It’s hard to believe that Apple was on the verge of collapse in the 1990’s until Steve Jobs returned to the company. It must be almost comic to Apple’s CEO at this point considering how the company has grown, and the stock price continues to rise despite minor set backs here or there. Would anyone have ever dreamed it might hit the $20 billion dollar mark in a single quarter?

Apple is set to announce its earnings for the quarter ending Sept. 30th on Oct. 18th. At the previous announcement of earnings in July, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer offered guidance that the fourth quarter would come in around $18 billion, or 47 percent higher than the same quarter a year ago. Many people scoffed at this idea, but Apple is known for historically shooting low in its predictions by an average of 19.3 percent. If that trend was to hold true, Apple could report as high as $21.5 billion.

Of course, no one is actually thinking Apple can hit that goal.  So, Fortune polled blogger analysts as well as Wall Street experts, and while the bloggers saw Apple breaking the $20 billion mark, the stock market folks came in at $18.29 billion.  When averaged together, the total was $19.34 billion as shown in the chart below.

Apple quarters

What is frightening was this was a quarter with a new iMac release, and only a few weeks of new iPod sales. What in the world is the all important holiday shopping quarter going to look like? And going into 2011, if the iPhone does come to Verizon, just how much are we looking at then?  Are we possibly looking at a $25 billion dollar quarter in the not too distant future?  Look at the growth in just the past two and a half years in the chart above, and while Apple slid backwards a few times, it was never for long.

As much as we all complain about the Apple tax, the closed nature of the iPhone and any other number of quibbles we may have with Steve Jobs and his company, it’s rather obvious that there are still a ton of people out there giving them money.  Say what you will about Steve Jobs being evil, at least make it into “evil money making genius” when you do.

What say you?  Is there any stopping Apple at this point?