Whether it's finding out if an old stock certificate still has some value or discovering the old value of a share of stock, you're only a few key strokes, a couple of clicks and maybe a few bucks away from the answer.
Searching for the worth of a stock certificate begins by checking for cancellation marks, indicated by a hand stamp or simply by two small holes punched near the signature. With no signs of cancellation, your stock certificate still could be valid. If the company is no longer traded, start with a simple web search for the company name on the certificate. For example, a search for St. Joseph Lead Co. led to the discovery that its assets were acquired nearly 30 years ago by Fluor, a company that still exists. From there, you can find the path to learning if your stock has current market value.
If a simple search doesn't get results, there are several websites where you can get help. Oldstocks.com provides a gateway for helping you find the intrinsic value of old stock or bond certificates. From the home page, click on the "What's it worth?" tab on the left side of the page. You'll go to a page with links to both free research sites and also to fee-based research services that probably will save you time. For example, one link goes to Old Company Research. You can order research on your stock certificate by providing the company's name, its state of incorporation, the par value on the certificate and the date on the certificate. The fee is $39.95 per company, as of late 2011, but you pay nothing if Old Company cannot provide you with information.
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, at OTCMarkets.com, you can pay a fee to have research done through OTC Markets' database of over-the-counter (OTC) stocks and inactive stocks. Stocks traded over the counter typically are smaller companies or companies that were "delisted" by one of the major exchanges. For more information, start by filling out the "Contact Us" form on the site.
Even if your certificate has been canceled or no longer represents ownership in any active company, stock certificate collectors still may see value in it. Start at Oldstocks.com or Scripophily.com -- the latter company is named after the hobby of collecting old securities certificates. The collectible worth will be governed by the rarity or beauty of the certificate and the historical importance or notoriety of the company. An Enron certificate, for example, might have gained value at the height of the company's notoriety, but that value could diminish as the company's history is eclipsed by more recent events. As with all collectibles, the bottom-line value depends on the number of interested collectors.
Historic Stock Prices
To find out the share price of a stock on the day you bought it, there are a couple of avenues. Nasdaq.com lets you enter a ticker symbol, then click on "Historical Quotes." You can get 10 years of stock prices. USA Today Money allows you to go back 25 years. When you open up the page, enter your stock symbol where it says "Get a Quote." You'll first get the current stock information, but after you click on the bar labeled "Historical Quotes," you can enter a date and get the stock's closing price on that day.
- Collectible Stocks & Bonds: What Is My Certificate Worth?
- OldCompany.com: Old Company Stock Research Service
- OTC Markets: Contact OTC Markets Group
- Scripophily.com: Historic Stock and Bond Certificates
- Nasdaq.com: Historical Prices
- USA Today; Historical Stock Quotes -- Sometimes You Just Need Them; Matt Krantz