Finance: Are there spare stocks in your sock drawer?

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November 21 marks the 25th anniversary of the controversial privatisation of British Gas, when many people took advantage of the opportunity to buy shares for the first time.

Following the inconic ’Tell Sid advertising campaign, 425.5 million shares were put up for sale, creating millions of first time shareholders in the UK.

By 1987 20 per cent of the UK population were shareholders, a significant increase from the seven per cent in 1976 – the biggest rise in new shareholders the UK had ever seen.

And while some of the newly created shareholders cashed in and sold their shares straight away, there are still many people today who have shares from the 1980s and are unaware of how much they may be worth.

John Douthwaite of SimplyStockbroking Ltd said: “Millions of people will be sitting on share certificates issued in the 1980s, which will now be worth a considerable amount of money.

“Many have shied away from selling largely due to ignorance and fear of brokerage fees eating into profits from the sale, others may have inherited the shares and simply forgot they had them.”

“With Christmas just around the corner, many people are keen to access much needed cash, to help see them through one of the costliest times of the year. Many people are more comfortable selling through the low cost and transparent charging models offered by online brokerages, which were not around in the eighties.”

“Today many people are uninformed on how to deal with the shares they have acquired over the years. People should always consider transaction costs, taxes and ideally seek professional advice before making a decision to sell shares.”