Stock certificates document the ownership of a security.
A stock certificate is a physical document used to certify ownership of shares of stock. At one time, stock certificates were issued for all shares. However, electronic management is now the default registration process. The ability to register a stock certificate is still possible, even when the stock is purchased electronically. Proper registration of the certificate documents the authenticity of ownership and protects the investor if the certificate is lost, stolen or damaged. A stockholder cannot have both a digital registration and a paper certificate registration for the same shares of stock.
Get the name of the company transfer agent, which is an entity separate from the company issuing the stock charged with handling the management and maintenance of shareholder documents. Transfer agents are typically listed in a company's annual report. Companies often make annual reports available through their websites.
Call the transfer agent and confirm that paper certificates are an option. A paper certificate is only available if the company provides them. Not all companies provide them, in which case you have to forgo the physical certificate and accept electronic registration.
Contact the brokerage firm holding the stock and ask the broker to transfer the ownership of the stock to direct registration. Stocks purchased through an online process are generally held in street name registration. This means the brokerage firm holds the shares in the brokerage's name and tracks share ownership for the buyer. To register a paper certificate, shares must be moved from street name registration into direct registration. Direct registration automatically lists shares with the appropriate transfer agent.
Call the transfer agent and request a paper stock certificate. Once the shares are placed in direct registration, the transfer agent has access to them and a certificate can be issued.