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People often get confused when they read about the "par value" for a stock. One reason for this is that the term has slightly different meanings depending on whether you are talking about equity or debt.

In general, par value (also known as par, nominal value or face value) refers to the amount at which a security is issued or can be redeemed. For example, a bond with a par value of $1,000 can be redeemed at maturity for $1,000. This is also important for fixed-income securities such as bonds or preferred shares because interest payments are based on a percentage of par. So, an 8% bond with a par value of $1,000 would pay $80 of interest in a year.

It used to be that the par value of common stock was equal to the amount invested (as with fixed-income securities). However, today, most stocks are issued with either a very low par value such as $0.01 per share or no par value at all.

You might be asking yourself why a company would issue shares with no par value. Corporations do this because it helps them avoid a liability to stockholders should the stock price take a turn for the worse. For example, if a stock was trading at $5 per share and the par value on the stock was $10, theoretically, the company would have a $5-per-share liability.

Par value has no relation to the market value of a stock. A no-par-value stock can still trade for tens or hundreds of dollars. It all depends on what the market feels the company is worth. (For more about par values, see Bond Basics Tutorial.)

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