New York Stock Exchange: the World’s Busiest Market
According to World Bank, there were 43,248 listed domestic companies in the world as of 2019. The market capitalization of these companies reached $93.686 trillion in 2020. Today, there are a number of stock exchanges worldwide. However, only 21 stock exchanges have a market capitalization over $1 trillion as of 2021. Among them, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is the world’s busiest and largest stock exchange by far with a $26.2 trillion market capitalization. Over 2,300 companies are on the NYSE list, of which some have been on the list for hundreds of years. The infographic above lists these oldest stocks on NYSE that have been standing there for centuries.
But did you know NYSE is not the oldest stocks market? In this article, we will first look into the brief history of stock exchanges, followed by the list of oldest stocks on NYSE.
A Brief History of Stock Market
Exchange Market Emerged in the 13th Century Europe
The concept of securities markets emerged as early as in the 13th century in Europe. In 1305, the French King Philippe le Bel created the profession of courratier de change to regulate agricultural trade that used credit. These trades occurred in commercial bills of exchange, which is a primitive form of stockbrokers.
At around the same period, ports of Antwerp and Bruges in the Low Countries, today’s Belgium, served as an important marketplace between two big traders: the Italian Republic to the south and the German Hanseatic League to the north east. Traders used inns in these ports not only to rest but also to exchange their goods and sell their wares.
One of the most prominent innkeepers in the area was Van der Beurze family in Bruges. Traders gathered at their inn to engage in trading. And locals announced exchange rates by gathering information from them. From this custom, the name of the family, Beurze or Bourse in French became associated with stock exchange.
The Oldest Stock Exchange: Amsterdam Stock Exchange Founded in 1602
The growth of economy urged the need for a more sophisticated system of trade in the 16th century. Reasonably, the exchanges for commercial bills and notes transitioned into stock exchanges. The foundation of the Dutch East India Company in 1602 played a crucial role in the transition. In the same year, the company established Amsterdam Stock Exchange.
The Dutch East India Company is believed to be the first transnational company that issued shares of stock in public on paper. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange holds the title of the oldest modern stock exchange in the world. That makes the stock of Dutch East India Company the oldest stock in history.
However, the company went bankrupt toward the end of the 18th century, dissolving in 1799. In addition, Amsterdam Stock Exchange merged with the Paris Stock Exchange and the Brussels Stock Exchange to form Euronext in 2000.
The First US Stock Exchange: Philadelphia Stock Exchange Founded in 1790
Fourteen years after the Declaration of Independence, the Board of Brokers of Philadelphia was founded in 1790, which later renamed itself Philadelphia Stock Exchange. Philadelphia used to be the financial center of the newly independent United States. In early days of the nation, the legal concept of a limited-liability corporation, or a US form of a private limited company, was not common. Therefore, the board initially dealt with government and semi-government paper. It also raised money to provide capital for public workers.
Two years later in 1792, 24 stockbrokers signed an agreement on securities trading under a buttonwood tree on what is today’s Wall Street: the Buttonwood Agreement. This agreement is allegedly the earliest record of the New York Stock Exchange. The New York Stock Exchange also mostly dealt with governmental securities. Banks were the first traders on the New York Stock Exchange. They were the Bank of North America, the First Bank of the United States, and Bank of New York. Among them, stock of Bank of New York was non-governmental security traded in the early days.
Today, the New York Stock Exchange is the world’s largest stock exchange by market capitalization. As of 2021, its listed companies have a market capitalization of $26.2 trillion. The second largest stock exchange is Nasdaq Stock Market (founded in 1971) with a market capitalization of $23.46 trillion. Shanghai Stock Exchange follows with a market capitalization of $7.63 trillion, then comes Euronext with a market capitalization of $7.33 trillion. Japan Exchange Group takes the fifth place having a market capitalization of $6.79 trillion.
These Are the Oldest Stocks Still on NYSE List
Now, coming back to the topic: the oldest stocks on NYSE. Precisely the oldest stocks on NYSE are not the same as the oldest companies in the US. Some of the oldest companies in the US that are still thriving are: Caswell-Massey (1752), Hartford Courant (1764), and Baker’s Chocolate (1780). But they do not appear on the NYSE list; they are the oldest companies but do not trade on the NYSE.
Likewise, oldest companies listed on NYSE are also not necessarily the same as the oldest stocks. For example, Sotheby’s founded in 1744 is among the oldest companies listed on NYSE, but it started trading on NYSE in 1988.
The oldest stocks in NYSE here mean the longest-listed companies on NYSE. So, the below is the five companies that have been trading for the longest time on NYSE.
1. Bank of New York (BNY Mellon) | BK | Since 1792
In 1784, well-known figures in the US history established the Bank of New York. The founding shareholders included: an American revolutionary Alexander Hamilton, the 3rd President of the United States Thomas Jefferson, and the founding father of the United States Benjamin Franklin. When the New York Stock Exchange opened in 1792, the Bank of New York was among the first companies that traded their securities on the board.
In 2007, the Bank of New York and Mellon Financial Corporation completed merger to form the world’s largest securities serving company. It is now also the world’s largest custodian bank as of 2021.
2. New York Gas Light Company (Consolidated Edison) | ED | Since 1824
New York Gas Light Company or current Consolidated Edison started trading on NYSE in 1824, one year after its foundation. It is one of the largest investor-owned energy firms in the US. Before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1879, six gas utility companies along with New York Gas Light Company manufactured gas from coal, serving New York City. Then after the light bulb invention, electric lamps started replacing gas—that was when the six gas utility companies merged to create the Consolidated Gas Company for future survival in 1884.
The name Consolidated Edison emerged in 1936 as electric sales grew ahead of gas sales. The company went through acquisitions, mergers, and dissolutions of dozens of other utilities companies between 1936 and 1960, which resulted in today’s Consolidated Edison or more commonly, Con Edison.
3. Procter & Gamble | PG | Since 1891
In 1837, a candlemaker Willian Procter and a soap maker James Gamble founded Procter & Gamble (P&G) in Ohio. P&G started trading on NYSE in 1891.
Interestingly, what connected these two founders was their wives. Olivia Norris, the wife of Willian, and Elizabeth Ann Norris, the wife of James, were sisters. Their father Alexander Norris—the father-in-law for William and James—was a prominent candlemaker. And he persuaded the two sons-in-law to start a business together. As was often the case for the early business in the US, the business grew during the American Civil War, supplying the Union Army with soap and candles. In 1890, P&G became incorporated and was listed on NYSE the following year.
4. International Business Machines (CTR) | IBM | Since 1916
IBM is famous for its computers, so it may come as a surprise that the company is actually over 100 years old. Several major inventions during the 1880s formed the foundation of IBM: a computing scale, a dial recorder, an electric tabulating machine, and a time clock. In 1911, these four technologies met to establish the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) in New York—IBM’s predecessor.
In 1914, Thomas J. Watson, Sr became the chairman and CEO of the company. He successfully boosted company spirit as well as revenues with his leadership. The IBM predecessor went public on NYSE in 1916. By 1918, the company had expanded its business into Europe, South America, Asia and Australia. In 1924, the company renamed itself International Business Machines.
5. The Coca-Cola Company | KO | Since 1919
In 1886, an American pharmacist John Stith Pemberton a ‘healthy tonic’ made with coca leaves and kola nuts. Frank Mason Robinson, Pemberton’s bookkeeper, gave the name of Coca-Cola to the drink. Asa Griggs Candler purchased Coca-Cola’s formula in 1888 and founded the Coca-Cola Company in 1892.
In 1919, Coca-Cola sold its first shares on NYSE for $40 per share. Although cocaine was legal in the US at the time of the invention, the amount of cocaine was eliminated from the drink by 1929.