Subject: Stocks - Researching the Value of Old Certificates

Last-Revised: 10 Feb 2012
Contributed-By: Ellen Laing (elaing at asu.edu), Jeff Kiss, Chris Lott (contact me)

If you've found some old stock certificates in your attic, and the company is no longer traded on any exchange, you will need to get help in determining the value of the shares and/or redeeming the shares. The basic information you need is the name of the company, the date the shares were issued, and the state (or province in the case of Canadian companies) in which the company was incorporated (all items should all be on the certificate).

The most basic question to resolve is whether the company exists still. Of course it might have changed names, been purchased by another company, etc. Anyhow, a good first attempt at answering this question is to call or write the transfer agent that is listed on the front of each certificate. A transfer agent handles transfers of stock certificates and should be able to advise you on their value.

If the transfer agent no longer exists or cannot help you, you might try to contact the company directly. The stock certificates should show the state where the company was incorporated. Contact the Secretary of State in that state, and ask for the Business Corporations Section. They should be able to give you a history of the company (when it began, merged, dissolved, went bankrupt, etc.). From there you can contact the existing company (if there is one) to find out the value

of your stocks.

Here are some additional resources for researching old certificates.

  • You might want to start gathering information on old securities from Bob Johnson's web site, Goldsheet.
    http://www.goldsheetlinks.com/obsolete.htm
  • Scripophily.com operates an old company research service. They will research a company for a $39.95 fee, and if they do not find any information, there is no charge.
    http://www.oldcompany.com/
  • Old certificates may not represent ownership in any company, but they can still have considerable value for collectors. See the collection of old stock and bond certificates at Scripophily.com, which is the Internet's largest buyer and seller of old stock and bond certificates.
    http://www.scripophily.com
  • You might try finding the Robert D. Fisher Manuals of Valuable and Worthless Securities, once published by the R.M. Smythe company, possibly in a good reference library. The Smythe company merged in 2008 with Spink, an auction house, and no longer publishes this book nor researches old paper. The merged Spink-Smythe company regularly auctions old bond and stock certificates.
    http://www.smytheonline.com

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