What do you do when your business has been making money abroad and you want to send it home? You could wire it, you could write a check…but what if that profit is in cold, hard cash? You could deposit it at a bank, but — oh wait — you are the bank, and those greenbacks aren’t doing you any good sitting in a Swiss vault. So, you pack it up, put it on a plane, and ship it back to the U.S. Money’s safe at 30,000 feet, right?
Not as much as the bank thought. Over a million dollars of cash disappeared in flight between Zurich and New York. Maybe Karl Malden was right: when flying, take traveler’s checks instead. D.B. Cooper jumped out of a plane with $20,000 strapped to his chest, but $1,200,000 in C-notes was only 10x as much weight. Because the packs of hundreds were in a case packed inside another case, the theft escaped notice until its arrival. More than likely, the money was stolen before it was loaded on the plane, and there wasn’t any mid-flight adventure flick shenanigans going on.
Despite all the money stored in bits and bytes these days, the Reserve has about $1.19 trillion of currency in circulation. That means the theft consisted of 1/1,000,000th of all currency in circulation — one out of every million dollar bills disappeared from that plane. That might not seem like much, but a million doesn’t buy a whole lot anymore.