How to Read a Stock Certificate

Paper stock certificates might seem like relics of the ancient past. However, in their very quaintness lies a certain solid respectability. After all, what's more comforting in our speed-of-light world than a thing of value you can actually hold in your hand? Whether you obtain a stock certificate for nostalgia, security or generosity, you need to know how to read it.

Look for your name on the certificate. It may feature prominently at or near the top of the certificate and indicates your ownership of the stock.

Seek out the number of shares. This reminds you of just how much stock you bought.

Scope out the per-share value. It should likewise be easy to locate and reflects the price per share as of the date of purchase. Whether the stock value moves upward or downward, the purchase price can be a reminder to you of your own stock-buying savvy.

Find the date. If you should forget your purchase date, the certificate makes it plain.

Look at the company name, signature and corporate seal. The presence of the seal — and its importance — can be traced back through the centuries. Besides, without the seal and signature, the certificate is not valid.


  • The company name — and often the logo — is usually prominently displayed on the certificate.

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About the Author

D. Laverne O'Neal, an Ivy League graduate, published her first article in 1997. A former theater, dance and music critic for such publications as the "Oakland Tribune" and Gannett Newspapers, she started her Web-writing career during the dot-com heyday. O'Neal also translates and edits French and Spanish. Her strongest interests are the performing arts, design, food, health, personal finance and personal growth.