Skip to main content

Money artist Boggs dies in Florida

Money artist J.S.G Boggs died Jan. 22 in Tampa, Fla., at the age of 62.

If you don’t remember him, that is not surprising.

He has been off the radar screen of numismatists for almost 20 years.

He drew copies of bank notes as original works of art.

He would then “spend” them and get change.

It was art as well as performance art.

It got him into trouble with the law in Great Britain.

He was tried for counterfeiting in 1986 but was acquitted.

The U.S. Secret Service raided his apartment in 1992. He was artist in residence at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh at the time.

I first met Boggs at the 1994 American Numismatic Association convention in Detroit.

He was a character. But to me he seemed to be a character who would appeal to the numismatic hobby.

He did.

I commissioned him to do a special Boggs bill, as his notes were called.

It was used as a Bank Note Reporter subscription premium in connection with the 40th anniversary of the Florida United Numismatists in January 1985.

I was editor of Bank Note Reporter at the time as well as Numismatic News.

Those who paid $40 to cover a one-year-subscription to Bank Note Reporter for $29 and $10 to buy a Boggs “FUN 40 print” received a Boggs $1 bill in “change.”

We had 500 of an edition of 900 Boggs Funbacks created for the FUN show.

Each piece was serially numbered. Ours were 101-500.

Naturally, the Boggs bill was based on real money, the back of a $1 bill.

It was orange. What other color would you use for the FUN show?

We had a buyer stampede on our hands.

The 500 pieces went like hotcakes.

Some went to new subscribers. Some went to renewals.

Since Bank Note Reporter’s circulation at the time was less than 5,000, you can see how this impacted our sales.

Of the remaining notes, 300 Boggs planned to frame and sell in Europe for $250 each.

Did he do that? I don’t know.

Of the first 100 notes, 40 were given to FUN dignitaries on the condition they “spend” them.

The other 60 went to the FUN organization to use as it pleased.

Dealer Craig Whitford advertised to buy any of the serial number 1-40 notes for $40 each.

Collectors chased the notes on the secondary market.

It was a great success.

But like all successes, the novelty value eventually wore off.

Boggs stopped traveling in collector circles.

Will his passing lead to a revival in interest in his Boggs bills?

I hope so.

His reputation deserves it.

Here is a link to an obituary and another.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

• Like this blog? Read more by subscribing to Numismatic News