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.