New York magazine recently examined the hypothetical performance of various $100,000 investments made in 1998. Here's what each would be worth now:

  • A one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side: $515,000
  • A Harlem townhouse shell: $800,000 to $1,500,000 ("and that's if it's still a wreck")
  • A one-bedroom co-op in Queens: $225,000
  • 3,298 shares of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) stock: $1,997,797
  • 1,500 shares of theglobe.com stock: $30
  • 323 ounces of gold: $301,488
  • A BMW 750IL: $11,999 (with low mileage)
  • Two Steinway Model B grand pianos: $147,200
  • 64 cases of 1998 Dom Perignon: $115,136
  • Keith Haring's painting "Untitled" (1983): $3,000,000

There are several lessons to take from this. For starters, it's clear that real-estate returns can vary widely -- in this case, from $225,000 (roughly an 8% average annual return) to $515,000 (18%) to, say, $1 million (26%). Remember also that these properties are in New York; properties elsewhere in the nation can appreciate less rapidly.

It's clear that stock investing can be a mixed bag, too, with Apple's return averaging 35% a year, and theglobe.com wiping out entirely. Here are some other examples:

Stock

Current Value of $10,000 invested in 1998

Arcelor Mittal (NYSE: MT)

$34,803

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT)

$25,106

Chevron (NYSE: CVX)

$30,197

Washington Mutual (NYSE: WM)

$6,098

Bear Stearns (NYSE: BSC)

$2,386

An investment in the overall market, as measured by the S&P 500, would have averaged just 4% per year; it was a tough decade, including part of the Internet boom and bust. Clearly, some luxury items hold their value well; others, such as many cars, do not.

The winner here, in this unscientifically selected group of options, is the Keith Haring artwork. It shows how we can profit if we choose our investments with the greatest care. If you know art inside and out, you may do well collecting it. Similarly, if you know your stocks, and how to evaluate them properly, you can also excel.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Wal-Mart, which is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Washington Mutual is a former Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.