Tracking down value of old stock certificates

Q. Is there a company that will check out old stock certificates to determine if they have any value? T.M., Ridgewood, N.J.

A. Yes. A good firm for ferreting out valuable old stocks is R.M. Smythe & Co.

Send photocopies of your old certificates to them at 26 Broadway, Suite 271, New York, NY, 10004. Enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope. A search will take several weeks and costs $75 per company.

You could also try to track down an old company through the "Million Dollar Directory" published by Dun & Bradstreet. It's carried by many large public libraries. If the company is still around, contact it directly to see if your certificate has value.

Q. I've received a booklet through the mail promising that for $200 I can get information telling me how to make great wealth through commodities trading. Is it worth sending away for this material? B.C., Boston

A. Heed this old saw: Know how to make a small fortune in commodities? Start with a large one.

Andrew Tobias, in his book "The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need," urges average investors to stay totally away from commodities. The "Consumer Reports Money Book" says such investing carries a "very high risk." You can lose more money than you've actually invested.

Commodities traders are incredibly savvy about their field, which gives them a huge head start over average investors.

Q. Where can I get a list of of companies that accept direct investments from individuals, with no stockbroker involved? R.A., via e-mail

A. Call 800-233-5922 for a copy of the "Directory of Dividend Reinvestment Plans." It costs $10.95. Or, go on the Internet to www.netstockdirect.com

Q. I inherited a portfolio of stocks. I did not ascertain their value at that time. I'm ready to sell some of that stock. How can I find out the stock's value in 1985? R.Q., Wausau, Wis.

A. To determine the per share value for 1985, contact the company that issued the stock, says Ed Slott, of accounting firm E. Slott & Co., in Rockville Centre, N.Y.

If they can't help you, he says, go to the library and check out The Wall Street Journal for the day on which you inherited the shares.

Questions about finances? Write: Guy Halverson The Christian Science Monitor 500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1845 New York, NY 10110 E-mail: halversong@csps.com

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