Posted by Allison on 4 April 2009, 09:57
What do you do when you visit a restaurant and the time comes to pay the bill? If you're like most other people you probably either fish around for enough coins or banknotes to cover the amount plus a tip, or you pay for it using your credit or debit card.
JSG Boggs goes about things slightly differently. He draws his payment.
And I don't mean draws it out of a bank either. He draws it with a fine tipped pen.
JSG Boggs is renowned in the world of money as an artist with an incredible amount of talent, and he obviously has a real fascination with currency that most of us simply don't have. He is quite simply a money artist, and it is his version of money that has supported him for many years and looks set to continue.
But strangely enough he didn't start out drawing banknotes intentionally. Who knows, if a waitress hadn't seen him sketching out a design on a napkin and asked if she could have it in payment for what he had spent (which amounted to less than a dollar) we might never have known who JSG Boggs was. He probably would have had to get a regular job – but instead the world has been treated to artwork the likes of which it has never really seen before. What's more it provides a whole new spin on the world of currency, mainly because it calls into question what is valuable and what isn't.
All of Boggs' bills are simply stunning to look at. They are extremely detailed and while you can instantly tell which type of currency they are imitating – right down to the denomination and the country which it would be issued in – they are clearly not legal tender. For one thing, they are actually only ever one sided, so there is no question that Boggs could be viewed as anything other than an extremely talented artist.
The trouble is that the authorities tend not to agree. Despite the fact that he has never tried to pass his drawings off as actual bills in any country, he has been arrested on at least two occasions and is still trying to get some of his drawings back from the US Government after they were taken from him over a decade ago.
Maybe they have spent the notes without telling him?
So what makes these 'Boggs' notes' (as they are commonly known) so popular and much sought after by collectors who love his work?
One of the main factors is that they are hard to come by. You won't find Boggs selling any of his own banknotes because that isn't his end of the process. He obviously got the idea of how to get his notes out there from that waitress who first asked for his drawing. What he does is ask if he can pay for his bill with one of his drawings instead of real cash. Then it is up to the person who is owed the money whether or not they want to accept it.
In this way Boggs isn't breaking the law – even though the authorities would seemingly love to see him behind bars for what he does. It is totally up to the recipient as to whether they accept it or not, but if they do they will give him change of the bill he gives them.
So for example if he spends $40 in a store and the cashier agrees to accept a drawing of a $100 bill in payment, they will give Boggs $60 in change.
So what does the cashier get? A piece of paper with a value written on it? Well yes, in essence that is exactly what they get, but anyone who knows Boggs' work will know that they have got something far more valuable than that. There are stories of his banknotes changing hands for thousands of dollars, so that simple drawing of a $100 bill could bring great rewards for the recipient.
Boggs will then accept cash from a collector who wants the receipt for his purchase – and it's up to the collector to go on a treasure hunt to find it.
Boggs' drawings have literally paid his way through life, and in this sense he is probably one of the most successful artists around today.
It should be noted here that the banknotes Boggs draws are never exact copies of the notes you will see in real life. Some have included a self portrait where the usual figure on a banknote would be. Others have had different writing on them to the words you would normally see, such as the United States of Florida banknote he drew in 1998.
In short, Boggs has a great and very individual view on world currency, and if one thing is certain it is that his banknotes tend to be rather less prone to losing their value than the real thing. You've heard the saying that someone has a 'licence to print money' and this is probably as close to it as you will get without landing in jail.
He doesn't make counterfeits since his drawings are always different from the real thing; he merely uses the actual note as a starting point. Although the authorities in various countries clearly don't like what he does for a living, it is arguable that he has a better handle on currency and what it means than a lot of the people in government who are trying to keep their own currencies from losing their value.
One thing you need to remember nowadays is that the world operates on fiat currencies – that is, currencies which aren't backed up by anything at all. Banknotes aren't worth the paper they are printed on, and that isn't something you can say for Boggs' artwork. His banknotes have been sold for far more than their face value and continue to rise no matter what the economy or inflation happens to be doing in any particular country at a time.
It's been said that Boggs has actually invented his own form of currency and this is right. As long as other people are willing to accept it for what it is and they know they can sell it for a huge profit on its 'face value', why shouldn't he continue to go through life making money from his talent?
After all he must be one of the few people in the world today who knows he doesn't have to worry about what to do when he reaches pension age. All he has to do is draw a few more bills and so long as there is a market ready and willing to exchange real money for them, he won't have any problems making ends meet.
In reality he has entered the currency market all on his own and has been trading successfully for over twenty years. Who's to say he won't carry on more successfully than any other currency traders?
Maybe the real reason the governments and authorities are annoyed with him is because he is doing a better job of keeping his own currency buoyant than they are with theirs?