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What to do with an old stock certificate?

September 22, 2023

Finding an old stock certificate can be a bit like discovering buried treasure. While the physical documentation of stock ownership is increasingly rare in the digital age of stock market, these certificates were once a common way to demonstrate ownership of shares in a company. In this blog post, we will explore what a stock certificate is, how to obtain one, how to determine its value, and what to do with an old stock certificate. 

What is a Stock Certificate?

A Glimpse into the Past

Before diving into the intricacies of what to do if you find an old stock certificate, it's essential to understand what it is. A stock certificate is a physical piece of paper that serves as proof of ownership of shares in a company. In the past, when someone bought shares in a company, they were issued a stock certificate that delineated the number of shares they owned. It was a tangible representation of one's investment in a corporation.

Detailed Information Contained in the Certificate

A stock certificate traditionally contains various details, including the name of the shareholder, the number of shares owned, the date of issuance, a unique certificate number, and the signatures of the company's officials. Often adorned with intricate designs and official seals, these certificates were designed to be fraud-resistant and were a secure method to evidence ownership. 

Transition to Electronic Records

With the advent of technology and digital trading platforms, physical stock certificates have largely become obsolete. Nowadays, the majority of stock transactions are recorded electronically, with digital records replacing physical certificates. This transition facilitates faster and more efficient trading, with less risk of loss or damage to the certificates.

How Do I Get a Stock Certificate?

In the modern era of electronic trading, obtaining a physical stock certificate has become a rarity, often reserved for collectors or investors with a penchant for nostalgia. Let's delve into the avenues through which you can acquire these tangible testaments of share ownership, either as contemporary issuances or historical artifacts.

Modern Method of Acquiring Stock Certificates

While they are less common, acquiring a stock certificate today is still possible, albeit a bit more complex. Many companies have transitioned entirely to electronic records, but if you're interested in owning a physical stock certificate, you can contact the company's transfer agents or one of the stock search firms to inquire about the possibility of obtaining one. 

Collecting Vintage Stock Certificates

If your interest lies in collecting vintage stock certificates, you might look to auctions, estate sales, or specialized private companies and dealers who focus on historical or antique financial documents. However, if you are looking for an easy way to obtain one, choose from a wide range of stock certificates at Old Stuff Only. Place your order online and have it delivered to your doorstep. It's that simple.

These old certificates can hold value not only as potential financial assets but also as historical artifacts and collectors' items.

How to Find the Value of Your Stock Certificate?

Uncovering the value of an old stock certificate can be akin to a treasure hunt, blending history with financial investigation. This section will guide you through the essential steps to determine whether your certificate holds financial merit or significant historical value, helping you navigate this complex yet fascinating journey.

Researching the Company 

The first step in determining the value of an old stock certificate is researching the company listed on it. You'll want to find out whether the company is still in business, has undergone mergers or acquisitions, or has been dissolved. The current status as well as the company's history will significantly influence the potential value of the certificate.

Seeking Expert Advice 

Determining the value of stock or bond certificates can be a complex process, which might sometimes require expert advice. You may consider consulting with a financial advisor or a firm that specializes in old stock research. These experts can help you navigate the various avenues for researching the certificate's history and potential value across stock exchanges. 

Appraising the Certificate 

In some cases, the share certificate itself, irrespective of the company it represents, can have value as a collectible item. This is especially true for certificates issued by historical or famous companies, or those with unique or intricate designs. An appraisal from an expert in antique financial documents can provide a valuation based on the certificate's historical significance, condition, and rarity.

What Should You Do with Old Stock Certificates?

Stumbling upon old stock certificates prompts a curious mixture of excitement and uncertainty. Before you decide their fate, it's vital to explore the diverse avenues available for potentially redeeming, selling, or donating them. Let's delve into the strategies and steps to consider when you find these historical financial documents in your possession.

Redeeming the Certificate 

If your research indicates that the stock certificate still holds financial value, the next step is to contact the company or its transfer agent to inquire about redeeming it. This process can be intricate and may involve providing proof of ownership and identity, as well as paying any necessary fees.

Selling the Certificate as a Collectible 

In cases where the company listed on the certificate is no longer in business, or the shares are otherwise worthless, you might consider selling the certificate as a collectible item. Collectors and historians might be interested in purchasing the certificate for its historical value or artistic merit.

Donating the Certificate 

If you're not interested in selling the certificate, another option is to donate it to a museum, historical society, or educational institution. Many organizations are interested in acquiring old stock certificates to preserve history and use them as educational materials.


Discovering an old stock certificate can be an exciting journey into the past. Whether it turns out to be a valuable financial asset or a fascinating piece of history, it's important to carefully research and consider your options. By understanding what a stock certificate is, how to obtain one, and how to determine its value, you can make informed decisions about what to do with any old stock certificates you might come across.

In summary, if you find an old stock certificate, start by researching the company and seeking expert advice to determine its value. Depending on what you discover, you might decide to redeem the certificate, sell it as a collectible, or donate it to a worthy organization. Whatever you choose, finding an old stock certificate can be a unique opportunity to connect with the past and potentially discover a hidden treasure.

Remember, the journey of uncovering the story and worth of an old stock certificate can be a rewarding experience in itself, offering a tangible link to the financial history and the ever-evolving story of the corporate world.

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