Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Is This Old Stock Certificate Worth Anything?

If you found an old stock certificate in your attic, your grandpa's papers or tucked between the pages of a long-forgotten book, congratulations! You may be a millionaire!

Or...it may be a quasi-attractive but relatively worthless document. In fact, the chances are good that's exactly what it is. But occasionally, old stock certificates do have value.

Search the company name on the web, for starters. You may find a quick entry (Wikipedia?) that gives you the company's complete history. If it's bankrupt or out of business, your certificate is worthless. If it was bought out or merged with another company, contact that firm's investor relations department to find out the worht of your certificates and how to cash in your stock.

See if your library has a copy of the Directory of Obsolete Securities, where you can look up the fate of old companies. The librarian can request some interlibrary loan research if they don't have their own copy.

Look online in old newspapers, too. Newspaper archives can detail the end days of a firm, and clarify whether they still exist under another name or have simply vanished into investment ether.

By the way, your nearly worthless certificate may have some value to scripophily collectors, who sometimes just dig the artwork. Contact one or two to see if there's any interest.

Good luck!

Need more information? Newspaper archives are one of the best online research tools. If you're searching for information on people, try Intelius.