By Tom Hals
WILMINGTON, Del (Reuters) - A 1917 stock certificate picked up at an estate sale that the owners had claimed was worth $130 million in shares of The Coca-Cola Co may actually be worth a lot less.
The family of Tony Marohn, who bought the Palmer Union Oil Co stock certificate in 2008 for a few dollars, had said they were owed 1.8 million shares of Coca-Cola. But on Wednesday, one of their lawyers, David Margules, told a Delaware judge that due to previously unnoticed reverse stock splits, the stock was worth $12,000 to $15,000, a court transcript showed.
He said the new figure "puts the nail in the coffin" of their dispute with Coke.
Coca-Cola's attorney Jeffrey Cashden offered the judge the company's estimate of the Palmer Union Oil certificate. "Our position is it's worth in the range of zero," he said at Wednesday's hearing.
"In this case it wasn't worth anything more than a good story for the family," said Bob Kerstein, who runs the scripophily.com website that researches old stock certificates.
Marohn had put his name on the blank transferee line of the certificate to make it his, and through research found a link between Palmer Union Oil and Coca-Cola.
After demanding that Coca-Cola make good on the certificate, the company sued Marohn in Delaware, where it is incorporated. Marohn died in 2010, but his family took up the fight.
Kerstein said that paper securities sometimes have value, though it might be as a collectible or even a potential tax break for a loss of investment.
(Reporting By Tom Hals)