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You are moving after decades in the same house and found an old stock certificate, or you’ve inherited a stock certificate from a relative, or you’ve decided to buy that pretty certificate you found at a flea market. No matter how it came into your hands, you may wonder if an old stock certificate still has value. Many old companies no longer exist, having gone out of business or merged with another company, but if the certificate is not cancelled by being stamped, perforated or hole-punched, some research may determine if it has any value. You can do the research yourself or you can pay a company to do it for you.
Search Major Financial Sites
To find out of the stock is still active, enter the company’s name in the search box on any major financial website. If it is still active, the site will display a share’s current value, but this may not be the actual value of the certificate. Due to the possibility of stock splits and mergers, each of the shares represented by the old certificate could now be worth multiple shares in the company. For instance, if your certificate is for 10 shares, and the company had a 3-to-1 split after that certificate was issued, your certificate may represent 30 shares.
Every stock certificate should have the name of the transfer agent on it. The transfer agent is the company that keeps the certificate records and is responsible for issuing new certificates, canceling old certificates, and recording the name of the shareholders. Try to locate and contact the transfer agent. If the company listed on the certificate has merged with another company, the transfer agent should have that information.
If the transfer agent no longer exists, look at the certificate for the state the company was incorporated in and contact that state’s regulator for corporations. The regulator may be able to help you if the company merged with another company. You can also call a local licensed stockbroker to ask for assistance. Check your local library for resources such as the "Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable & Worthless Securities." The book is no longer published, but a copy may be found at the library. If you are willing to pay for research assistance, you can use companies such as Stock Search International or Scripophily.com.
If you feel that your certificate has investment value as a shareholder in an existing company, contact a licensed stockbroker if you wish to redeem it. Even if it has no investment value, it may have value as a collectible. There are companies that will provide a free estimate of the collectible value of your certificate, and many of them have a presence on the Internet.