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Old stock certificates: Trash or cash?

Dear Dr. Don,
I just found some old stocks that belonged to my grandfather and was wondering if you could help me. There are 600 shares in United Asbestos Prod. Co., 500 shares in Cleveland Mining Co., and two shares in MacFadden Newspaper Corp. The first two are from Idaho in the late 1920s and the third is from Delaware in 1928. Can you tell me how I would find out what they are worth? Any help would be so appreciated. Thank you so much.
-- Jenny Sui Juris

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Dear Jenny,
If you're willing to do a little legwork on your own, I'd recommend that you go to your public library and research the company in the Directory of Obsolete Securities or the Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities. Alternately, you can hire Stock Search International, R.M. Smythe or another firm to research the stock's value. Paying $40 to $70 per certificate to see if they have any value doesn't make much sense to me without first trying the library.

Once the value's been determined, you still need to show ownership to transfer the registration to you from your grandfather's estate. A death certificate, along with a letter from the executor of the estate, should be sufficient for the transfer agent to transfer the registration of the shares to you.

Even if the shares are worthless as stock, they may have some value as a collectible. R.M. Smythe or Stock Search International can give you an idea of the certificate's worth as a collectible. I found a Cleveland Mining stock certificate for sale on ClintonHollins.com for $20.

The Bankrate feature, "Cashing in on collectible stock and bond certificates," has more on chasing down the value of old stock and bond certificates.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy
-- Posted: Aug. 24, 2005
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