Retired trucker gets rare $1,000 bill back

| 1/27/2004

A retired trucker whose prize possession – a rare $1,000 bill – was taken by police and given to a local politician finally has the rare bill back.

Curtis Smith, 71, brought $1,000 in cash to City Hall in Pine Lawn, MO, a suburb on the north side of St. Louis, Jan. 23. City officials accepted the money in exchange for the bill, The Associated Press reported.

Smith had held onto a rare $1,000 bill, a treasured keepsake that he had carried in his pocket ever since he acquired it through a friend 20 years ago. He lost the bill in April, when a police officer confiscated it during a traffic stop in Pine Lawn, MO, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Smith was in his truck on land he owned, sleeping off a few drinks, the newspaper reported. Police picked him up and brought him to the city’s police station, where the city’s mayor watched as officers counted out the money he had on him. The mayor, Adrian Wright, decided he “fancied” the bill, the newspaper said, and decided to keep it, replacing the $1,000 bill with 10 $100 bills.

The bill was placed in an account for confiscated drug money. When county prosecutors refused to charge Smith with selling drugs, they ordered the money returned.

When Smith went to the city seeking the return of his keepsake, he was instead given a check for the amount, as well as for other cash that was found on him. City officials told the newspaper that if he wanted the bill, he could claim it once he reimbursed the city for the face value.

Smith told The Post-Dispatch he repeatedly asked the police, over the phone and in person, to return the bill – to no avail.

The bill is worth far more than its face value; experts told the newspaper it could bring as much as $3,500 from a collector. It has been out of print since 1934.

After securing his prized bill Friday, Smith took it to a local bar to show friends. He told a reporter from The Post-Dispatch that he intends to put the bill into a safety deposit box to keep it safe from theft.