An old stock or bond certificate may still be valuable even if it no longer trades under the name printed on the certificate.  The company may have merged with another company or simply changed its name.  Keep in mind that due to corporate reorganizations (such as splits, mergers, or reverse mergers), the current share price may not be useful in determining the certificate's value, if any.  Even if you learn that a certificate has no investment value, you may find that the certificate itself has value as a collectible.

Where to start:

  • Verify if the company is traded on an exchange.  If it isn't, contact the transfer agent shown on the front of the certificate.  Contacting the transfer agent is the easiest way to learn about a certificate.  If the transfer agent is no longer in existence or if the name of the transfer agent is not printed on the certificate, try to contact the company directly.  Some companies maintain investor relations offices that can be contacted directly.
  • The next option would be to contact the Secretary of State where the company was incorporated.  If that state is Texas, the Corporations Division may be able to provide information on the status of the company.
  • Certificate holders with a brokerage account may want to ask their broker-dealer if they can assist in researching the certificate.
  • Research on your own.  There are many resources on the Internet to assist you.  Two such websites are The Investment FAQ and Goldsheet.  The reference section of a public library may have publications such as the "Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities," once published by the R.M. Smythe company, and the "Directory of Obsolete Securities: Annual Guide to Stocks."  The Library of Congress has a listing of texts on obsolete securities on its website.
  • Hire someone else.  Scripophily.com and Stock Search International provide research services for a fee.

Transferring Ownership of Inherited Stock

The death of a loved one often requires that changes be made to financial accounts.  To transfer ownership of stock, contact the transfer agent shown on the certificate for information on re-registering assets, and keep this with other important financial documents.  Be prepared to supply the agent with documents such as the death certificate and court appointment.