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Zillow Real Estate

Finding a fortune in your attic

Our friends at LearnVest offer sound financial tips and advice for every aspect of life. Here’s some advice for cashing in on old stock and bond certificates.

Treasure may be hiding behind those cobwebs and the abandoned sofa in your attic in the form of old stock and bond certificates.

Even if you think the company that issued the certificate no longer exists, don’t put the documents in the trash pile quite yet. Some collectors — paper lovers sometimes referred to as scripophiles — will go ga-ga over defunct securities with certain rare qualities.

Treasure hunting

With a stroke of luck, you could hit the jackpot of a lifetime. In 1979, the certificate for a share in the Texas Pacific Land Trust purchased in the late 1800s was found to be worth almost $4 million.

A share in a bygone company may even retain legal value. For instance, the company may have simply changed its name or undergone a merger. The specific conditions of how the company was acquired also play a role, Max Hensley, president of the International Bond and Share Society’s U.S. chapter, told The Wall Street Journal.

A broker can help you find out if you’ve found a winning ticket and walk you through the process of collecting the payout. For example, will do the legwork for you for $39.95, and will refund your money if the search runs dry.

The do-it-yourself approach

If you’re feeling intrepid, you can choose to conduct the investigation yourself. There are resources available for assessing the potential worth of old certificates. They include the “Financial Stock Guide Service” guidebook, the treasurer of the company’s state of incorporation, and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy.

Just remember — bearer bonds or stocks can’t be cashed in by anyone. For registered securities, you need documentation that says you have the legal rights to the certificate. From there, get in touch with the bond’s trust company or the stock’s transfer agent, and watch your treasure-hunting dreams come true.

More from LearnVest:

This post originally appeared on on June 13 and was written by Alexa Pugh. It is republished here with permission from LearnVest.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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