A good friend of mine has been collecting Disney paraphernalia all her life. Her home is home to Disney lapel pins, Disney decorations, Disney movies, and a framed Disney stock certificate in one room. It’s a beautiful item, decorated with Disney characters and Walt Disney himself, and well worth hanging on the wall, but it’s also a financial asset.
Not so long ago my friend was trying to gauge how much this certificate was actually worth. She didn’t want to sell it, but she learned about investing and dividends and wanted to understand what the value of the certificate was. She felt it was worth more than the value of a single current share of Disney, but how much? How did she find out?
She’s not alone with her Disney stock certificate. Many companies sell novel stock certificates like this, which are the equivalent of a single share or 10 shares of a company, but decorated with the intent to be displayed in a fan’s home. What are these certificates actually worth? The simplest answer, of course, is to simply look up the current share price of any individual stock in that company, but that is very likely inaccurate and an understatement of the certificate’s value.
Factors that can affect the value of your stock certificate
One important factor that can adjust the value of your certificate is stock splits. Companies sometimes “split” the shares of their stock, turning a single “old” stock into more than one “new” stock. Companies do this to lower the trading value of individual stocks and to entice investors to buy because the stock price is more accessible.
Disney’s stock has split multiple times over the years. The last split was in 2007 when the stock split 1,014 for 1,000. This means that for every 1,000 shares of Disney owned prior to the split, that person now owns 1,014 shares – yes, fractional shares are also counted. Their certificate was older than the 2007 split, making it worth at least 1,014 Disney shares.
Another important factor is dividends. Dividends are small payments made by the company to the holder of each share. Therefore, as the owner of a share (or several shares), you should be a recipient of dividends.
Typically, dividends using novel stock certificates are paid to an account in your name that is managed by the issuing company. However, if the company has been unable to find the person who registered it as the holder of the certificate, it may have turned dividends to the state as unclaimed funds or lost property.
If you’ve never received a dividend on a stock certificate, the best thing to do is check with the company that issued the stock and make sure they have the correct contact information for you as the owner of the record. After that, you should receive dividends from them, or those dividends should be deposited into an account of your choice. They should also be able to inform you about how unclaimed dividends have been handled. (Note that with a single share, even many years of unclaimed dividends can be just a few dollars.)
How to determine the value of your certificate
How can you find out exactly how much this certificate is worth? The process is not much different from the process you go through with an old stock certificate.
Identify the most important information on the certificate
Your share certificate should include information such as the number of shares the certificate represents, the date of purchase, and an identification number. They should be easy to find on the certificate. However, if it’s framed, you may need to open the frame and look at the back. You will need this information to start your search.
In addition, you need to know information that shows who the certificate was issued to. What was this person’s legal name at the time and where did they live? This information was likely provided to the company at the time of publication.
Contact the company
The next step is to contact the company directly. Most large companies that issue (or have in the past) novel stock certificates have information for shareholders on their website. For example, Disney offers a portal for shareholders, which is a good place to start. Just call the number on their website with the information in hand and see what you can find.
If you reach out to most companies, they can easily look up your certificate of novelty and make sure that it is properly registered and that all dividends are sent to the right place. It also makes it easier for you to find old dividends. You should also be able to estimate the current number of stocks you actually own and their current value.
If that does not work …
In some situations the company for which you are certified may or may not be willing or able to help with this. In this situation, you need to contact a reputable broker.
Choose a quality broker (here are some of The Simple Dollar’s preferred brokers) and open an account. Then contact that broker to see what you can learn about your certificate. You should also be able to identify your certificate.
Note that some brokers may charge a fee for these services. It’s often a small fee, but in some cases it can be substantial. Note that having a single stock is probably worth no more than a nominal fee just to find out more.
What if you want to sell?
If you want to sell a stock certificate for novelty, almost all brokers allow you to mail the paper certificate to them and then add it to the account. You may also be able to return it to you in a canceled form for physical viewing. Note, however, that there is usually a small fee for this service that can devour some of the value of the certificate.
What if you want to buy a certificate of novelty?
Most companies no longer issue novelty certificates directly. For example, Disney is no longer selling these types of certificates, but is selling electronically managed stocks to the public. If you buy one or more of these stocks, you can get a certificate that reminds you of your property, but it doesn’t represent the stocks you own – it’s just a nice wall decoration.
Be careful outside of novelty when investing in pop culture trends. They usually are Not a good indicator of a good investment.
What happened to the Disney certificate?
My friend just reached out to Disney Shareholder Services directly and found that her certificate originally represented 10 shares and had gone through two stock splits since the original issue, meaning she is now just over 30 Disney shares worth more than Owns $ 5,000. Thanks to her help, she was also able to track down the old dividends and now receives dividends directly from Disney. While the stock is worth quite a bit on its own, for now it is holding onto its old certificate, knowing that if it so wishes, it could sell it.
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