Rick Roman has kicked himself for years over an investment play that got away.
As a teenager, his mother helped him buy shares in Topps Chewing Gum, the company well known to Roman and millions of other avid sports card collectors. It was his first taste as an investor, and it changed his life.
While he held onto those Topps shares, somewhere along the way he lost something he equally cherished — the Topps stock certificate embellished with its picture of Bazooka bubble gum. In those days, most companies issued actual paper certificates as legal proof of ownership before electronic recordkeeping became more the norm.
Roman said the Topps certificate was an attention getter in his house, prominently displayed to spur his curiosity about investing.
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Little did he know then that the paper he lost would be worth something someday. Try about $500, according to the Scripophily.com collectible website.
That first investment experience, however, prompted Roman to pursue a college degree in finance. It was also the genesis for the company Roman and his wife, Leslie, started in 2002 called GiveAshare.
The company is not an investment firm, nor does it offer stock-picking advice. Just as its name implies, GiveAshare specializes in one-share ownership in about 110 companies. You don’t need deep pockets for this amount of investment exposure, either.
What distinguishes the company? In addition to the stock, owners can also buy the company’s actual stock certificate or a replica for those companies that no longer issue paper. GiveAshare also provides the matting and framing for a price. For example, a framed Twitter stock certificate ranges from $56 to $98, plus the cost of the share.
Roman said about half his customers are buying single shares — and the certificate — as a gift for children 18 and under. They’re mostly picking companies that kids are familiar with, rather than because of investment potential, said Roman
That explains why his most popular stock certificates include Walt Disney, Dreamworks, Apple, Manchester United, Nike and Coca-Cola.
Snapchat, the social media platform that recently started selling stock to the public for the first time, could soon join his best-seller list. The company is all the rage among the 18 to 34 crowd, and they’re buying the stock, too.
While it does not appear that Snapchat will issue an actual paper certificate, GiveAshare customers can choose a mock-up instead.
While the stock certificates make for a fine gift, the other part of GiveAShare’s story is that youngsters can learn about the stock market.
By owning one share, a young investor is entitled to receive annual reports, dividends, invitations to shareholder meetings and other perks. But Roman believes the real value of owning a certificate is that it can be a conversation starter between adults and kids, just like it was for him as a teen.
Snapchat, Roman said, represents one of those opportunities. One lesson might be to temper your enthusiasm over the hype in an individual stock, especially if the shares are bid up well beyond their worth. That could lead to another lesson — what goes up invariably will go down.
As for Roman, he received a nice surprise from his wife on his 58th birthday in March — a framed Topps Chewing Co. stock certificate. No doubt, it will be displayed prominently.
Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879