Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg is seeking to locate the owners of U.S. savings bonds lost and forgotten in safe deposit boxes turned over to the State Treasurer’s Office as unclaimed property.
The Treasurer’s Office is holding savings bonds, issued between 1938 and 1998, with a total face value of more than $29,500, based on the most recent inventory. The face value of the individual bonds being held by the Nebraska Treasurer’s Office ranges from $25 to $500.
“We have added more than 150 names of bond owners to our database of unclaimed property owners and are hoping to locate as many of these bond holders as possible,” Treasurer Stenberg said. “Just recently we came in possession of a $25 bond issued in 1957 and tucked in its original brown government envelope,” the Treasurer said.
“Given the age of the bonds, we understand how they easily could have been put away for safekeeping by a parent or grandparent and then forgotten. In many cases the bonds may have been purchased for children who are now grown and may have no record or recollection of the childhood gifts. Considering that savings bonds take many years to mature, we understand how families could easily have forgotten about them or lost track of them,” Treasurer Stenberg said.
State law requires banks to turn over safe deposit boxes after five years of inactivity and after repeated attempts to reach owners have failed. The safe deposit boxes are held by the Treasurer’s Office for at least another five years before the contents are auctioned and the proceeds from the auction held in perpetuity for the owners.
The contents of a safe deposit box routinely are listed in the Unclaimed Property database under the name of the safe deposit box owner, who in many cases may have purchased the savings bonds for others and who may have since died. Those factors complicate the task of uniting savings bonds with owners, Stenberg said. Unclaimed Property specialists have now entered the names of the recipients, along with the names of the owners, to the database in hopes of attracting more interest from the public and reuniting the bonds with intended owners.
Stenberg cautioned that the Treasurer’s Office does not know if the bonds have been reissued and redeemed or, in other words, already cashed in by owners. Once owners are reunited with their bonds through the Treasurer’s Office, they can determine the next steps by contacting the U.S. Treasury website at www.treasuryhunt.gov.
The U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of Fiscal Service has records of more than 48 million matured, unredeemed savings bonds worth $16.4 billion. The U.S. Treasury adds another 500,000 bonds to the database each month as the bonds mature. A spokesperson said the federal government fears much of that will never be claimed as bonds have been lost to family moves, deaths, fires, floods, and other natural disasters – or long forgotten in desks that are sold at auction.
At the U.S. Treasury website, www.treasurydirect.gov , visitors can
The U.S. Treasury emphasized that bond holders must provide documentation that they are the rightful owners in order for the bonds to be redeemed.
Some of the savings bonds being held by the Nebraska Treasurer’s Office were issued to help finance World War II and to commemorate the 1976 bicentennial. Some are tucked into envelopes with personal greetings.
Stored with one bond is a two-page handwritten letter from parents to their adult son on the birth of a grandchild. “What a thrill it is over your first born. Pride and concern, too, that here is a responsibility – a big one,” reads the letter signed Mom and Dad. “We pray that we have given you enough background and courage and stamina to fight the world with its ups and downs.”
Another bond comes with a baptism certificate, birth certificate, linen handkerchief, and baby name cards from Bishop Clarkson Hospital in Omaha.
And a handwritten note with another $50 bond, dated 1949, says the bond was a birthday gift from a grandfather. “The others were cashed to help pay part of his college tuition,” the note says. Other notes offer affectionate greetings: “Merry Xmas and love to a new little #1 grandson!” and “Merry Xmas with love to an absolutely darling granddaughter!”
The following note was written on an envelope containing a $50 bond from 1973: “Grandma bought this bond for you when you were born. She asked that I kept [sic] it until I felt you capable of keeping it safe and using for your education if necessary. Please keep it for yourself, son, and use it to the best of your ability. Grandma would be very proud of you. She loved you very much as you were her only grandson.”
Stenberg said the envelopes tell stories, too. Envelopes are imprinted with a big red bow, an eagle with outstretched wings, or the American flag. Envelopes boast patriotic slogans like “A gift for you…A Share in America,” or “A gift for you…A Share in Freedom,” or “Keep Freedom in Your Future with US Savings Bonds.” Some envelopes recommend “Keep in a Safe Place.”