Some individuals and institutions will buy Facebook shares because they believe the stock will rise sharply. Others look at the investment as a proxy for the prospects of Web 2.0, the five-year movement that has swept companies like Twitter and Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN) to prominence and almost left older tech firms like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) behind, in the market’s view. Facebook will be the new “entry point” to the Internet — the start page for tens of millions of people.
There is a less grand way to look at Facebook shares. For some, they will be a collectible of the current tech era, pieces of paper, or electronic paper, that will be like vintage cars or coins years and decades from now. An individual investor may be able to buy 10 shares of Facebook for $500, or $600 or $700 if the price spikes with the first trades. That money is less than many people pay for one rare baseball card or comic book. A few Facebook shares are something people can show their grandchildren or offer as proof that they saw the future of technology when that future was in flux. The shares may be a sign of good judgment, or a very poor decision, but ownership of shares in Facebook — traded on the first day of its IPO and never sold thereafter — will become increasingly scarce as time passes.
For people who missed buying Google and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) on their first trading days, shares of Facebook may be the one last opportunity to be among the earliest investors in a tech company that radically changed the world. Or, if some analysts are right, those shares may have so little value years from now that they can be used to paper bathroom walls.
Douglas A. McIntyre