The usual meaning of "par" is 100; that is, a share of stock, for example, which bears on its face the statement that it represents a value of $100. In practice "par" is used in a broader sense, for the "par value" differs in various securities. Bonds are in denominations, varying from fifty cents (as were once issued by a Western City) to very large amounts. Pennsylvania Railroad stock represents shares of $50 each; the Grand Trunk Railway Co. of Canada, £100 ($486.66); many manufacturing stocks are for $1,000 a share; some bank shares likewise; many mining stocks represent shares of ten cents, twenty-five cents, one dollar, etc. So "par," as used in the financial world, really means the actual face value "of any security, without regard to its denomination. This is often confusing to an investor, from the fact that a stock may be quoted at " ninety," which has a "par value" of fifty, and which is, therefore, quoted at forty dollars premium, whereas the investor, not knowing its " par value," may think it below " par; " really, the stock is quoted at 80% above "par," for if its parity were changed to 100 (or two shares made into one) its quotation of 90 would equal 180. This often misleads the unposted into buying a stock ("because it is cheap") thinking it is selling at a discount, when it really is at a high premium. A certain one of our copper stocks some years ago, with a "par value" of $25 was selling at $150, and looked much cheaper to investors (or speculators) at that price than at 600, which, in percentage, was its real selling price. Many a purchaser of that stock would have hesitated if he had realized that it had already advanced five hundred per cent, in the market and was selling at six times its original capitalization. A capital of $5,000,000 becomes quoted at $30,000,000 in this way. Mining stocks are often issued in shares of low denominations to permit of just this deceiving of the unwary.
In buying a security, ascertain the actual par value in dollars and cents and then calculate its selling price on the basis of a par value of $100. This will show the ratio between the original capitalization of the security and the quoted market value of the entire issue of such security.
1 " The Work of Wall Street," by S. S. Pratt.
A number of states (including New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire permit corporations to issue common stock having no par value. This movement is growing and is meeting with considerable favor as it does away with the element of deceipt.