Fifteen $20 Federal Reserve Notes from the infamous 1971 "D. B. Cooper" skyjacking were sold for more than $37,000 at Heritage Auction Galleries‘ Americana Memorabilia Grand Format Auction June 13, 2008. The notes were owned by Brian Ingram, 36, of Mena, Arkansas who was eight years old in 1980 when he found the only ransom money ever discovered from the still-unsolved skyjacking.
Cooper hijacked a Northwest Orient Airlines 727 flight from Portland to Seattle in 1971. During the flight to Seattle, Cooper said he had a bomb and demanded $200,000 and parachutes. When the plane landed, he released the passengers in exchange for the money and ordered the pilot to Mexico. While in flight, he jumped from the rear stairway, and was never heard from or seen again.
The 727 Cooper jumped from was flying at a speed of nearly 200 mph. His odds of surviving were low considering the complexity of the jump and the fact that it happened at night and during stormy weather with a wind chill well below zero.
In a statement announcing the auction of notes, Ingram commented on how the money was nearly destroyed,
"We were going to make a fire along the river bank." Ingram recalled. "I was on my hands and knees smoothing out the sand with my arm, and I uncovered three bundles of money just below the surface. My uncle thought we should throw it in the fire."
Ingram found approximately $5,800 of the $200,000 ransom given to the skyjacker, and the FBI later returned a small portion to his family.
In February of 2008, PCGS Currency discovered nearly three dozen serial numbers that apparently had not been previously recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Two of the highest winning bids Friday at the Heritage auction were for over $6,500. A third tattered note went for nearly $6,000. Testifying to the intense interest of these notes, an extremely small fragment sold for $358.50.
“There’s obviously still tremendous interest in the legendary case,” Heritage President Greg Rohan said in a statement.
“I was 10 years old when it happened and I remember it like it was yesterday, sitting at the family Thanksgiving table in West Seattle hearing the news.
I’ve always wondered if Cooper lived the high life for a while or became bear food,” Rohan said.
After today’s auction, Ingram still owns several dozen D.B. Cooper bills and fragments that were authenticated by PCGS Currency, a division of Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ: CLCT), and encapsulated in specially-labeled protective, archival storage holders.