Traditional paper stock certificates are typically not held by owners of stocks these days. Instead, brokers hold the shares in an arrangement called street registration. This means the actual shares are registered to the brokerage firm and credited to your account. You might want paper stock certificates to present when giving stock as a gift or you may simply be more comfortable with a physical document attesting to your ownership of the shares. You can ask your broker to obtain a stock certificate and send it to you. However, brokers are usually not eager to do this, and may charge you as much as several hundred dollars.
Find out the name of the transfer agent for the company whose stock you plan to buy. Transfer agents handle stock transactions on behalf of companies in accordance with Securities and Exchange Commission rules. You can usually find contact information for the transfer agent on a company’s investor relations website. If you don’t see it there, look in the company's annual report; by law the name of the transfer agent must be stated there.
Call or write the transfer agent and ask if the company has a direct stock purchase plan. If so, you can buy the shares you want directly from the company through the transfer agent. Direct stock purchase plans often provide free storage of stock certificates, but you can ask for the certificates to be sent to you instead. If the company does not have a direct purchase option, verify that paper stock certificates are available when you talk to the transfer agent.
Purchase the shares you want through a broker if you can’t get them directly from the company’s transfer agent. Ask your broker to transfer the shares from street registration to direct registration. Direct registration means the actual shares are transferred to your name; you will be registered with the company’s transfer agent as the owner.
Contact the transfer agent once you are notified the shares are registered to you. Request that the shares be sent to you as paper stock certificates. You may have to pay a small fee, or you may receive the paper certificate from the transfer agent at no charge.
- When you receive paper stock certificates, you are responsible for updating your personal information with the transfer agent. If your stock certificates are lost or damaged, replacing them can be expensive.
- It takes longer to sell shares with paper stock certificates because you have to return the certificates to the transfer agent.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.