Dear Dr. Don,
When my mother died, I found some stock certificates among her things. They are the Renco Film Co. authorized capital stock, signed Sept. 6, 1922; and Henry Erne Mining Co. Ltd., signed June 22, 1896. Are these certificates worth anything or are they just wallpaper?
— Patti Papers

Dear Patti,
If you’re willing to do a little legwork on your own, I’d recommend that you go to the public library and research the company in the Directory of Obsolete Securities or the Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities. The Library of Congress also has a listing of texts on obsolete securities available on its Web site.

Alternately, you can hire Stock Search International to research the stock’s value. There’s an $85 charge for each company you have them research.

Once a value’s been determined, you will still need to show ownership to transfer the registration to you from your mother’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. For more on this topic, read the Bankrate feature “Cashing in on collectible stock and bond certificates.”

Stock Search International or also can give you an idea of the certificate’s worth as a collectible.

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