Pound of Fakes

The news last week reported that three members of a money counterfeiting ring had been charged, and that the largest ever haul of fake pound coins had been seized. Even the BBC won’t let the facts get in the way of a good headline, as the £4m of fakes was actually four million blanks, and a hundred thousand finished coins. When the police or customs gleefully report a quantity of drugs being taken away from smugglers or suppliers, they calculate the value based on the entire bounty being sold in street deals – which is very unlikely to be the actual value of the commodity, and far more than the perpetrators would have paid or received for it. Counterfeit money is really worth around 20% of the face value, as this is what the producers can sell it for.

You could say that making money in this way is a victimless crime… How many people have fakes in their pockets right now? And what proportion of those will encounter difficulties carrying out their transactions? You can easily swap your fake pound coin for goods and services with an over the counter purchase. So if that pound coin looks (quite like) a pound coin, and can be used to buy a pounds worth of something, who is to say it is not a pound? I have had more difficulty with trying to use real Northern Irish and Scottish banknotes in a pub than with handing over decidedly suspect coinage, which was almost certainly given to me in change during my last to the bar! The only time that problems arise is when using machines that test the weight, and the inability to pay for a parking space or use of a toll bridge can have expensive consequences, in respect of time if not financially. Perhaps you should carry a supply of Swaziland Lilangeni just in case, as these are apparently the correct size and weight to act as pound coin substitutes, but are only worth around 7.5p at today’s exchange rate.

Warning – The fact remains that you are a committing a criminal act when you spend any bogus bucks, and you are taking a risk every time you carry out transactions unless you rigorously check your change for naughty nuggets (apologies for the awful alliteration). You are excused if the act was unwitting and no-one has yet been prosecuted for the unintended use of forgeries.

The quantity of Four Million!!! coins sounds incredible, and it is hard to even imagine this number is physical terms, but it is less than a tenth of the total currently believed to be in circulation. This proportion has reportedly doubled in a decade, but the figures are decidedly dodgy – some sources cite 50 million fakes, out of a 1.5 billion total circulation, or around 3%, but it could be up to 5% given that this is a prolific growth industry. In 2008 one in fifty coins was a fake, now it is one in thirty – At what threshold does the system stop working, and we have to reissue the pound coin?

Young aspiring criminals may take note of these crimes, and the risk/reward ratio for blue collar and financial crime. What about insider dealing and manipulating the markets? It is nigh on impossible to be convicted of these crimes and even then the penalties can be tolerated, just ask Ernest Saunders – assuming he hasn’t relapsed after recovering from pre-senile dementia. Some of his alleged conspirators have made a number of appeals due to the perceived injustice, and those involved in the second Guinness trial were not convicted of any crime.

3 Pounds of Fakes.

This piece produced by Pragyan in 2011 is a continuation of a series from the Zen and The Art of Making Money exhibition – which included One pound Sterling, A Pound of Fakes and A Pound of Holes.

It contains 118 counterfeit pounds (which weigh 1120g, or 3 Troy Pounds) and there are some tall and amusing tales regarding how they were acquired, often paying more than face value!

Setting the price for his work was an integral part of Prag’s art. He turned the equation on it’s head so these fakes are worth 5 times the value of real coins. This and the original A Pound of Fakes (which used 39 coins) are “signed” for authenticity by including one of the singular currency replicas, but the value of this is already included in the price tag.

What is the intrinsic difference between these “fake” pound coins and those supplied by the Bank of England? As they are made from a Nickel/Brass alloy they have no value without being part of a monetary system, unlike my old shillings and florins that are now worth around 20 times their face value thanks to the silver content.

These days it is only a special type of coin, produced for commemorative or investing purposes, that is made from precious metal. So why not invest in “New Pounds”, replicas of the original Singular Currency, which are carved from a sheet of solid silver? So far these have been produced as very limited special editions, and are a numismatists wet dream!

If the currency is authenticated and has a place in history then their value could be many times the “face value” in years to come.

The perfect positioning for New Pounds would be as a high value token in a Local Exchange Trading System, like the Lewes Pound, as this would mean that the limited supply would not be an issue. However, if they became the common currency of the numerous UK LETS then we would have to reconsider production and return to the need for workshops and apprentices. If LETS could be connected together by use of a shared currency it would remove some of the current barriers to their wider acceptance.

The most prolific known forger of pound coins was arrested in 2007. In a small workshop in Enfield he produced 14 million coins over a period of seven years, and although a significant proportion of these were in an unfinished state, it was still over 50% of the total thought to be in circulation.



The current workshop includes masters for various designs.  Templates used for scribing each design should be made from Aluminium, and some of these are still in development.


Some of these pieces are very old and on loan from the owners, having acquired battle scars in the interim.  Once the templates have been produced the originals can be re-sanded and polished for an as new finish, before being reclaimed.


This piece does not have the ruling planet, nor any markings as it is used solely to create new pendants:


The simplicity of the design is part of the beauty, the proportions of the Taurus are particularly pleasing.


This piece is an enigma.  Carrying the DP mark it must belong to someone, but no paperwork exists to verify the owner…

Desperately seeking someone.


Zen and the Making of a Workshop

24 Hercules St
May 14th, Thursday (1992)

It is the hottest day of the year so far and the sun is setting behind the garden across the street, in among the houses.  My window remains wide open and a small rosebush on my desk with a single tiny red flower has been treated to dew from a spray.  The droplets sparkle, and beside it bubbles slowly rise from a glass of freshly poured cold beer.

Resting on it’s beechwood side is the drawer from another desk which I have rescued from the street. It’s mahogany front hooks over the back of the desktop and in front of me is attached a beechwood wedge with the keyhole shape cut away.  My saw frame rests over this, the blade already tensioned to a top A tone, ready to cut a pattern disc from an aluminium sheet.

The next template will be for the Cancer pendant for my son’s birthday at midsummers day – he’ll get it as soon as it’s ready.

There are three candlesticks, a mug full of pens and tools for the silver, and a balsa wood fish from Ecuador!


The draw remained Prags’ workshop for the next 20 years.  He brought it with him to Blair Close where it was mounted on a round conference table (purloined from Gerald Ronson) supported on wooden wine boxes.

The set of tools has been expanded to include doming blocks and punches for the production of ear-rings.

Art and Tools


Some Smart-ass once said that art shouldn’t be a mirror to reality, rather a hammer to shape it.
Me, I like hammers; Mallets and gavels are OK too; A beetle and wedge is very satisfying…
And the all-time favourite is the wrecking bar, being a lever with a built-in fulcrum… and claws!

“When I hear the word ‘culture’, I reach for my gun”. Malcolm Muggeridge got it right: “When I hear the word ‘Gun’ I reach for my culture”

Exercise for Children:
Take ≤ 1 hammer, ≤ 1 Kg assorted nails, and ≥ 1 short log; Place log end grain up; Stand well back.

Juggling Money


14th March 1992

I have an idea for making some money by making and selling juggling balls from a delightful and original design that’s come my way. It originated in Australia as far as I can establish.

20120504-130936.jpgIt’s a joy to juggle and fun to make and a beauty to behold, really eye-catching so they sell themselves, I know ’cause I’ve been doing it here & can sell all I can make at “Two pounds a piece, or any 3 for a fiver! Come and get your lovely juggling balls! Free instruction”.

I’m selling at Camden at weekends & occasionally Covent Garden mid-week, with a wooden wine-box as a tray on a strap round the neck. No need for a market stall, a basket would do just as well.

So how are they so great & how to make them? They’re cheap quick and simple to make, no sewing, the filling is birdseed (budgie mix to be precise) and it’s encase in several layers of balloons, all different colours with holes in the outside ones so you can see the colours underneath.

You start by cutting a plastic bottle in half & use the top as a funnel. Stretch a balloon neck over the narrow opening and pour the seeds in – you overfill by putting more seed in the funnel and blowing down it, and poof! They all go inside and you pinch the neck of the balloon BEFORE they blow back out and into your mouth, and up your nose, and in your hair and down your neck… WARNING! If they blow into your lungs it could be very dangerous, so don’t try it the first timeif you’re too stoned.

Then you separate the balloon from the funnel and tie it’s neck in a knot and you have a squidgy soft ball! Cut off the neck close to the know & proceed to toughen it with one or two layers of balloons with the necks cut off. If the balls are small, or the balloon necks will stretch enough you can add the necks themselves by cutting away the ring at the original opening so you just have a tube open at both ends.
Three layers is tough enough; more, if tight stretched, will make it a “low bounce” ball rather than a “no-bounce” one.

Now we get to the clever bit. Take two balloons whose colours look good with the ball you are working on and snip lots of holes with a pair of scissors. Start by cutting off the necks to make the hole to stretch round the ball then fold it in half lengthways & snip away the tip, fold across and snip the corners & two snips make four holes… again & again, perhaps 16 to 20 holes in all. And here’s the magic bit, the holes are square or jagged when they’re cut but when stretched over the ball they all become round, or rounded, and a random pattern of colour contrasts appears, each one unique. The second layer over that and Hey Presto!, it’s ready to use or sell…

They’re the best balls I’ve found in a long time as a juggler, and perfect for beginners or old timers alike. Some experimenting with different sizes gives all kinds of results. The texture is wonderfully grippy to the touch, like the treads on a tyre grip the road, thich gives a really good control of their flight.

The silver business is still at the expensive hobby stage, as I lack the capital to build up stock, but the balloon balls should solve that.


When people ask…



When people asked me what my father did for a living, the obvious answer was nothing!  And he worked very hard at that…

Depending on the audience and circumstance I might describe him as a silversmith, or artist, but that would often require further explanation and definition.
This reflected the latter years of his life when episodes of physical and mental pain meant that holding down a regular job was impossible.

While going through his papers I found an A-Z list of all the roles he had filled over the years and it makes for an interesting CV:

Artist, Aerial Fitter.

Barker, Beggar, Butler, Bodger, Baker, Bouncer, Builder, Babysitter, Barman, Bus driver, Bodyguard.

Chai wallah, Coffee stallholder, Cabbie, Crocheter, Chauffeur, Carpenter, Chicken keeper, Cleaner, Cook, Concrete mixer, Catsitter.

Decorator, Driver, Designer, Dogwalker.

Engineer, Electrician, Editor.

Firemaker, Fly pitcher, Floor polisher, Furinture maker.

Gofer, Gardener.

Hatseller, Housesitter.

Jeweller, Juggling ball maker, Janitor.

Kitchen porter.

Market gardener, Mechanic, Masseur, Minder.

Needleworker, Newsreader.

Office manager, Other end holder.

Paper hanger, Plumber, Pancake maker, Plasterer, Painter.


Silversmith, Signwriter, Screenprinter, Shopkeeper, Sculptor.

Teaboy, Tent maker, Tiler.


Van driver.

Washer up, Window cleaner, Watchman.

Zen monk.

Dear reader, gr…


ImageDear reader, greetings from the past.

Blessings be upon you and your, you are loved.

Forgive my confusion; imagine my problem:  as I write, no-one knows any of this, and as you read perhaps you already know what I am trying to say and reading it critically.  I am writing for 3 audiences at once, my own time and language – in translation now – and the rest of you.

As writing goes, this is not so much Science Fiction as Art Faction.

SF?  Certainly.  AF? Definitively.
SF?  Oxymoron.  AF?  We’ll see…

Real artists don’t care about money [Money isn’t real].   Money doesn’t care.
Time passes.

As time passes some art becomes worth money.
Art doesnt care about money.
Money doesn’t care.

Time passes.