Up until recently, the Vessel Documentation papers looked like an 8 1/2 X 11 yellow card stock form with official Coastie seals. Every year, it needed to be renewed, and the renewal was a sticker on the back of the card.
They now send you a new Documentation every year. I keep the complete history, previous owners doc''s included, in my ships papers. I keep all of mine stapled together, in sequence so at a moments notice I can cover pretty much the ownership history of my vessel.
I keep a full set of copies ashore, but the originals are supposed to stay on the boat. If you change ownership and your vessel No. changes, (as mine did when I re-named her) you must change the No. Plaque on the boat also. I heard this is rare, as they like to keep things consistant for their paperwork.