I posted a contest earlier this month as an experiment, I wanted to get some reader feedback on articles. Since the winner of the book got a copy of Howard Marks’ new book, The Most Important Thing and I wanted to get them the book quickly, I made the contest over after seven days. Next month, readers will have more time to submit articles.

Who is the best investor ever (both alive and deceased), and why?

It was an open forum and any investor could be nominated.

To see all the answers click on the following link-http://www.valuewalk.com/contests/may-contest/

All the answers were very good.

My personal opinion would be Benjamin Graham, which several people suggested. However, Morgan suggested a very clever answer:

Thomas Jefferson. The Louisiana Purchase. $15 million in 1803 (~$219 million today). This has worked out well for the United States. One certainly couldn’t buy all that land for $219 million today. Talk about pennies on the dollar!

I thought the answer was very clever, but decided to do some math. I looked at a map of the Lousiana purchase.

states purchased in Louisiana purchase
click to enlarge

And got data for the GDP of all the states. For partial states I used partial percentages i.e. ~I took 80% of Montana’s GDP. The total GDP was ~1.3 trillion. If you invested $219m in the Louisiana purchase, it would only equal several percentage annualized return  to reach the 1.3 trillion figure. Thomas Jefferson would have been better off investing the money in the stock market.

However, I decided for the following reasons that the answer was the best:

1. It was extremely creative and clever.

2. The value of the states have to be compounded. When you invest $219m in stocks and do not touch it you get no benefit from it until after the 208 years are over. However, the Lousinana purchase gave continual gain every single second after the purchase.

3. The Lousiana purchase further allowed for the expansion of American territory, and therefore really cannot be measured by itself.

4. If China came along and offered to buy the Louisiana territory for 1.3 trillion, there is no way the US government would take it. They likely would not take the offer for $10 trillion, or for that matter any number.

Therefore, Morgan you are the winner! Congratulations to all the contestants. I will be running a contest with a different question next month (or possibly later this month). Morgan I will contact you about how to get the book to you.