02/27/2012 12:57 pm ET

Early Apple Shareholders Turned Millionaires Show Up For Investor Meeting

Ever wish you'd gotten in on the ground floor of a company like Apple, Google or Microsoft?

Apple's most recent shareholder meeting, which took place last Thursday in Cupertino, featured a smattering of lucky investors who did just that. Bloomberg's Tech Blog takes note of some of these early Apple-pickers, who bought the stock before everyone and their mother had an iPod, including two grandparents from Buffalo, New York whose $16,000 investment from 1997 is now worth a cool $2 million.

But these early Apple investors aren't the only ones to hit it big from an initial comparatively smaller investment. Maury Povich took home more than $80,000 in 2007 after YouTube sold itself to Google thanks to an earlier, small investment the talk show host made in a venture capital firm that invested in YouTube. In addition, one firm, Accel Partners likely made more than $10 billion off of Facebook's initial public offering earlier this month, even though the company only invested $12.7 million in Facebook in 2006, according to the Daily Beast.

The arc these people have traveled -- from a modest initial investment to an eventual windfall -- offers an optimistic counter-narrative to the broader stock market picture of the past decade or so. The years between 2000 and 2009 are generally regarded as some of the worst in Wall Street history, with the Standard & Poor's 500 index closing out the decade with a negative return for the first time ever.

Twin bubble-bursts -- technology and housing -- have lost investors a lot of money over the past several years, and the market has had to contend with a number of serious blows, from the bankruptcy of WorldCom in 2002 to the financial collapse in 2008 to a sovereign-credit downgrade in 2011.

But despite the stock shocks elsewhere, the decade has been good to Apple, where stock prices hit a record high just last week. The company's share prices seem to be in robust health, even as concerns grow over labor practices and employee safety at Apple's Chinese manufacturing sites, and despite the death of Steve Jobs, the CEO and public face of the company, last October.

At the same time, some analysts suggest that Apple's very success could make its market momentum difficult to sustain, since the company would have to keep outperforming itself on an ever vaster scale to keep its share price growing at the rate it has.

But if one hardware distributor is any indication, Apple's stock could keep appreciating forever. Fastnal's stock has gained more than 38,000 percent since 1987, according to Businessweek.