The New York Stock Exchange has played a pre-eminent role in U.S. financial history, serving as the leading stock exchange for 225 years. Yet despite its importance in the financial lives of millions of Americans, the New York Stock Exchange has aspects that most people don't know about. The following five facts should shed some light on the NYSE and why you should care about the stock exchange going forward.

1. The NYSE isn't the oldest stock exchange.

The New York Stock Exchange dates back to 1792, when a couple dozen stockbrokers and merchants gathered outside the building at 68 Wall Street and began to trade. The Bank of New York -- later to become part of Bank of NY Mellon (NYSE:BNY) -- was among the first five securities traded in New York City.

Yet despite its age, the NYSE doesn't have the distinction of being the first U.S. stock exchange. That instead goes to the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, which was founded in 1790. Yet as the center of political and economic power in the newly born U.S. shifted away from the Keystone State, the Philadelphia exchange waned in importance, leaving New York to claim its status until the present day.

NYSE front.

New York Stock Exchange. Image source: Getty Images.

2. You can own a piece of the NYSE -- along with some other exchanges.

For most of its history, the New York Stock Exchange was owned by its members. However, in 2006, the exchange did an initial public offering of its own, becoming a publicly traded company.

Subsequently, a wave of consolidation hit the industry. NYSE merged with the European exchange Euronext to build a transatlantic financial giant, and later, the two combined with the Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE:ICE). Now, Intercontinental includes 11 different exchanges involving nine different asset classes ranging from stocks to futures and derivatives. By owning shares of Intercontinental, you can share in the success of the New York Stock Exchange and other financial giants across the globe.

3. You can trade more than stocks at the NYSE.

You'd think that with a name that includes the word "stock," you'd be restricted to stock trading at the New York Stock Exchange. But NYSE now includes access to many other types of assets, including bonds, exchange-traded funds, options, and other exchange-traded products.

For instance, the NYSE MKT exchange is designed to support small, high-growth companies, while the NYSE ARCA equity exchange is an all-electronic trading platform that is dominated by ETF listings. Two different platforms for options exist at NYSE, and a separate bond market is available to traders.

4. Here's what it costs to list on the NYSE.

If you want to offer shares on the New York Stock Exchange, it'll cost you. An initial application fee of $25,000 applies, and when you actually list shares, a one-time special charge of $50,000 is due. The issuer must also pay a per-share fee of $0.004, subject to a maximum of $295,000.

The costs don't stop there. Annual fees of a minimum of $59,500 apply to a single class of common shares, with extra fees that amount to $1,050 for every 1 million shares listed. A total maximum fee of $500,000 per year caps the cost for companies, but listing fees nevertheless can be considerable for smaller companies on the NYSE.

5. The NYSE is rapidly becoming one of few remaining trading floors with humans.

Electronic trading has spread across the world, and all-electronic exchanges are commonplace. Yet the NYSE has retained a hybrid model that combines both electronic and floor-based trading.

The NYSE uses market makers to help match buyers and sellers in the marketplace in a way that can reduce volatility in prices. Although there are far fewer floor traders than there used to be, 500 to 1,000 have responsibilities on the NYSE trading floor on typical days.

The New York Stock Exchange is an icon of American capitalism, and it still commands respect among financial professionals. Knowing more about the NYSE and how it works will make you a better investor.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.