shares at the time of writing.

The $1,000 investment would be up 22,188.7% or an annual average of 516.0% over the last 43 years.

That would be more than enough to buy Happy Meals for the kids in your family for years to come.

Photo: Courtesy of Eric Lewis on flickr

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