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Suppose that some successful popular company X, whose shares are highly priced and very actively traded, suddenly ceases to be successful and goes almost completely bankrupt. However, it still exists formally and its shares can be traded. Normally, in such a case, the stock will turn into a penny stock and stay like this unless the company becomes sucessful again.

However, it could happen that traders or (former) shareholders get nostalgic of the good old days when company X was big, and so they buy some of the penny stock shares just to have them in their portfolio "for fun". If enough traders do that, the price of the shares will actually rise and might finally leave the penny stock sector without the company doing any better. While usually one would expect such a "bubble" to burst after some time, it is thinkable that the shares of company X become "collector's objects" that people buy not because they think that the company is actually worth anything but for the same reasons that people buy football stickers, pokémon cards, etc.

In the end, the shares of the company might even trade consistently at a comparable or even higher price than when the company still existed as working business.

Has this ever happend?

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I would very much doubt that any company has been saved from closure, or escaped "penny" status, simply by investors wanting to own one of their shares just for the sake of owning one. (However, it's difficult to say it has never happened).

To my mind, this would seem especially unlikely when nowadays the only evidence of owning a share is nearly always just the flipping of a couple of electronic bits in a share register, instead of an ornately decorated and tangible share certificate.

Which brings us on to Scripophily, which according to Wikipedia is:

[T]he study and collection of stock and bond certificates. A specialized field of numismatics, scripophily is an area of collecting due to both the inherent beauty of some historical documents as well as the interesting historical context of each document. Some stock certificates are excellent examples of engraving. Occasionally, an old stock certificate will be found that still has value as a stock in a successor company.

The main focus seems to be on old certificates (in much the same way that coin and bank-note collecting tends to concentrate on older specimens), but the Wikipedia article also notes:

A recent addition to the hobby is collecting real, live shares issued in one's name. Common companies that issue stock certificates include Walt Disney, Harley-Davidson, McDonald's, Starbucks, Google, Ford Motors, Coca-Cola, and Berkshire Hathaway. Again, framing is a popular option for these shares.

Given the paucity of modern-day share certificates1, it's entirely possible that some scripophilists actively seek out any company that still issues paper certificates (or, at least, will issue them on demand) and buy some of their stock just to "get the paper". If those shares happen to be trading for pennies, so much the better, but I very much doubt there'd be enough interest to bump the price out of the penny-region!


1 These days, the (very strong) preference is to track all ownership electronically. I don't know all the ins and outs of when companies can refuse to issue paper certificates, vs when shareholders can demand one, but a random scattering of search results brings this StartupBlog entry that states that companies incorporated in Delware, USA are not required to issue paper certificates (providing certain legalities are met), while also noting that California, USA has some quite strict requirements about paper certificates under some circumstances. This Quora post confirms both points, but adds (at least in relation to Delaware) that "Further, anybody who was ever promised paper certificates has a right to them".

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