A boy who found the lone piece of evidence linked to the world's only unsolved skyjacking is now a 30-something father of five who has decided to start selling his treasure.
Brian Ingram was an 8-year-old on a family camping trip when he discovered three bundles of deteriorating $20 bills on the shore of the Columbia River near Portland, Ore., in 1980. The money turned out to be some of the $200,000 ransom D.B. Cooper was carrying when he parachuted from a plane after a 1971 hijacking.
Now Ingram's taking some of his find to auction, offering 15 bills through Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries. The live and online auction was announced Monday and scheduled for June 13-14.
"My wife and I have discussed it over a few years, and we just decided we wanted to share it with people," said Ingram, 36, of Mena, Ark.
The auction announcement comes after the recent discovery of a tattered, half-buried parachute in the area where Cooper was believed to have landed. The FBI is investigating whether it was one given to Cooper.
In November 1971, a man identifying himself as Dan Cooper, later mistakenly called D.B. Cooper, hijacked a Northwest Orient flight from Portland to Seattle, claiming he had a bomb.
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, he released the passengers in exchange for $200,000 and four parachutes and asked to be flown to Mexico. He jumped from the plane somewhere near the Oregon state line.
There was no trace of Cooper until Ingram came upon the $5,880 while brushing his hand over the sand, trying to clear a spot for a campfire. The FBI matched the serial numbers and kept 13 bills in case it ever prosecutes the Cooper case. The Ingrams also had to give some bills to an insurance company that paid the ransom.
Once he sells the first 15, Ingram said he isn't sure how he'll proceed with the rest, other than knowing he'll keep a few. He said he isn't sure exactly how many he has because of their fragile condition.
While he prefers to stress the historic and sentimental value of the bills, he recognizes they could be tickets to college for his children ranging in age from 7 to 14.
"Of course, we hope they can get scholarships," he said, laughing.
Heritage CEO Steve Ivy isn't sure how much the bills will bring. His best guess was somewhere in the hundreds for smaller pieces and somewhere in the thousands for the bigger bills that are more intact.
Ingram and Ivy said announcing the auction after the discovery of the parachute was coincidental, but Ivy said it can only help.
"The more people that are aware and the more mystique that's created, the higher likelihood that it will reach yet another potential buyer," Ivy said. "From our standpoint, that's a good thing."
The Cooper bills were authenticated by PCGS Currency, a division of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Collectors Universe Inc. Heritage recently had to refund thousands of dollars after auctioning off bogus Hollywood memorabilia. The auction house is suing the company that provided it with the phony items.