J. S. G. Boggs

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J. S. G. Boggs
JSG Boggs.jpg
In his studio with a painting of a $100 bill[1]
Stephen Litzner

(1955-01-16)January 16, 1955
Died (aged 62)

James Stephen George Boggs (January 16, 1955 – January 22, 2017) was an American artist, best known for his hand-drawn depictions of banknotes.


Boggs was born Stephen Litzner on January 16, 1955 in Woodbury, New Jersey.[2][3] He attended Brandon High School in Brandon, Florida, but was expelled in his junior year.[3]

Art career[edit]

Boggs began drawing currency in 1984, when a Chicago waitress accepted a drawing of a one-dollar bill in payment for his restaurant tab.[3][4]

His drawings of currency, depicting only a single side of the note,[5] came to be known as "Boggs notes".[6] Boggs notes were both art objects and part of a performance.[7] Boggs would exchange the notes only for their face value: when he drew a $100 bill, he exchanged it for $100 worth of goods. He then sold any change he received, the receipt, and sometimes the goods he purchased as his "artwork", typically to art dealers and collectors.[8] Boggs would tell a collector where he spent the note and the details of the transaction, but he did not sell the notes into the art market directly.[9] The buyer would then track down the person in possession of the note in order to purchase it.[8] Boggs noted that after the initial transaction the notes would be resold for much more than their face value,[10] with one Boggs note reportedly being resold for $420,000.[8][11]

One of his better-known works is a series of bills done for the Florida United Numismatists' annual convention.[12] Denominations from $1 to $50 (and perhaps higher) feature designs taken from the reverse sides of contemporary U.S. currency, modified slightly through the changing of captions (notably, "The United States of America" is changed to "Florida United Numismatists" and the denomination wording is occasionally replaced by the acronym "FUN") and visual details (the mirroring of Monticello on the $2, the Supreme Court building, as opposed to the U.S. Treasury, on the $10 and an alternate angle for the White House on the $20). They were printed in bright orange on one side and featured Boggs's autograph and thumbprint on the other.[13]

Other works of money art that he designed include the mural All the World's a Stage, roughly based on a Bank of England Series D £20 note and featuring Shakespearean themes, as well as banknote-sized creations that depict Boggs's ideas as to what U.S. currency should look like.[14] A $100 bill featuring Harriet Tubman is one known example.[15]

Boggs and his work are chronicled in Boggs: A Comedy of Values, by Lawrence Weschler, published by the University of Chicago Press.[16]

Legality and arrests[edit]

Police bust Boggs at the Young Unknowns Gallery, London, 1986

Boggs viewed his "transactions" as a type of performance art, but the authorities often viewed them with suspicion. Boggs aimed to have his audience question and investigate just what it is that makes "money" valuable in the first place. He steadfastly denied being a counterfeiter or forger, rather maintaining that a good-faith transaction between informed parties is certainly not fraud, even if the item transacted happens to resemble negotiable currency.

Boggs was first arrested for counterfeiting in England in 1986,[17] and was successfully defended by the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC & Mark Stephens and acquitted.[3][18] As detailed in Geoffrey Robertson's book The Justice Game, all Bank of England notes now carry a copyright message on the face as a direct result of Boggs' activities, the idea being that if they cannot secure a counterfeiting charge, then they can at least secure a copyright violation.[19]

He was arrested for a second time in Australia in 1989, acquitted and awarded the equivalent of US$20,000 in damages by the presiding judge.[3][20]

Boggs' home was raided three times between 1990 and 1992 by the United States Secret Service on suspicion of counterfeiting.[21] In the raids 1300 items were confiscated, although no legal case was brought against him.[4][22]

In September 2006, Boggs was arrested in Florida and charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and carrying a concealed weapon. He failed to appear in court a few months later.[23]


Boggs died on January 22, 2017 in Tampa at the age of 62.[1][24]

Museum collections[edit]

Boggs's works are held in numerous collections, including:

See also[edit]

Other money artists include


  1. ^ a b Brian O'Neill (2017-01-28). "Obituary: J.S.G. Boggs / Artist who drew money and government attention". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2017-02-02.
  2. ^ Boucher, Brian (2017-01-24). "J.S.G. Boggs, Who Negotiated Purchases With Drawings of Money, Has Died at 62". artnet. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  3. ^ a b c d e Grimes, William (2017-01-27). "J.S.G. Boggs, Artist, Dies at 62; He Made Money. Literally". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-01-30.
  4. ^ a b c Roberts, Roxanne (1991-11-17). "The Fine Art of Making Money". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  5. ^ The Numismatist. American Numismatic Association. 1992.
  6. ^ Sheehan, Liz. "What's it worth? Artist and community currencies". Art21.org. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  7. ^ Christopher Hutton (19 January 2009). Language, Meaning and the Law. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 105–. ISBN 978-0-7486-3352-4.
  8. ^ a b c Lester, Toby (July 1999). "The Money Artist". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  9. ^ Saper, Craig J. (2001). Networked Art. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-3707-5. Illustrations.
  10. ^ Hoffman, Karen S.; Dalin, Shera (2010). The Art of Barter: How to Trade for Almost Anything. Skyhorse Publishing Inc. pp. 94–. ISBN 978-1-60239-953-2.
  11. ^ Holt, Jim (1999-06-21). "What Is Art? What Is Money? Amusing Answers Below". Observer.com. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  12. ^ National Geographic. National Geographic Society. 2006.
  13. ^ "J.S.G. Boggs Florida United Numismatists Two Examples with Supplemental Information". Heritage Auctions. Retrieved 2017-01-30.
  14. ^ Tampa Bay Magazine. Tampa Bay Publications, Inc. May–June 2004. pp. 81–. ISSN 1070-3845.
  15. ^ Art and AsiaPacific Quarterly Journal. Fine Arts Press. 2009.
  16. ^ Weschler, Lawrence (2000). Boggs: A Comedy of Values. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-89396-9.
  17. ^ Berdik, Chris (2012). Mind Over Mind: The Surprising Power of Expectations. Penguin Publishing Group. pp. 77–. ISBN 978-1-101-59527-5.
  18. ^ Hostettler, John (2013). Twenty Famous Lawyers. Waterside Press. pp. 108–. ISBN 978-1-904380-98-6.
  19. ^ Robertson, Geoffrey (2011). The Justice Game. Random House. ISBN 978-1-4464-4450-4.
  20. ^ Sculpture. International Sculpture Center. 1991.
  21. ^ Woo, Steven S. "Even As Art, Boggs' Bills Have No Currency With The Secret Service". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  22. ^ Arena: Money Man - On the Road with J.S.G. Boggs (BBC, January 15, 1993 - Money Man at IMDb)
  23. ^ Herboth, Eric (2007-03-28). "Mad Money". LAS Magazine.
  24. ^ Richard Danielson (2017-01-24). "Artist J.S.G. Boggs, known worldwide for his drawings of money, dies in Tampa at 62". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2017-01-25.
  25. ^ www.artic.edu
  26. ^ "Search Collections: J. S. G. Boggs". Smithsonian. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  27. ^ "World Famous "Money Artist" Debuts Newest Digital Art at Wellesley, Mass. Business School". Babson College. Retrieved 2017-01-31.

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