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What is a stock certificate?

Stock certificate

It's a legal document proving that you own shares in a company. It includes the name of the company, who it’s issued to, date issued and number of shares owned. It also features a serial number, corporate seal and signatures of company officers. It will usually tell you if it’s common stock  or preferred stock .

Where have you heard about stock certificates?

You might still own a paper stock certificate from years ago, or have one you’ve inherited from a relative, but these days you don’t tend to get hard copies of stock certificates as they’ve been replaced by electronic documents.

What you need to know about stock certificates.

Stock certificates used to be a status symbol, and many were made with intricate designs and engravings to discourage counterfeiting. They’re now seen more as collector's items than actual records of ownership. However, even though you may no longer need to hold a stock certificate, you can still request one.
The oldest surviving stock certificate was found in 2010 by a history student at Holland's Utrecht University. It was made from parchment paper and hand printed with ink and a quill. Dated 1606, it was issued by the Dutch East India Company, the first company to issue stock.

Find out more about stock certificates.

For information on types of stock, read our definitions of common stock  and preferred stock.

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