A stock certificate is a paper record of your ownership of shares of stock in a company. Most stocks bought and sold are recorded electronically without a stock certificate being issued. However, you may be holding a paper stock certificate for shares purchased prior to widespread use of electronic trading or because you specifically requested a paper record of your stock holdings. You can replace a lost stock certificate, although the process is complex and usually involves paying a fee.
A stock certificate is a formal paper record of your stock holdings. Certificates are often issued in denominations, such as 10, 100 or 1,000 shares, so that you may have a collection of certificates for a single purchase of shares of stock. Each certificate identifies the company issuing the shares, the number of shares and the name of the shareholder. The back of the certificate includes additional information such as the name of the transfer agent for the company.
A transfer agent is a company that handles stock transactions for a publicly traded company. The transfer agent keeps a record of all of a company's shareholders, the number of shares held by each shareholder, and whether paper certificates were issued to the shareholder. The transfer agent, which can be a bank or brokerage, issues replacements for lost stock certificates.
Contact your transfer agent as soon as you know you have lost your stock certificates. The investor relations department of the company in which you hold shares can provide contact information for the transfer agent. Each transfer agent has its own procedures for replacing lost certificates, but you generally must file an affidavit explaining the circumstances of the loss, describe your holdings and pay a fee for replacement certificates.
World Trade Center
The destruction of the World Trade Center buildings on September 11, 2001 resulted in the loss of about $16 billion worth of stock certificates. All the certificates were eventually replaced at a cost to the industry of about $300 million. In contrast, shares that were held electronically rather than on paper were not affected by the destruction on 9/11.
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