Remnants of notes that were part of the $200,000 ransom paid in 1971
to skyjacker D.B. Cooper and later found by an 8-year-old boy were on
exhibit in January.
Ethan Thomaston from Southern Coin & Collectibles in Hoover,
Alabama, displayed dozens of the notes in a noncompetitive exhibit
Jan. 4 to 7 during the Florida United Numismatists convention in
Tampa. Thomaston has been buying the notes over the past several years
from Brian Ingram, now in his 40s, who as a boy discovered three
bundles of the decomposing currency in 1980 along the Columbia River
while on vacation camping with his family near Vancouver, Washington.
The Series 1969 $20 Federal Reserve note fragments are sealed inside
PCGS Currency holders and comprise portions of notes, separated or
together, having parts of President Andrew Jackson’s portrait, serial
numbers, Treasury seal, and Federal Reserve Bank seals visible on the
face with the corresponding back design featuring portions of the
vignette of the White House. Note fragments with visible serial
numbers are traced to the FBI’s original listing for the random notes.
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The first examples of the ransom notes to enter the general
numismatic market were sold at auction by Heritage Auctions. Some
examples sold by Heritage in 2011 and 2014 topped the $4,000 level.
Thomaston said that the notes he has purchased are going to be
auctioned, though no details are available yet.
The hijacker’s true identity remains unknown. His plane ticket was
purchased under the name Dan Cooper, but he has become better known as
Claiming he had a bomb, Cooper hijacked Northwest Airlines Flight
305 between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle on Nov. 24, 1971. The flight
landed in Seattle for refueling and payment of the ransom and took off
again. During the flight somewhere between Seattle and Reno, Nevada,
Cooper bailed out of the aircraft with the ransom and was never heard
The bundles of notes turned in to the FBI by the Ingram family in
1980 were returned to them in 1986, minus 14 notes that were retained
by the FBI for evidence.
During handling of the notes by PCGS Currency, 35 additional serial
numbers were identified that the FBI had not recorded.
Thomaston’s five-year purchasing history acquiring many of the notes
began when a ransom note he purchased from another dealer and put on
his website triggered a phone call from Ingram’s father asking if he
wanted to buy additional notes.