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Researching Old Stock Certificates

If you have found an 'old stock certificate' there are numerous print and electronic sources of information to help you determine if that old stock has value or if the security is obsolete.

You must first determine the current status of the company, whether Canadian, American or international. Is the company still in business? Is the company operating under a different name? Has the company been acquired by or merged with another business? Has there been a liquidation distribution?

The fine print on the certificate face contains vital information that will help you with your search such as:

  • the company name
  • the province or state of incorporation
  • transfer agent
  • date of issue

Your broker or financial planner, if you have one, can tell you the value of the certificate if the company is still in business. If you do not have professional help, consult the following resources to determine whether the company still exists by the same name.

Corporate Status
Many web-based services will let you identify ticker symbols for public companies. When a stock is currently trading under the same name, a search should reveal the stock exchange where the stock is traded and its current price.


Provides free information on more than 4,200 Canadian and on American publicly traded companies through a US affiliate, Wall Street Research Net.


With more than 500,000 links to information of use to investors and analysts, it can be a useful starting place when you want to perform basic research on publicly traded companies. Information is available on both Canadian companies and US.


An excellent resource with over 350,000 indexed company profiles


Companies not listed on the major stock exchanges may be trading 'over-the-counter'. Search http://www.otcbb.com, the official source of information on American OTC stocks.


If you find the stock, you may need to do more research to determine the value of your certificate. It is possible that the shares have split.

C-Net has an excellent database of U.S. and Canadian (large-cap) stock split histories in the investor section of the web site. Click on www.cnet.com; select real-time quotes, and then investor on the upper menu bar. Type the symbol, and then select 'splits' from the pull-down menu. Advice for investors provides stock split histories for Canadian companies.

Companies may be delisted for any number of reasons, including (but not limited to) company insolvency, unsatisfactory financial condition and/or operating results, lack of public distribution, failure to comply with listing agreement, failure to pay fees or charges and/or substantial change in business. The major stock exchanges provide information on recently delisted stocks.

Security exchange rules make it mandatory for incorporated companies to file information. In Canada, public companies are required to file with the System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval (SEDAR) at www.sedar.com. Filing with SEDAR started January 1, 1997, and the system allows open access to public company information filed since that time. Check the database for information on mergers or acquisitions.

The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) requires full disclosure of any merger, acquisition or tender offer. The SEC's Edgar Database contains these disclosure forms and is freely accessible at www.edgar-online.com. Unfortunately, the online database does not go back further than 1994.

Large public libraries have print resources which help you track down company histories. Canadian Library ( http://www.lights.com/canlib/) indexes library home pages by province and city.

The Financial Post Survey of Mines and Energy Resources (annual publication) and the Financial Post Survey of Industrials (annual publication) ensure coverage of all companies currently listed on a stock exchange in Canada. Canadian Mines Handbook (Southam Mining Group) also publishes the Canadian Oil and Gas Handbook.

At times, companies are bought out by, or merged with, other companies, and their names change.

The Financial Post Survey of Predecessor and Defunct Companies covers more than 12,000 firms going back over 60 years. The information provided includes: names changes, mergers, takeovers, and acquisitions. One can also learn if the company's charter has been cancelled.

Other print sources that report corporate financial events, company histories or obsolete securities of American or large International companies include:

Directory of Corporate Affiliations. "Who Owns Whom." New Providence, NJ: National Register Publishing, annual. Lists subsidiaries and divisions, some of which were once freestanding companies merged into larger entities.

Capital Changes Reporter. Chicago: CCH Incorporated. Presents a record of changes in the corporate capital structure of individual public companies, including mergers, dividends, and liquidations.

International Directory of Company Histories. Chicago: St. James Press, 1988–. Presents detailed essays on the historical development of more than 3,000 of the world's largest companies.

Moody's Manuals. New York: MERGENT FIS. Provides comprehensive financial and narrative information on public companies traded on the three U.S. stock exchanges. Each entry gives an "annual report" of each company, including a capsule history, subsidiaries.

Directory of Obsolete Securities. Jersey City, NJ: Financial Information Inc., annual. Contains brief profiles of companies whose original identities have been lost for a number of reasons, including name change, merger, bankruptcy, or charter cancellation.

Annual Guide to Stocks: Directory of Active Stocks. Jersey City, NJ : Financial Information Inc. Provides information, as available, on outstanding foreign and domestic listed and unlisted stocks, including the place of incorporation, par value, CUSIP number, transfer agent, transfer charge, dividend disbursing agent, and recent changes in capital structure.

Fisher Manuals. R. M. Smythe. Compiles the results of several decades of research on old stock certificates. The entry for each company includes the date upon which its stock was deemed worthless.

The presence of a stock certificate means that a company has incorporated. Publicly traded companies must incorporate in either a province in Canada or state in the United States and this information will appear on the stock certificate. In some cases, it may be necessary to conduct a corporate search in order to determine whether a company is still incorporated or whether its Charter has been canceled or dissolved. Be aware that the province or state of incorporation and the place in which the company is located may not be the same.

Strategis, Industry Canada's web site (http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/) provides access to a database on Canadian federally incorporated companies and Bankruptcy statistics.

Goldsheet's Canadian and U.S. Resources on the Obsolete Securities Page http://www.goldsheetlinks.com/obsoletehtm provides links and phone numbers to provincial and state agencies that handle corporate records

Financial Services Canada (Micromedia, 2001) provides current addresses for all corporate registries in Canada and can be found at most public libraries.

Transfer Agents
The Transfer Agent, listed on the front of your security, can help you determine the value of your stock certificate as long as the agent still represents the company. If the transfer agent no longer represents the company or is no longer in business, then you may contact the Companies Branch in the jurisdiction where the stock was originally registered. If the company is still in business, they can probably direct you to the new Transfer Agent.

Computershare Trust Company of Canada
Transfer Agent and Registrar
1800 McGill College Ave
Montreal, Quebec H3A 3K9
Toll Free Tel: 1-800-332-0095
Toll Free Tel: 1-800-564-6253 ( specifically for companies for which Montreal Trust was formerly the Transfer Agent.)
Montreal Tel: (514) 982-7555
Fax: (514) 982-7635
Web: www.computershare.com

CIBC Mellon Trust
320 Bay Street, 4th Floor
Toronto, Ontario, M5H 4A6
Tel: 1-800-387-0825
Fax: 416-643-5501
e-mail: inquiries@cibcmellon.ca

Pacific Corporate Services Ltd.
66 Wellington Street West
52nd Floor, Suite 5210
P.O. Box 240, TD Tower
Toronto-Dominion Centre
Toronto, Ontario,M5K 1J3
Tel:(416) 862-7620
fax:(416) 366-247

Fee Based Search Services

There are numerous commercial firms that will research your old certificates for a fee.

Stock Search Global
150 First Street, Box 21040
Orangeville, Ontario
Canada, L9W 4S7
Phone: (416) 222-0828
Fax: (519) 940-0321
URL: http://www.stock-search-global.com/

Don G. Levy and Associates
31 Scholars Court
Suite 200,Ottawa, Ont.
Canada, K2E 7S2
Tel: 613-225-1823
Fax: 613-225-3300
EMAIL: don.g.levy@sympatico.ca

Paper Chase
P.O. Box 22, Cote St. Luc Station,
Montreal, Quebec
TEL: 514/482-3609
URL: http://www.paperchaseintl.com/pc.html

Stock Search International
4761 West Waterbuck Drive • Tucson, Arizona 85742 USA
Phone (520) 579-5635 • Fax (520) 579-5639
U.S. Tollfree: (800) 537-4523
E-mail: ssi@stocksearchintl.com
URL: http://www.stocksearchintl.com/

R.M. Smythe & Co., Inc.,
Securities Research Department - Desk 4,
26 Broadway, Suite 271,
New York, NY 10004-1701
TEL: 212-943-1880, 1-800-622-1880
URL: http://www.rm-smythe.com/

Useful Addresses

Toronto Reference Library
789 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario
M4W 2G8
Tel: (416) 393-7131

Federal Incorporation

Industry Canada, Corporations Directorate
Corporations Branch
365 Laurier Avenue West
9th Floor, Journal Tower South
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0C8

Bankruptcy Division: (613) 941-2863
Corporations Branch: (613) 941-9042

Companies Branch
Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations
200, 393 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M5G 2M2

General Inquiry: (416) 314-8880
Fee: $8.00 by mail
$10.00 in person

The Financial Post publications are also available at:
The Financial Post
333 King Street East
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 4N2
Tel: (416) 350-6500
Fax: (416) 350-6501

Micromedia Limited
20 Victoria Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5C 2N8
Tel: (416) 362-5211
Fax: (416) 362-6161

Southam Business Information and Communications Group Ltd.
1450 Don Mills Road
Don Mills, Ontario
M3B 2X7
Tel: (416) 445-6641