Here are a number of suggestions from various WikiAnswer contributors:
To do this in the most inexpensive manner, you should first check and see if this stock certificate has been cancelled. Normally the stock will have a cancellation or redeemed date and/or company/representative firm/bank cancellation stamp. Often this is also done by chipping the certificate and putting small holes in the paper to spell redeemed or cancelled or some other related word. Then, you should find someone who buys and sells collectible stock certificates and see if they have ever sold these OR ask how much they will sell one to you PRIOR to telling them you have one.
You can also research the company name on the certificate through the New York Stock Exchange information service or the NASDAQ service.
Open a brokerage account and deposit the certificates. The brokers will run the CUSIP and figure out if they belong to a renamed/merged company, whether they have split or conglomerated, and if they're still traded.
You can contact the state that your certificate was incorporated in, each state has a department that handles such things. This site has each state's department contact information listed. See Sources and Related Links, further down this page, for more information about that.
Databases/directories of corporate changes can also be useful in determining the value of your shares. Reasonably priced databases and those available to the public that is. See Sources and Related Links for more information.
Most local business libraries could help you out. The next step is then to contact either the transfer agent (found on the stock certificate) just google the name and you should have a number to call. They will have all information as to what happened to the company, if anything was left for investors etc.. if by any chance the companies transfer agent has also gone by the wind.
You might want to go for professional help. A broker or other financial advisor can help.
Alternatively, you can go with an online research firm to evaluate the position. It might be impossible even if you were to spend countless hours of effort to get near the sum of information provided by professional help, such as pinpoint financial information, stellar histories and values. There are also excellent old stock research services like OldCompany.com and Scripophily.com that can tell you what happened to the company for a small fee. They can also tell you if the certificate has any collectible value. See Scripophily.net for listing of over 18,000 certificates.
Be careful with some old stock research services that are not members of the Better Business Bureau, have little business experience and claim to be experts in collectible stock and bond certificates. Many of these so called experts have little experience in determining whether your old company stock has real value as a collectible or redeemable security. Always check to see what the Better Business Bureau says about them.
See Sources and Related Links for more information.
You could spend a lot of time researching through databases that track corporate changes and put together what the remnants of your 1917 corporation is. Or you could pay a professional firm to do it, try www.oldcompany.com or http://www.stockresearch.pro/. Be careful with some other stock research services that are not members of the Better Business Bureau, have little business experience and claim to be experts in collectible stock and bond certificates. Many of these so called experts have little experience in determining whether your old company stock has real value as a collectible or redeemable security. Always check to see what the Better Business Bureau says about them.
Stock certificates are generally divided into two forms: registered stock certificates and bearer stock certificates. A registered stock certificate is normally only evidence of title, and a record of the true holders of the shares will appear in the stockholder's register of the corporation. A bearer stock certificate, as its name implies is a bearer instrument, and physical possession of the certificate entitles the holder to exercise all legal rights associated with the stock.
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