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How do I Buy Stock Certificates?

By John Lister
Updated May 16, 2024
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Investors who buy stock today generally do not literally buy stock certificates. Though an investor has a right to a certificate, people generally only exercise this right when they are buying a single share as a novelty rather than an investment. There are also some people who collect very old share certificates, particularly for historical companies which no longer exist.

Most stockholders will no longer get physical certificates for their stock as it is no longer necessary to hold a certificate to prove you own shares. Current regulations in most countries mean public companies must maintain a record of everyone who owns stock and update it after each day’s trading. This means firms generally keep an electronic record of stockholder details.

You do have the right to get a stock certificate for any stock which you own. To do so, you simply need ask the company itself, or your stockbroker. While there should be no charge for the certificate itself, most organizations will charge a fee for physically delivering the certificate to you. This will usually be much higher than the actual delivery costs they incur.

There are several firms which specialising in allowing people to buy stock certificates for a single share. This is usually done as a novelty or to make an unusual gift. The buyer will own a genuine share and normally pays the actual market value of that share, plus a fee to the firm that covers the supply of the certificate. As a stockholder, you will often get a physical copy of all subsequent annual reports from the company concerned, which can also make a fun collection, albeit not a very valuable one. It’s important to remember that the minimum fees charged by stockbrokers for selling shares mean that it’s virtually impossible to make any profit from buying a single share and later selling it.

There is also a notable market for people who buy stock certificates specifically to collect them. This is sometimes known as scripophily, which comes from the Greek for "love of stock." The most collectible and valuable certificates are those issued before the Second World War, generally for companies which no longer exist.

Collectors are most likely to buy stock certificates which have a historical importance, for example those for bonds issues to finance wars. There is also a big market for those which are signed by notable figures such as John D. Rockefeller.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By honeybees — On Sep 19, 2011

There have been several stock traders in my family and I buy and sell stock online often. I remember when we were going through my grandpas belongings, we came across some old stock certificates.

This was quite fascinating to me as I had never actually had possession of an actual certificate. The internet has certainly changed the way people buy and sell stock.

I think for those who knew nothing but receiving a stock certificate, it took a while for them to come around to that style of trading.

By John57 — On Sep 19, 2011

I never buy just one share of stock, but I wanted to introduce my son to the stock market. One of the best ways I knew how to do this was buy a share of Disney stock and get the actual stock certificate for him.

We have this in a frame in his bedroom and it has several different Disney characters on it so it is not just a boring piece of paper to look at.

If I remember right I even had to pay a fee to physically receive the certificate instead of keeping it electronic, but it is a great way to teach my son about the market.

Every once in awhile he will ask me how much that piece of paper is worth - meaning what is a share of Disney stock selling for right now.

By LisaLou — On Sep 18, 2011

When I first began buying stocks, I always received the actual stock certificate. When it was time to sell a stock, I had to actually bring the certificate in to the broker for selling. Of course this was before the internet and the introduction of online trading.

Now I can't imagine the nightmare it would be to try and keep up with physical certificates like this. These days all I do is buy stock online and no longer have any actual stock certificates.

It makes the process so much more convenient and you don't have to worry about where you are going to store your certificates or finding them when you need to sell.

By suntan12 — On Sep 18, 2011

I bought a few stock certificates for my kids as gifts. I bought them through a direct investment program that allowed me to buy a single share of stock. The nice thing about this plan is that my kids could buy stocks with the money that they receive because these plans allow you to buy stocks in very small dollar amounts that a traditional brokerage house would not allow.

You can also request a copy of the stock certificate which is great if you are giving a gift. This is also a nice way to introduce kids to online stock buying and show them what things to look for when picking an individual stock.You can also set up automatic investments through direct deposit as well.

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