If I go to Walmart and buy a bike for $259.99. I can decide to sell this for any price I want thereafter? Even $100,000,000,000.00 if I wanted? (Of course, whether someone buys is a different thing.)

If I buy stocks or commodities in the market, can I decide what to sell them for? People say that the "value" of something depends on the demand--but when people own things they reserve the right to sell them for any price they want--the can even give them away freely at their discretion.

Can I do the same with publicly traded stocks? If I buy a stock, how much can I sell it back for? What the market says or whatever I feel like? In other words, does the market have control over sale numbers or do I?

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    It's not completely clear that you know what 'selling' is. It's not something you can do on your own... – AakashM Feb 24 '17 at 9:28

You answered your own question "whether someone buys is a different thing". You can ask any price that you want. (Or given an electronic brokerage, you can enter the highest value that the system was designed to accept.) The market (demand) will determine whether anyone will buy at the price you are asking.

A better strategy if you want to make an unreasonable amount of money is to put in a buy order at an unreasonably low price and hope a glitch causes a flash crash and allows you to purchase at that price. There may be rules that unravel your purchase after the fact, but it has a better chance of succeeding than trying to sell at an unreasonably high price.

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I think for this a picture is worth a thousand words. This is a "depth chart" that I pulled from google images, specifically because it doesn't name any security.

enter image description here

On the left you have all of the "bids" to buy this security, on the right you have the "asks" to sell the security. In the middle you have the bid/ask spread, this is the space between the highest bid and the lowest ask. As you can see you are free to place you order to the market to buy for 232, and someone else is free to place their order to the market to sell for 234. When the bid and the ask match there's a transaction for the maximum number of available shares. Alternatively, someone can place a market order to buy or sell and they'll just take the current market price.

Retail investors don't really get access to this kind of chart from their brokers because for the most part the information isn't terribly relevant at the retail level.

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In other words, does the market have control over sale numbers or do I?

You both do, just like for the bike. You have control over the price you ask, and the buyer has control over the price they pay. If the two do not align, no sale takes place.

Your question uses the words "sell" and "sale" ambiguously. You can decide to ask for any price you want. You cannot actually sell anything until someone agrees to buy what you are offering.

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  • Except some exchanges may have some rules on how far away from the last traded price you can place an order. The ASX in Australia has such rules, so for example, if you place a bid to buy for $1.00 for a stock that last traded at $10.00, your buy order will be rejected by the market. – Victor Feb 24 '17 at 7:56

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