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If You Invested $1,000 In McDonald’s When Happy Meals Launched, You’d Have This Much Today

Fast food giant McDonald’s Corp (NYSE: MCD) is one of the largest restaurant companies in the world.

Fast food giant McDonald’s Corp (NYSE: MCD) is one of the largest restaurant companies in the world. Launching in 1940, the Chicago-based company set many standards and first for the fast-food industry.

The McDonald’s logo is seen on a sign outside the restaurant at the Lycoming Mall. (Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) 

Its stock has been hitting all-time highs in 2023 off strong sales growth.

Brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald opened the first McDonald’s restaurant in 1940. The concept was to offer food at a fast pace and at low prices. At the time, the company’s 15-cent hamburger was cheaper than rivals.

Ray Kroc eventually bought out the brothers in 1961. Since then, McDonald’s launched several items and key events to propel the brand forward:

  • 1965: McDonald’s becomes a publicly-traded company
  • 1968: The Big Mac debuts
  • 1975: The first drive-thru window opens
  • 1983: Chicken McNuggets are added to the menu
  • 2002: The Dollar Menu is introduced nationwide

Mixed into these offerings from the company was the launch of a new menu item in 1979. It became a McDonald’s staple and copied by many other restaurant chains in some form.

The late 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, who managed the first McDonald’s in Guatemala, saw the menu items being too big for kids. This led to her 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 adult Happy Meals came with a Big Mac or 10-piece Chicken McNuggets along with fries and a drink. The adult Happy Meal also included a collectible figurine based on old McDonald’s mascots like Grimace.

The Happy Meal is also part of an ongoing challenge by billionaire Elon Musk telling McDonald’s he will eat a Happy Meal live on television if the restaurant company accepts Dogecoin (CRYPTO: DOGE) as a payment option. 

McDonald’s shares were trading at around $46.25 at the time the Happy Meal was introduced in June 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 198, 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 $258,217.39 today, based on a price of $294.90 for McDonald’s at the time of writing, not including dividends.

The profits from the McDonald’s investment would be more than enough to buy some Happy Meals for the kids in your family or yourself for years to come.

Produced in association with Benzinga

Edited by Alberto Arellano and Joseph Hammond

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