How Do I Cash an Old Stock Certificate?

Perhaps you were poking around in your attic and stumbled across some old stock certificates, or received some as part of an inheritance. Maybe the company is defunct. But maybe, just maybe, those old stock certificates are worth some money – possibly a lot of money.

Cashing in those old stock certificates isn’t too difficult as long as the company is still doing business. The hard part is likely to be tracking down the company that issued them.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

If you can track down the issuing company and get its CUSIP number, you can reach out to a transfer agent, complete a transfer form and place a sell order to cash in your old stock certificate. Otherwise, you could simply keep the certificate if the company no longer exists.

Locate the Company

The first step is making sure the company is still in business. If it’s a household name like McDonald's or Delta Air Lines, this is easy. You can probably obtain any information you need from the company’s investor relations website. Otherwise, you'll have to do some digging.

You can start with listings of companies online. For example, Yahoo! Finance has a free database of companies. Fee-based services like Dun & Bradstreet have even more extensive listings. You can also contact your broker and ask for assistance with finding the company.

Find the CUSIP Number

The secretary of state's office in the state of incorporation must be listed on the stock certificate. This is where you can find the company’s CUSIP number. This is an identification number found on all stock certificates. The secretary of state’s office can tell you if the company went out of business, changed its name or moved out of state.

Contact the Transfer Agent

A transfer agent is a firm that handles the administration of the company’s stock and other securities. You can obtain contact information from the company by writing or calling its stockholder services office. The transfer agent will tell you what you need to cash in old stock certificates. For example, if you inherited the stock, you may need to provide a copy of the probated will.

Complete the Transfer Form

The ownership transfer form can be found on the back of the stock certificate. Take the certificate to a notary public, and sign it in the notary’s presence. Send the stock certificate to the transfer agent by certified mail along with any required documentation of your ownership rights.

Place an Order

Call your broker or the transfer agent and place a sell order after the transfer agent notifies you that the stock has been registered to you as owner.

Keep Old Certificates

Even if the company went out of business, don’t throw those stock certificates in the trash. Collecting old stock certificates (called scripophily) is a popular hobby, so your certificates may still be worth something. A number of scripophily websites can help you learn more. These websites can also be useful when you're trying to track down a company.

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