A bearer bond is one that the possessor owns, meaning the bond is not registered in anyone’s name. At one time, issuing bearer bonds was a popular way for governments and private corporations to raise money. The bonds could be traded freely, exchanged in place of cash for a business transaction, used to draw a stream of interest, or simply cashed in at a bank. Security issues gradually made bearer bonds obsolete and the government stopped issuing them in 1982. Since that time, counterfeit bonds have appeared all over the world, so the bearer bond you are holding may actually be worth about the same as the paper it’s printed on.
Examine the bond and note the date of issue, the company that issued the bonds and the name of the underwriting bank or agent where the bond interest is payable. Search the Internet for company and bank information, and contact the historical society in the relevant state for information on these businesses. There may also be a state registrar of corporations that has information on any mergers or acquisitions of the company or the bank.
If the company that issued the bonds still exists, contact the investor relations division to inquire about any outstanding bearer bonds. You will need to check the date of issue, the denomination, the interest rate and the serial number of the bond. Although bearer bonds have not been issued for more than three decades, an authentic bearer bond remains payable as long as the company that issued the bond remains in existence. If the company folded, declared bankruptcy, or redeemed or cancelled the bonds, then you’ve lost an interest-paying certificate and gained a bit of financial history suitable for framing.
Compare and Contrast
Research bearer bonds for sale on eBay and other firms that auction or sell historical financial documents. You may be able to find a bond identical to your own. Listings should come with a photograph and a magnifying-glass widget that allows you to scan the document closely. Take note of the ink color and any notes made by the seller on unique properties of the bond -- such as signatures, type fonts used, anomalies in the design, orientation (vertical or horizontal, landscape or portrait), or printing on the reverse side.
If you're still unsure, contact a professional authentication service. You'll need one with expertise in financial documents, such as stock certificates, currency and bonds. The service will examine your bonds for a fee, provide a grade for their quality and certify their findings. If your intent is to sell the bonds as collectibles, a certificate of authenticity from a reputable, professional service provider assures customers that you have the real thing.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.