Artist or counterfeiter?: Considering the controversial J.S.G. Boggs

Drawn money tackles questions of value and worth
By , Coin World
Published : 08/19/16
Text Size

He related the image to her intervention in a slave beating as a young girl, and Boggs commented, “Heroes are always depicted as mature, stately persons. Can a young black girl, or any child, identify with that?” Boggs further suggested different bills for use overseas, where the majority of fake U.S. notes circulate. 

On April 20, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that future $5, $10 and $20 notes would feature women in their designs and that the new face on the $20 bill would be Harriet Tubman. The designs of the new Tubman bills are expected to be revealed in 2020 to coincide with the centennial of the Constitution’s 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. 

Collecting Boggs

Much of Boggs’s work remains with its original owners and few original Boggs pieces are traded at auction. Among collectors, his notes have traded in excess of $25,000, with perhaps the most valuable being the Tubman notes. 

As Homren explains, “It’s the most important one in the series because of the Worth magazine article, which he won an award for (but didn’t want, because it was a commercial art award, not a fine art award). With the Treasury choosing Tubman for the new FRN, this could become his signature work.” Homren added, “Boggs got no mention when the Treasury announced the new Tubman design. Boggs was there 20 years ago, and deserves some credit.”

In a Nov. 30, 2015, auction by Numismatic Auctions LLC in Okemos, Mich., a 1991 piece titled October Rent ($500) sold for $16,100, exceeding the estimate of $7,500 to $15,000. 

The framed piece included various components of a rent transaction: a $500 “Boggs bill” with a portrait of William McKinley, named Willie on the note and consistent with the artist’s practice of changing certain details or wording. Also included is the change from the rent payment — a genuine contemporary $50 Federal Reserve note — along with the original receipt signed by the landlord who accepted the bill as Boggs lived in a space called the Brew House in 1991, a brass numeral “5” of the type found on an apartment door, the store package for the numeral, a bottle cap, Lipton tea wrapper, a real estate business card, and a portion of the October calendar for that year. 

In the catalog, auctioneer Steven Davis wrote, “This is a wonderful and early ‘Complete Transaction’ performed by the artist,” adding, “Complete Boggs transactions are difficult to come by, let alone one featuring a $500 Boggs bill.”

Serving as an entry point for collectors are the editioned notes that Boggs created in conjunction with the Florida United Numismatist and American Numismatic Association conventions in the mid-1990s. 

At the 2015 FUN show, Heritage offered as a single lot a uniface $5 note from 1996 printed in FUN’s signature orange color, numbered 69 of 1,000, and a $20 black uniface note from 1998 for $258.50. The $5 note has the U.S. Supreme Court on the back instead of the Lincoln memorial. 

In typical Boggs fashion, the total “face value” of the 1996 production was $5,000: 200 went to FUN to pay for the artist’s bourse space, 500 went to pay for ad space in Bank Note Reporter (who used the pieces as subscription premiums) and the remaining 300 were sold by Boggs to collectors individually. 

You are signed in as:null
No comments yet