Your grandparents, perhaps even your parents, kept a sheaf of stock certificates in a safe-deposit box at the local bank as proof that they owned a certain number of shares in specific companies. Grandma and Grandpa automatically got certificates, and their names were individually recorded on the companies’ ownership books. But nowadays you automatically buy shares in electronic, not physical, form. Unless you ask your broker for a certificate to prove your ownership when you buy the shares, you won’t register on a company’s list of shareholders of record. Since brokers may charge $500 and up to issue a stock certificate, you’d be nuts to request one — and almost no one does anymore.