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April 19, 2013

STAWAR: Found money

Last week, my wife Diane found three $100 bills tucked into a book that was donated to LifeSpring’s used book store, where she volunteers. 

It’s not so unusual for her to find things in books. Usually, however, they are items like bookmarks or newspaper clippings. This is the first time she’s found anything of value. 

Last year, she found and returned a Christmas party invitation sent to Jeffersonville attorney Jack Vissing when he was in high school. It must have been in one of those “vintage” books. 

“Accidental” contributions evidently are not that rare. In 2011, an 80-year-old man from Moline, Ill., inadvertently donated a suit to Goodwill that had his entire life savings of $13,000 sewn into the lining of the jacket. The money was never found. 

Illinois is somewhat infamous for its cash hoarding. In 1970, the well-regarded Illinois Secretary of State, Paul Powell, passed away on a trip to Minnesota. A few days later, a friend found a shoebox in Powell’s closet containing $750,000 in cash. Despite a lot of speculation, the source of the cash was never determined. It was mere chance that the shoebox had not been thrown or given away.

Goodwill Stores and The Salvation Army commonly receive many of these donations. In 2005, a Manitowoc, Wisconsin family donated several of their grandmother’s possessions to the local Salvation Army after her death. The family had kept her diary and reading through it several weeks later, they discovered that she had hidden a large amount of cash in some plastic Easter eggs they had donated. She was planning to surprise her family with a special Easter egg hunt. I guess they were surprised, as neither the eggs nor the cash were ever recovered.

AbeBooks.com, a website which shows the prices of used books, surveyed a number of booksellers and they reported finding a variety of strange items tucked away in books, including thousands of dollars in cash, a Christmas card signed by L. Frank Baum, a Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card, a 1879 marriage certificate, a baby’s tooth, a diamond ring, a handwritten poem by a famous Irish poet and even a slice of bacon that had been used as a bookmark. The tooth and a used Q-tip tied for the worse things found in a book. 

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