What Are Retired Securities?

What Are Retired Securities?

3 Min.


In compliance with regulations set by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), retired securities refer to securities repurchased by the issuer using retained earnings from the company and subsequently canceled. These securities, devoid of any market value, cease to embody ownership stakes within the issuing corporation.

Retired Securities Explained

In the realm of retired securities, collectors of antiquated stock certificates often find value, despite their lack of market worth. However, fraudulent occurrences of canceled securities surfacing in the global market compelled the SEC to revise regulations pertaining to the handling of voided stock certificates by transfer agents.

To address this concern, amendments to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 were adopted in 2004. These revisions mandated that every transfer agent establish and implement written procedures governing the cancellation, storage, transportation, destruction, or other appropriate disposition of securities certificates. As part of these new rules, transfer agents are now obligated to clearly mark each canceled securities certificate with the term 'canceled,' maintain a secure storage area specifically designated for canceled certificates, maintain a searchable database encompassing all canceled, destroyed, or otherwise disposed of certificates, and establish detailed protocols for the destruction of canceled certificates. Additionally, the SEC is modifying its regulations pertaining to lost and stolen securities as well as its transfer agent safekeeping rules to explicitly encompass unissued and canceled certificates.

Examining Retired Stock Certificates

In the scenario where you stumble upon old share certificates left behind by your grandfather, it raises the question of their potential value. Could they possibly include a few shares of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A), each worth over $300,000 as of January 2021? While such cases are rare, there are avenues to explore in determining their worth.

Begin by examining the certificate's face for crucial information, including the company name, location of incorporation, a CUSIP number, and the registered owner's name. All these details hold significance and are likely to be present on the certificate.

For securities that have been inactive for more than a decade, major discount brokerages can assist clients in locating them. Armed with the CUSIP number, the brokerage can unveil any splits, reorganizations, and name changes that have transpired throughout the company's history. Moreover, they can provide insights into whether the company is presently trading or has ceased operations.

It's important to check whether the shares bear the imprint of the word "canceled," often accompanied by punched holes on the certificate. If this is the case, the shares hold no monetary value, although they might still possess collector's worth. There are stock search companies, such as RM Smythe, that offer investigative services for a fee. If the certificate proves to have no trading value, these companies may propose to purchase it at its collector's value.


The repurchase of retired securities by the company effectively diminishes the number of shares outstanding. While the retired securities themselves hold no value, it is worth noting that stock certificates associated with these securities may still possess value to collectors. This underscores the potential worth of these artifacts despite the absence of intrinsic value in the retired securities.

Retired Securities