Common stock is an ownership share in a corporation that allows its holders voting rights at shareholder meetings and the opportunity to receive dividends. If the corporation liquidates, then common stockholders receive their share of the proceeds of the liquidation after all creditors and preferred stockholders have been paid. This low level of liquidation preference can present a danger of lost funds when an investor owns the common stock of a business that is in financial difficulties. However, if a business is highly profitable, most of the benefits accrue to the common stockholders.
In many states, law requires that a par value be assigned to each share of common stock. Par value is technically the legal price below which a share of stock cannot be sold. In reality, par value is routinely set at the minimum possible amount, and is not even required under the incorporation laws of some states. Thus, par value is irrelevant in most cases.
The dollar amount of common stock recognized by a business is stated within the equity section of the company balance sheet. The amount of common stock that a business records is split between the common stock account and the additional paid-in capital account; the sum total recorded matches the price at which the company sold shares to its investors.