Paper Money

Notes from D.B. Cooper hijack ransom in display

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 D.B. Cooper.

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 from again.

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. 

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