Whitehaven Coal Ltd (ASX: WHC) shares have been among the top performers on the ASX over the past three years.
The company's high-quality coal mines and management deserve plenty of credit for that accomplishment.
And, of course, the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) coal stock was also a major beneficiary of soaring coal prices from early 2021 through to mid-2022.
Despite coming well down from the all-time highs recorded last year, the coal price remains elevated by historic standards.
With that background in mind, how much would I have today if I'd invested $5,000 in Whitehaven shares three years ago.
How much have Whitehaven shares gained over three years?
If I could just get my time machine working, I could snap up Whitehaven shares for 89 cents apiece near market close on 18 September 2020.
That means I could have bought 5,617 shares with my $5,000, with a bit of pocket change left over.
From there, I would have watched those shares march higher towards all-time closing highs of $10.96 in October 2022, when thermal coal was still trading near its own record highs.
While the past 11 months have seen the stock retrace, I wouldn't be fussed, having bought in at an opportune time and knowing the stock might well run hot again over the coming years.
Today, Whitehaven shares are trading for $6.66 apiece.
That means my 5,617 shares, bought for $5,000, would be worth $37,409.22 today.
Don't forget the dividends
While the ASX 200 coal miner didn't pay any dividends in 2021, it paid both an interim and a final dividend in 2022 and in 2023. The first one was unfranked; the past three have been fully franked.
All told, those four dividend payouts total $1.22 per share.
Crunching the numbers then, my 5,617 Whitehaven shares will have garnered me an additional $6,852.74 in passive income. Now, we'll assume I spent that and opted not to reinvest in this case.
Adding those dividends back into the share price gains and my $5,000 investment three years ago would have returned a whopping $44,261.96.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have another tinker with that time machine.