For decades J.S. G. Boggs has been creating currency that looks authentic enough to pass for the real thing. Before computers, he used to meticulously hand-draw the currency of whatever country he was in: dollars in the U.S., francs in Switzerland, and pounds in England. The biggest difference between Boggs’ Bills and “real currency” is that Boggs’ currency is one-sided; the back contains his thumbprint and signature.
Boggs doesn’t sell his art. He “spends” it—trading it for services and always paying face value ($10 in services gets you a $10 Boggs note). According to www.artscenecal.com, “So far, he’s spent about $250,000 worth of Boggs’ bills. Now, does that figure refer to the face value of those bills? Or does it refer to how much they’re worth? Even the most elementary statement about Boggs’ artwork launches an inquiry into the nature of money, monetary transactions, value, art, abstraction, representation and reproduction.”
The question continues when you realize that Boggs Bills are frequently “worth” many times their face value. Wikipedia states that, “Art collectors will pay $1000 for a $10 note.”
Boggs believes his transactions are performance art and he never just gave his Boggs Bills to collectors. Instead, he enjoys giving people the choice of accepting art over money; to question what makes money valuable in the first place. So the less they know about him, the better. He does sell the receipts of his transactions to art collectors so they can find the lucky Boggs’ recipients and offer them much more money for the Boggs Bill. It’s not until this happens that the “art” is complete.
Boggs now designs currency on the computer. This currency still is worth more than its face “value,” although not nearly as much as his older hand-drawn work.
In 1986 Boggs was arrested in England for counterfeiting. In 1989 he was arrested in Australia. He was acquitted in both cases on the grounds that he was creating art and not trying to pass his currency off as real. Since 1990 he has had work and personal effects confiscated by the U.S. Secret Service Counterfeiting Division. No legal case has been brought against him in the U.S.
Boggs work is in the collections of the British Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian Institution.