Bookstore patron finds cash in hollowed-out autobiography
Chris Rossi/The Gazette
No doubt Sid Caesar would have laughed at this mishap.
When Chevy Chase resident Paul Schnitman realized he had given away a book — a hollowed-out autobiography of the popular comedian — in which his late brother had hid more than $1,000, he thought for sure it would never turn up again.
"It was a relief and it's nice to know there's a Good Samaritan out there," he said. "I thank that person for being honest and turning the money in because they could have very easily kept it."
Schnitman said his younger brother, Jeffrey Schnitman, had kept a "rainy day fund" of cash and credit cards in the book. He would not disclose the full amount of money.
When his brother died 17 years ago at the age of 36 from Crohn's disease, Schnitman kept the faux book along with its contents on his own bookshelf.
But in the months following his move from Gaithersburg to Chevy Chase last July, Schnitman accidentally donated the hollowed-out book and several others to the Montgomery County Friends of the Library's used bookstore on Boiling Brook Parkway.
"So I realized probably six weeks later that the book was missing and I went to the bookstore and magically someone had found it and turned it in," the 56-year-old said.
Ari Z. Brooks, executive director of the Friends of the Library, said the two clerks at the store were "stunned" when a customer walked up to the counter in mid-November and said, "I don't think you want this book on the shelf."
The customer opened the book to reveal a wad of cash bound together by a money clip and two credit cards that had expired in 1991, she said.
The two clerks, who Brooks said did not wish to comment or be named, tried to track down the owner of the credit cards, but to no avail. They turned the items over to Jim Ludlum, business manager for the Friends of the Library, who put the money in a separate banking account for safekeeping.
To make sure he was the rightful owner of the book, Schnitman said he was asked to write a letter of explanation and provide a copy of his brother's death certificate.
Schnitman said he plans to give the Friends of the Library a donation for its efforts and honesty. He would not say how much money he would donate.
Ludlum said the organization's two bookstores, including a location at the Wheaton Library, receive approximately one million book donations a year. The proceeds from sales go toward library programs and community projects.
"Once or twice a year we find money in a book, but usually not this large of an amount," he said. Schnitman said the money and the credit cards are back on his bookshelf in a hollowed-out copy of "Winter's Heart" by Robert Jordan, which a friend gave him.
"I definitely won't forget about it this time," he said, chuckling.