How to get your hands on D.B. Cooper (or at least some of his cash!)

When we look back on all the wonderful things from the 1970's, it's often easy to forget the downsides. For example, checking in at an airport in those halcyon days was a quick process, without metal detectors, baggage scanners, nitrate tests, strip searches, or any of the other wonderful security procedures that have become de rigeur in our day and age.

It's hard to imagine now, but, before the days of George Habash, Entebbe, and Lockerbie, and long before September 11, 2001, it was still possible for a hijacker to be a folk hero. In fact, only two weeks after Dan Cooper jumped out of a Boeing 727 with four parachutes and $200,000 in unmarked bills, Judy Sword released a ballad titled "D.B. Cooper, Where Are You?" In the ensuing decade, the tale became more well-known; by the time I was old enough to hear it, there were a slew of books about Cooper, as well as a movie, The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper. It starred Treat Williams and was in constant rotation on cable.

I imagine that part of the reason for Dan Cooper's considerable popularity lay in the fact that he seemed so decent. In fact, when he handed a hijacking note to the stewardess sitting across from him, she assumed that it was his phone number and put it in her pocket for safekeeping. Later, after the whole ordeal was over, members of the flight crew commented that he was very nice and considerate, minding his business as he sipped bourbon and waited for the plane to land at Seattle-Tacoma airport. Later, he made sure that the airport supplied decent meals to the flight crew.

Of course, part of the legend of D. B. Cooper may lie in the fact that he was never captured and his body was never found. Most experts agree that he probably froze to death or died on impact, but the inability of the authorities to produce a corpse renders that argument a little thin. Recently, there was some excitement, as children unearthed a parachute that authorities briefly believed might have been used by Cooper. However, upon further analysis, it was discovered that the parachute was probably dropped in the late 1940's.

In fact, the only post-hijacking artifact that has ever been connected to Cooper is a small cache of $20 bills. Discovered by 8-year-old Brian Ingram during a family camping trip to the Columbia River in 1980, the money was determined to be part of the ransom that Cooper collected during his famous hijacking. Apart from a few bills that Ingram had to surrender to the FBI and the insurance company that was investigating Cooper, he was able to keep the whole pile. Now 36, and concerned about paying for his children's college educations, Ingram has decided to sell some of his Cooper cache. He will be auctioning 15 of the bills through Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas, Texas. The auction will run on June 13-14, and the bills are expected to fetch somewhere between several hundred and several thousand dollars each, depending on size and condition. Seems like a reasonable price to own a part of an American legend.

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's never hijacked a plane; in fact, he got a little sweaty and nervous when he discovered that he'd inadvertently brought a bottle of scotch through customs without declaring it.

Read Full Story