Researching Old Stocks

Note to People Outside the Spokane Area

Background Information 
Finding a Stock Quote

Tracking Company Histories
Spokane Area Mining Stocks

Libraries often get questions about the value of old stocks. Some people are settling an estate or doing their taxes. Others find old stock certificates in family papers or antique stores and want to know if the stock has any value. Spokane's history as a center for the mining industry and as a penny stock trading center means we have a good selection of reference materials to research these stocks.


This guide gives you some useful web sites for finding stock quotes from the last 30 years or so. However, if your company that has undergone a name change, gone out of business, is/was traded on a smaller exchange/market such as the Spokane Stock Exchange (now defunct), or the date you need a quote for is pre-1968, you'll probably have to visit the Downtown Library in downtown Spokane, where we have some useful resources to help you in your search.


A Note to People Outside the Spokane Area

If the company you are researching is/was located in the Spokane area, you can ask us for assistance using the Ask a Librarian Button on our home page. Please include the full name of the company, the city/county the company is/was located in, the date of last contact or date on the stock certificate, and the industry the company was involved in (e.g. mining).


If the company is not from this area, we’re sorry, but we aren’t able to help you.  Many other public libraries have the same reference aids we do, or more.  Visit your local public library to see if they have these items, or to find a library in your region that owns them.  Visit the Goldsheet web site to see other libraries’ web sites on researching old stocks.


Background Information

Stock exchanges

Stock exchanges are organizations approved and regulated by the US Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC). Companies apply for the right to have their stock traded on a particular exchange. There are two major national stock exchanges, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE),and the American Stock Exchange (AMEX). There are also a number of regional exchanges.

Over the counter (OTC) or unlisted stocks are not traded on a stock exchange.  They are sold at a stock market, or else brokers and dealers trade directly with one another using telephones and computers.  See a list of stock exchanges and markets (national, regional and foreign) at Rutgers University Libraries Stock and Commodities Exchanges web site.  On these web sites you will find lists of the companies currently traded and current stock prices.  Historical stock prices are not usually available, though.  The World Federation of Exchanges is another source of information on stock exchanges.


Stock Symbols

Companies are given a stock (or ticker) symbol to save space in newspapers and electronic displays. The stock symbol is usually an abbreviation of the company name. The NYSE and AMEX exchanges use stock symbols of 1-3 letters. NASDAQ stock symbols have 4-5 letters. If there are more letters, they give more information on the stock, such as the class of stock, such as "preferred" (PR) or "class A" (A), etc. Individual newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal may use variations of these stock symbols in their listings.


Stock Prices

Stock prices were reported in 8ths until the 1990’s. (An 8th equals 12 ½ cents.) For a few years in the 90’s stocks could also be reported in 16ths, 32nds, or 64ths. Now stock quotes are usually reported in decimals, which works out to be dollars and cents. When you find your stock quote, you should make note of the high,low and closing price for your records. For more information on stock quotes,see these two books:

How to read the financial pages, by Peter Passell.

The Informed investor's guide to financial quotations, by Howard Berlin.


Finding a Stock Quote

Finding a Stock Quote on the Internet:

Stock quotes from 1968 - present can be found on the Internet for most companies traded on large exchanges/markets. These web sites are the best and most reputable for providing historical stock quotes. Note that often you will only get the closing price from these websites. If you need high, low or opening price, and these web sites don't give them to you, you may have to use the resources in the next section at the Downtown library.

BigCharts: Covers roughly 1970 - present.

YahooFinance: Date coverage varies widely by company, back to 1970.

If these sources don’t give you a stock quote here are some possible reasons:

Finding a Stock Quote if it’s not on the Internet:

Does your date fall within the date ranges of these daily stock record books? They give daily highs, lows and closing prices, and are shelved in the Reference Area on the 2nd floor.

Some newspapers cover more exchanges and markets than others, and some cover more companies in each exchange/market than others do.  Local newspapers have the best coverage of local and regional stocks.  The Wall Street Journal has better coverage of national stocks than a local newspaper. Here are the newspapers available at the Downtown library:

Still Haven't Found your Stock Quote?

The chances are that something happened to your company, and you were never made aware of it. You'll need to find out what name the company was doing business under at the date you need a stock quote for. For that level of research, see below.


Tracking Company  Histories

If you didn’t found your stock quote in a website or newspaper, here are some of the possible reasons:

These reference items may help you find out what happened to the company:

Directory of obsolete securities: Lists stocks from companies that have been liquidated, purchased, or changed names from 1927 to the present.

Mergers and Acquisitions Activity Page: From the Directory of Corporate Affiliations.  Helps you quickly find larger firms that have merged, changed names, or gone out of business.

Standard and Poor's register of corporations, directors and executives: The older editions are especially useful to find stock symbols and exchanges for companies that are no longer in existence.

Robert D. Fisher manual of valuable and worthless securities

Obsolete American securities and corporations

Corporate entity name change guide

Corporate acquisition guide

Corporate acronym resource guide

Walker's Manual of Far Western corporations and securities

Walker's manual of Western corporations

Mergent (formerly Moody’s) Manuals give information on stock splits, dividends, name changes and buyouts for publicly traded companies. Older Moody’s Manuals are available on microfiche.

Check the State's Filing Database

Business Filings Databases: Each state's secretary of state keeps incorporation records. Almost all states offer a database online for looking up companies by their names and sometimes their owners. Not every state keeps their historical records in their free online database. Call them if you don't get any results, to have them check their historical records.

Here are two options if these resources didn’t help you.


Spokane Area Mining Stocks

The Spokane Stock Exchange (first known as the Standard Stock Exchange) was active from1897 to 1991. It was known as the smallest regional or penny stock exchange in the country. Most listings were local mining companies, since mining for silver and other metals had brought many interested people to the area, hoping to make a fortune. 25 Spokane is a book on the Spokane stock market (It contains no stock quotes or company data).

To find a stock quote for a local mining stock, check the Spokesman Review.

Spokesman-Review: 1895-present, on microfilm.

To find out what happened to a local mining company, come to the Northwest Room at the Downtown Library.

The Idaho Secretary of State has a great database of all the corporations formed in Idaho, that is historically retrospective.  Search it for any Idaho company or mine to see if the company is 'forfeit', or defunct and worthless, or in good standing, and get contact information.

The Washington State Secretary of State has a similar database but it only includes current companies in good standing.You can contact the Secretary of State to have them search their records for a company that is not currently listed in their database.


Washington State Mine Directories:

Metal mines of Washington, Washington Geological Survey Bulletin, 1921.

Directory of Washington metallic mining properties, by the Washington State Division of Mines and Mining,1940.

Directory of Washington mining operations, by the Washington State Division of Mines and Geology, 1958/60, 1962, 1964/70,1971/72, 1977, 1979, 1992.

Inventory of Washington minerals, metallic minerals, by the Washington State Division of Mines and Geology, 1956.

Inventory of Washington minerals, Nonmetallic minerals, by the Washington State Division of Mines and Geology, 1960. 2 volumes.

Washington State gold mines, by Roy F. Mayo, 1983.

Metal mines of Washington: preliminary report, by the Washington State Division of Geology and Earth Resources, 1990.

Northwest Area Mine Directories:

Mining in the Pacific Northwest: a complete review of the mineral resources of Washington and British Columbia, with maps, edited by L. K. Hodges, 1897 (reproduction).

Northwest mines handbook, edited by Sidney Norman, 1918. Covers ID, WA, BC, OR, and Western MT.

Directory of Montana mining properties, by the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, 1940.

Miner's manual for Spokane and the Coeur d’Alenes, by George Reue, 1967/68, 1969/70, 1971.

Western Mining News Directory of mines for Idaho (Coeur d’Alene), MT and WA, 1972/73, 1976/77, 1978/79.

Northwest Mining Association directory, 1984.

Western Mining Directory, 1980/81, 1988-92.

National Mine Directories:

Copper Handbook, 1900, 1902-11,1912/13. Covers copper mining only.

Mines Handbook, published by the Mines Information Bureau, 1916, ‘18, ‘20, ‘22, ‘25, ‘26, ‘31.

Mines Register, successor to the Mines Handbook, 1937, ‘40, ‘42, ‘46, ‘49, ‘52, ‘56, ‘62/3, ‘65/6, ‘68/9, ‘71.

American Mines Handbook,1991/92-present.

Canadian and American Mines Handbook,1937, ’38. ‘43, ‘46, ‘48, ‘49, ‘68/69 ‘72/73, ‘80/81 ‘86/87, ‘89/90, ‘91/92,‘92/93, ‘94/95, ‘96/97, ‘98/99, ‘99/00, ‘00/01, ‘01/02.

Other Resources to Consider:

Northwest mining service,1925-1928. A local mining newspaper published every 2 weeks.

Northwest Mining Truth and Mining Truth, 1916-1942. A local mining newspaper which went through several name changes.

Index to mining surveys [in WashingtonState] 1883-1964, by the Washington State Division of Archives and Record Management, 1985. An index to the microfilm records of the Washington State Archives. We don’t own the film, but you can buy it from the Archive.  Useful for people doing in-depth research but unnecessary for simple stock quotes.

Annual report of the mining industry of Idaho, by the Idaho Inspector of Mines, 1899-1974.  There is a Cumulative Index to the years 1899-1937 in the same call number.

Bulletin, by the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, numbers 7-83 (incomplete).

The library owns other books and documents that may be useful.  Ask library staff for assistance, or search the catalog using terms such as "Washington state and mines."