A stock certificate is a document that identifies an investor's ownership share in a corporation. A certificate usually contains the following information:
- An identification number
- The number of shares
- The par value of the shares (if any)
- The class of shares (such as common stock or preferred stock)
- The signatures of authorized corporate executives
Stock certificates typically contain elaborate designs and etchings, which make them more difficult to fraudulently replicate.
Investors in publicly held companies rarely see the underlying stock certificates; these documents are kept in storage, while electronic shares are traded.
A stock certificate may contain a trading restriction on its face or back, noting that the certificate cannot be sold. If not restricted, a shareholder can sell a stock certificate.