What's a Stock Certificate? Everything You Need to Know

what's a stock certificate printed stocks

In this modern, digital age, if you were to ask someone what a "stock certificate" is, you'd probably receive a confused look. Still, a stock certificate is far from an archaic bit of paper from the past. 

If you're one of the few and fortunate Americans who own stocks today, it's important to understand what a stock certificate is... and if you need one.


What is a Stock Certificate?

In very simple terms, a stock today is a piece of digital information that indicates your ownership of a share in a company. This information is generally stored digitally on a stoke broker's server.

However, back in the 1600s, the first share of stock was sold by the Dutch East India Company. At that time, the best way to prove ownership of stock was via printed paper. Hence, the stock certificate first came into being. 

For centuries, stock certificates were signs of wealth and prestige.

Often printed on beautiful paper with detailed imagery, the certificates themselves became elaborate works of art. Because stock certificates were physical proof of the ownership of stock, eventually they became legal currency.

The monetary value of stock certificates themselves meant that printing them became a highly-guarded process. Similar to the secretive process of printing paper money today, stock certificates could only be printed by a few, select companies who were given legal rights.


What Are They Worth Today?

Right now you might be rubbing your hands together thinking of that old stock certificate you found in your granny's basement. Unfortunately, today they have very little monetary value as most stock ownership is documented digitally. 

This is done for both security and financial reasons. 

However, if you do happen to find an old stock certificate, hang on to it. While the company that issued and printed it is likely no longer around, you never know what printed stock certificates could be worth at an antique roadshow...


Do I Need a Printed Stock Certificate?

By now you may be thinking there is no need to retain a printed stock certificate in today's world. Of course, you should be able to trust that the broker you are working with will carefully record your ownership, having a printed stock certificate has other benefits.

Just as in the old days, it can be rewarding to have a physical copy of your stock ownership to display in an office. 

Whether you display it for clients or colleagues to see, it can also serve as a good reminder for yourself as to where you've invested. Sometimes it's easy to forget what baskets we've placed our eggs in when we do not have physical reminders.


More Helpful Stock Info

While owning a printed stock certificate today is not a necessity, it's a good way to keep a physical record of where your money is. It also adds a bit of classic nostalgia to any office or workplace.

For more helpful insights into all things financial, especially stock-related info., browse the investing portion of our blog.

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