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ETF Specialist

SPY Celebrates 20 Years While Its Older Brother Nears 23

Let's set the record straight about the world's first ETF--it wasn't SPY.

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Happy birthday wishes are in order for Standard & Poor's Depositary Receipts (SPDR), which launched on the American Stock Exchange on Jan. 29, 1993. Today known as  SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY), this industry pioneer has just celebrated its 20th anniversary and remains the largest and most heavily traded exchange-traded fund in the world. But was it the first?

In SPDR ETF's official press release commemorating this milestone, there are a few instances where SPY is referred to as the "first ETF." There is even a dedicated microsite labeled "First ETF." A closer look at the press release, however, highlights a key point. Under the subheading, "Key Facts on the SPDR S&P 500 ETF," the first bullet point calls SPY the "first U.S.-listed ETF." So if SPY was the first U.S.-listed ETF, then where was the first ETF in the world listed?

John Gabriel does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.

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