You will need:
-decent knowledge of securities
-name of the corporation and transfer agent (both found on stock certificate)
-access to corporate changes directories (check your local library)
Step 1: Head down to the library
Resources you're looking for:
-Directory of Obsolete Securities
-Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities
-"Survey of Predecessor and Defunct Companies" The Financial Post
-Capital Changes Reporter - Published by Commerce Clearing House
Any one of these books will be sufficient. In most cases these books are held in the reference section.
To find the value of our certificates, simply follow the corporation name found on your stock certificate through these directories.
Let's make our example Eagle Lock Co., 100 shares.
Eagle Lock Co. is found on page 594 of the Directory of Obsolete Securites. The book states :
"Acquired by Bowser(S.F) & Co., Inc. which name changed to Bowser, Inc. (IN) in 1943.
Each Share Capital Stock exchanged for $25 principal amount of Debentures due 7/1/63 and
0.5 share Common $1 par.
Bowser Inc. (IN) reincorporated in Delaware as Bowser Delaware 11/17/69"
Any reference to "Capital Stock" essentially means shares held in the company. So for this case, the origina 100 shares/Capital Stock were exchanged for $25 of Debentures(Bond type instrument) and 0.5 shares in the newly formed corporation. Now let's follow the newly formed entity:
Bowser Delaware Corp. is found on page 249 of the Directory of Obsolete Securities. The book states:
"Completely liquidated 7/2/70
Each Share Common $1 par and Class B Common 1$ par exchanged for first and final distribution of $18.60 cash"
The $1 par that is referenced does not mean anything in terms of this research. It used to have meaning in primitive capital structures although it is no longer relevant. It remains in a legacy law.
If your shares were lost during the time of the distribution there may be chance the distribution amount is still waiting. To look into this you will have to contact the company's transfer agent. Our next step will look into how to do so.
All of this work can be easily, quickly and throughly accomplished for you if you do not wish to undertake the effort. Stock Cert Expert's old stock certificates research package will identify the current status and value for $24.95. The above work could take 3-5 hours to accomplish - if you are unwilling to start your own personal scavenger hunt I would go with Old Stock Certificate Research here.
Step 2: State Business Entity Search
The site below offers links to all business entity searches in all states.
If the company you are researching is incorporated in Canada the site below offers links to all Provincial Resources
Most states have online search options although a few still deal only over the phone. This changes state to state although the state used in our example, Delaware, does have an online business search that will allow for us to retrieve all records. Delaware Business Entity Search (https://delecorp.delaware.gov/tin/GINameSearch.jsp ) We enter the name of the business we are researching and our sent to a page that contains the following:
THIS IS NOT A STATEMENT OF GOOD STANDING
File Number: 0725810 Incorporation Date / Formation Date: 08/28/1969
Entity Name: BOWSER DELAWARE CORPORATION
Entity Kind: CORPORATION Entity Type: GENERAL
Residency: DOMESTIC State: DE
REGISTERED AGENT INFORMATION
Name: INACTIVE AGENT ACCOUNT
Address: SECRETARY OF STATE TOWNSEND BLDG
City: DOVER County: KENT
State: DE Postal Code: 199011234
We see here as is often the case the transfer agent for the company is also no longer in business. The contact information that will help us through to the next step will always be found here. The contact information above is for the secretary of state for Delaware. Record the phone number and move onto the next step.
Step 3: Contact the Company's Transfer Agent
In this step you will be able to determine if there is any money left for you. The transfer agent will be able to confirm with you all of the corporate changes the stock ownership you have has undergone and the result for you. If there is any money awaiting you they will notify you. In some cases stocks split and are acquired and so your initial ownership could at present be of a different number of shares in a different company is a case like that the transfer agent can send you a correct certificate.
This step can be the most time consuming and confusing, if you are looking to save time. Stock Cert Expert's old stock certificates research package will identify the current status and value for $24.95. The above conversations can span many weeks with representatives at the respective companies and transfer agents. Professionals can speed up the time you are waiting to receive your money - for professional I would go with Old Stock Certificate Research here.
Step 4: Professional Help
In all best of luck in establishing you share's current monetary value and corporate status!