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Old stock certificates are often found by individuals who may then wonder if these certificates, which are rarely used by companies in the electronic age of trading, have any value. This depends on whether the company that issued the stock is still in operation in some form. As the company, if it does still exist, may have merged or been bought out by another in the time since the old stock certificates were issued, individuals holding the certificates may have to do research to find out what they are worth and to receive payment for them. In addition, some stock certificates may have value as collectible items.
Most forms of investing are done in modern times via electronic methods, which allow individuals to purchase stock in a company without receiving any physical form of proof of that ownership. That didn't used to be the case in the pre-computer age, when individuals were actually issued paper certificates indicating the company underlying the stock, the person to whom it was being issued, and the amount of shares. These old stock certificates can indeed still have some value other than as nostalgic relics.
As old stock certificates are still legally binding as proof of ownership of a specific stock, the value is then determined by whether the underlying company still is operating in some form. Only in rare cases would the company old enough to issue physical stock certificates still exist in the same form in current times. The stock of a company could still have value if the company was bought out or merged with another, and that value could be substantial if the merger was with a profitable company or if the stock split at some point.
Finding out this information about old stock certificates is a difficult process for individuals to undertake. The best way for an individual to track a stock certificate is through the CUSIP number, an identification number given to stocks that can be tracked through any changes the stock might have undertaken. Where the stock was issued, also known as the location of incorporation, is another place in which the certificate holder can search for answers. There are also companies that will find out a certificate's value for the individual holding it in return for a fee.
Even if some old stock certificates are determined to have no value in terms of the companies that originally issued them, they may hold value as collectible items. Collectors determine the value of certificates in terms of their age, rarity, and uniqueness. Someone holding certificates should check out websites devoted to the value of old certificates as collectors items to see if they are worth anything in this market.