Stock Price Archeology

April often brings us a spate of income tax related questions about the price of a stock on a particular date. The questions are usually from people who want to establish the cost basis of a stock for tax purposes.  Many standard financial databases can supply daily prices (high, low, close and volume) at least for the companies on the New York Stock Exchange as far back as the early 1960’s.

Table 1.


Here are the earliest dates available for daily prices of General Electric Company (GE) on several financial files.

Two specialized sources (CRSP and Global Financial Data) have some pre-1960’s stock price data as well as collateral information such as total return.

CRSP (WRDS version)

The Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP) maintains the most comprehensive collection of security price, return, and volume data for the NYSE, AMEX and NASDAQ stock markets.

CRSP has daily and monthly prices and returns for equities traded on:

NYSE from 12/31/1925
AMEX from 7/02/1962
NASDAQ from 12/29/1972

In addition, to common stocks, the CRPS files include ADRS, Closed-end Funds, REITS and foreign stocks traded on NYSE or AMEX

Go WRDS and choose CRSP

CRSP=>Stock/Security File=>Daily Stock Price
Choose date range and enter company identifier (e.g. ticker). Choose variables to retrieve and the output format preferred.

For example, here is the daily closing price and volume of GE common stock during the 1929 crash.

Table 2.


Global Financial Data (GFD)    

Global Financial Data is a collection of 20,000 financial and economic time series. It includes data on bonds, commodities, interest rates, stock markets and indices, futures, exchange rates, GDP, prices, and unemployment. GFD has extremely long time series, for example. U.K. Central Bank Interest Rates monthly from 1694 to date and daily from 1800 to date.

GFD’s U.S. Stock Database module has data on more than 58,000 U.S. securities from as early as 1788. About 75% of the securities are common, preferred and foreign stock, with a scattering of other issue types (e.g. ETF’s, ADRs, and Warrants). The periodicity is usually monthly before 1962, and daily after that date.

From the GFD Menu, select U.S. Stocks Database to retrieve this menu.

Figure 1.

Blog GE menu fixed

Screen by such variables as country, security type, or industry, or search for a specific company by name, ticker or other identifier. A search for the General Electric Company will bring up a default graph of GE’s stock price for the past eight quarters. Click on Download Data to bring up the following menu.


Blog GE GFD Menu New


Figure 2.






Here are monthly closing prices for GE in 1893 showing the impact of the 1893 panic on the stock’s price.

Table 3.










GFD has an extensive set of graphing options for its data. Stock data can be presented adjusted for splits or for inflation, and displayed on a linear or log scale.

The graph below shows GE’s unadjusted price by month from 1893 to 1955, displaying its high close of 358 on 9/30/1929 and its low of 9.5 on 6/30/1932.

Figure 3.

Blog graph GE ok

See our guide Stock Prices, Indices & Exchanges for additional details.

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