While historians often give credit for these purchases to the foresight of the governments of Thomas Jefferson and Ulysses S. Grant, in reality they haven’t paid off as well as one might expect. The Louisiana Purchase in particular has only “returned” about 7 percent once we adjust the figures for economic growth since 1803. The purchase of Manhattan hasn’t fared much better, and the figure would even be worse if we were to include only output produced within Manhattan, instead of the greater New York metropolitan area. All three purchases experienced fairly standard rates of return compared to what the general American economy has been able to generate.
By all appearances, instead of being wonder-investments they are just par-for-the-course. In comparison to many investors, like Warren Buffet for example, these returns are downright dismal.