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Online Resources for Business Research (August 2016): Historical Stock Prices & Annual Reports

Celia Ross

Historical Stock Prices & Annual Reports

Be aware that many of the online sources for stock prices noted above will cover only companies that are currently active, which means that if a company has merged (think Sears and Kmart, which formed Sears Holdings in 2005) or is defunct (think Enron), its stock prices, even from times when such companies did exist, will usually not be included.  What starts out as a seemingly straightforward request for a historical stock price can quickly morph into a scene from The Twilight Zone as well-known companies ostensibly cease to exist, at least according to some sources.  GFDatabase, NetAdvantage, and Mergent Online, all mentioned previously, offer subscription packages that cover inactive (defunct, merged, or bankrupt) companies.  For quotes pre-2006 or thereabouts, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times provide some stock prices, although the online archive versions of the papers often do not contain the stock pages, so access to the microfilm archive is required (and far from comprehensive in stock coverage, it is still difficult to search).  Most newspapers ceased printing daily stock listings in the mid-2000s, making the task of finding historical prices even more of a challenge.  For additional insights, see the New York Public Library post Finding Historical Stock Prices, and Enoch Pratt Free Library’s guide What to Do with an Old Stock Certificate.

Historical annual reports can also be difficult to track down.  The ProQuest Historical Annual Reports database covers Fortune 500 companies, with some reports dating back to the 1800s, although the coverage is not comprehensive for all companies.  Purdue University oversees a collaboration among a dozen academic and special libraries called Annual Reports at Academic Business Libraries that merges separate indexes of annual reports to form a single database of holdings for approximately thirty-eight thousand companies.  One of the contributors, Columbia University, has digitized reports for close to eight hundred companies, most of which operated in and around New York back to the mid-1800s through the 1960s, making them publicly accessible through its Columbia Historical Corporate Reports site.