Back in the day when “capitalists” were rumored to look like Mr. Peanut and talk like Burgess Meredith, there were these funny things called “stock certificates.” These were actual pieces of paper signifying ownership in a real, live company, often held in bank vaults or under mattresses.
Now the problem with these things is that, as paper, they were subject to theft, fire, dementia, etc. Things got really fun when the companies represented went through M&A … every time a company would get bought out, the paper would have to be sent in for processing, and then reissued in appropriate amounts for whatever portion of the new company you now owned.
I’m just old enough to have actually owned a few of these (along with a wooden tennis racket and a TI-99 … but let’s not get in to that). I got, like 3 share of GM stock for high school graduation.
Subsequently, GM issued shares for its Hughes Electronics subsidiary, part of which was then bought by Raytheon, and the rest of which was eventually spun off into the Direct TV group. To complicate things, and for reasons I still don’t fully grasp, I actually bought a couple of other GM shares along the way.
So a couple of years ago there was a great reckoning in this bizarre little capitalist empire of mine. Raytheon bought the rest of Hughes for shares and cash — I got a check and, like, a third of a share of Raytheon. Then Raytheon did some kind of reverse split, which effectively bought me out of my smallholder ownings (I like to think it’s because I always voted for resolutions that Raytheon divest itself if its military businesses on my proxies … but since my vote counted for less than in the average US presidential race, I think that’s a hippie fantasy).
Somehow, I ended up with two physical, paper shares of Direct TV, which I then deposited in my Ameritrade account, where they rest, hopefully awaiting a time when they appreciate enough to justify the eleven bucks it’ll cost me to sell them.
And I thought that was the end of my relationship with this company, until I got a letter in the mail at my mom’s house offering me the opportunity to sell my FOUR Direct TV shares with no service charges. WTF?!
Convinced it was a hoax, I duly logged on to the Direct TV site. After much searching — and much to my surprise — it turns out that somehow, some way, I have an additional four shares that Direct TV has been holding “on book” for me for probably close to ten years now.
If they were actually worth something, I’d buy you all a cocktail.