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.

Footnote.
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.

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Designs

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.

Stars

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.

Om

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

Virgo

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

Taurus

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.

 

An idea?

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After much pondering on the utility and market place for the ‘Kin’ell Bank coinage, I think I have hit on a workable solution – one that benefits the producer, customer and allows for the pieces to be used in a LETS (local Exchange Trading System).

In simple terms, here is how it works:

You buy a coin for £150.  At any time in the future I promise to buy this back from you, for £150.

  • Alternatively, you may have one day of my time at your service.
  • Alternatively, you may purchase other works of art through Acme at a reduced cost – perhaps each token is worth £200 if traded in this way.

Other people may also take coins in payment for services or goods, in the knowledge that they can be converted back to pounds sterling if required.

While in your possession the coin is a wearable piece of jewellery, and a promise of future services or payment.

What are the flaws in this arrangement?

  • There is a risk that I will not be in a position to refund the purchase cost or provide a days labour – say when I shuffle off this mortal coil – so payments received will be set aside.
  • Over a period of time inflation will affect the relative value of a coin.  The fact it can be exchanged for a days service means it will become more valuable than the purchase price means this is of benefit to the buyer, and will also have provided additional utility in the form of jewellery in the meantime.
  • Demand exceeds supply, either for the coins, art or my time – what a wonderful problem this would be!

CARMA Communiques #10 -11

#10 – 1997

What is Art?

What is Money?

And what of their relationship?

The CARMA membership tokens (which are numbered reproductions of an original piece entitled “A Singular Currency”) are the beginning of a series of works of art to explore these questions.

An exhibition (will have the title “Zen and the Art of Making Money…”):  It’s catalogue will include a workshop manual to reproduce them and be published as a book of the same title.

The market in these works is part of the work itself, surplus funds generated will be used to fund a trust, using the name “ACME” (for Arts and Crafts Made Easy), it’s disbursements to be discussed at CARMAs Annual General Meeting on the 1st of April.

#11 – 1997

Those who received the first years production of ‘Kin’ell Bank coinage are all familiar with my work in silver since the mid-seventies, and will see some connection in the format.  This is an attempt to trap in words some aspects of the design which takes it beyond what has been done before.

Possession of one of these pieces makes you a member of CARMA – the CAmpaign for Real Money Again – which is part of a series of artworks and explorations on the relationships between art, money and time.

There will be an annual general meeting of CARMA on the thirst of April at which questions can be asked on matters not explained here.  This year’s (1997) AGM will start at about seven in the evening at Dingwalls Bar at Camden Lock.

“Zen and The Art of Making Money…” is the title of the book to be written which will go into greater detail; it is also the title of the exhibition which is as yet a fantasy.  The book will provide a full workshop manual from which the whole can be created.  Thus it is a self replicating system.

The CARMA membership token / ‘Kin’ell Bank coinage is a fractal fragment of a series of sculptural pieces in silver.  The basis of the deisgn is a figure One suspended in a circular frame carved by hand from solid sterling silver, the One and Zero to which all conventional “Money” is reduced in computer accounting.  The reverse shows the hallmarks indicating the year of origin and confirms the quality of the metal.  There is a number in binary symbols unique to each piece as on limited edition works of art and banknotes.  The “Makers MArk” is the equivalent of a signature.

One “Coin” can be used as a template to cut more.  Workshop boxes with the tools, materials and instructions to make more of these and other pieces will be part of the exhibition and will be available to buy or rent.

The Singular Currency

December 1996

To whom it may concern:-  Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

Some explanation of the nature of the ‘Kin’ell Bank coinage now or soon to be in your possession.

It is a fragment from a series of works on the relationship between art and money, and the market in them is part of the whole work.

The silver disc is a traditionally traded form.  The singular currency is solid sterling silver, with holes carved to define a figure one inside a zero.

One sculptural piece will consist of a troy pound (373 gms) of these discs spilling from a purse, and entitled “One Pound Sterling”.  To make one of these anyone can collect my pieces until they have enough; if other people make them to the same design it could happen faster.  The piece you already own can be used as a template for a cutting pattern and you or someone you know could be a participant.

Two side products of cutting discs from a sheet are also raw material for two tradeable art works; the pieces from between the discs can be domed and become fuchsia bell earrings, a market tested design;

The pieces sawn from the discs to define the one and zero that give the disc it’s value, can be collected to be fused into a single piece (of 373 gms) to be titled “One Pound of Holes”, a sculptural piece at the same prices as “One Pound Sterling” and to be displayed alongside.

A full workshop manual for these pieces will be included in the exhibition catalogue and published as “Zen and the Art of Making Money…”, and part of the exhibits would be complete workshops to buy or hire.

The singular currency has the potential to be a LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) currency for buying and selling any work by artists and craftspeople; it is possible for instance to trade your coins for an equal weight of my work in any design as full and fair payment – in a sense it’s a “market future token”.  Buy one of my coins for a present to someone else and it gives them a choice to keep it or commission a piece of their own design, a gift token.

Anyone who has tried to get me to make something for them by offering ordinary money will know how slow that can be; payment in “New Sterling” as it could be called would jump the queue over payment by conventional means and give a stronger motivation to get it done at all.

This whole work is designed to raise money to be used to get my other designs realised, and includes using a proportion of any eventual profits to support a trust fund, for any artist short of the readies, using my trade name of ACME expanded to Arts and Crafts Made Easy.

The current fantasy is a place on Upper Street, Islington, as a combined cafe, art gallery, workshop space, lending library for books and tools…; a shop-front, an interface between artists and the market-place whose existence and functionality would be part of the art-work itself.

Meanwhile the silver work can support my other ideas on their way to market – sculpture, T-Shirts, furniture, etc etc.

Another aspect of ownership of this little work of art is it’s function as a “membership token” in the CAmpaign for Real Money Again, which abbreviates to CARMA;  the exact constitution and legal framework are still a matter of speculation.  One proposal is that it should be governed by an AGM to be held on the 1st of April, All Fools Day; another is that not less than 10% of all retained profits should be blown on holding the AGM at an interesting place with your membership token as a boarding pass…

This year shall we say meet in the pub by Highbury and Islington tube and set off at 1 o’clock to look for the perfect pub by the water for next years meeting to start?

So what do you get for 1996 from Pragyan?  There are 32 discs hall-marked with that date on, to be numbered from 25 to 57, or to be more exact from 11001 to 111001, so you get your choice of number for the piece to keep you collection complete – and of course this handsome signed and numbered piece of paper which shall of course be essential for the serious collector at a fancy price some fine day at auction.  And the price it goes for is all part of the work…  Ho! Ho! Ho!

Love, Pragyan

COMING SOON:- Your chance to choose a number from 111010 upwards for 1997.

Zen and the Art of Making Money – SMEACA

Situation:  We’ve all grown up in a world distorted by the conflicts between capitalism and communism.  Now?  One down, and one to go.

Mission:  To set up a system of exchange compatible with the current insanity & future realities.

Execution:  The introduction of “handmade in meditation” silver coinage whose value as works of art ensures easy exchange with old money.

Administration:  Acme Silver is registered at the Assay Office for Hallmarking and will give access to others.

Communication:  Finished work, tools and materials are all small enough to post, the mails reach all parts of the world.

Any Questions?:  deva.pragyan@btinternet.com

now read on…

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Do you sincerely want Right Livelihood?    The CAmpaign for Real Money Again (CARMA) offers You FREE MONEY!

Not only today – for ever!!!

CUSTOMERS & COLLABORATORS REQUIRED.

There are those who charge money to teach (Erhard Seminars Training, Transcendental Meditation, Scientology etc) on the principle that people don’t appreciate what is given for free.

One way in which Rajneesh’s offer of Sannyas appealed to me was that the mala, the name, and darshan were all free.  Of course you could pay money for lectures, meditations, groups and so on; the essentials were free.

It seems that no-one has yet used the technique of paying people to mediate!

The K’in’ell bank is now open for YOU to make as much money as you want – in meditation.

And…  if that sounds selfish, while you’re at it, you’ll help save the whales, the rain forests and the ozone layer…  AND end the exploitation of one man by another…

BUT THERIOUSLY FOLKTH!!! IT PAYS TO MEDITATE…

now read on…

[You can never repay all the kindness you receive in this world  you can try to keep up with the interest]

The meditation can be done anywhere.  In your own home, in your favourite bar or cafe, on a park bench, walking in a forest, sitting on a mountain top, in the market place; and if you want to travel the taxman will help you do it in style.

Everything you need can be supplied though the post, instruction in the techniques takes only an hour or two (exploring the limits will take a lifetime).

“You cannot make the revolution – you can only be the revolution” – Ursula le Guin.

“If you want to change the world, start by rolling up your sleeves” – Ancient Chinese wisdom.

CARMA Communique #1

The recession watch column, written by Helen Hague, in the December 8th 1991 edition of the Independent on Sunday was a great delight to me with it’s reference to Barry Sullivan’s shop Kincheap.

I’m using the same joke: starting a CAmpaign for Real Money Again (CARMA), which will issue it’s own one world coinage/token of membership, using the style of The ‘Kin’ell Bank.

As an ex-business man turned peripatetic silversmithing monk, it was always a problem to know the fair price for my work; it’s a way of meditating, so a lot more time is spent on it than would be appropriate if it were a business product rather than zen art.  Too high a price and I’d be ripping off other people, too low and it would be me that was being ripped off; even a monk has to eat, and “there’s always the rent question”.

Also, as an artist, there’s the necessity to raise finance for my future work, and in my case this includes a project for a piece to be part of the ’92 Biennial Sculpture Exhibition in Copenhagen.  The provisional budget is three million Danish crowns, say a quarter of a million quidlets, and here’s me, an alcoholic artist who can’t be trusted with cash!  Ah, but I can dream, can’t I?

Maybe it’s not so unrealistic either; delusions of grandeur in the manic phase are matched by the delusions of insignificance in the depressive; and the New Carlsberg Foundation (new last century, that is) spends profits from the brewery for artistic purposes.

Sculpture is a living art in Denmark, quite literally in the case of my contribution to the ’90 Biennial; untitled, it consisted of myself in a long bottle-green Barbour, and balanced on the head, an oversized crown cork, about a half meter in diameter, made from the copper sheer that had been part of the bridge between the city-centre and Christianshavn island.  Copper is the traditional palace roofing there, and the homeless proverbially find shelter under a bridge; it was a poor man’s palace roof with no walls, as there had to be room for all the freedom.  And the balance has to be maintained between drinking enough to stimulate the creative flow, and not toping so much that nothing gets created.  It was a self-caricature that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

This years piece will be more permanent, more traditionally sculptural and less guerilla theatre.  The title perhaps “Momento Muri” or “The Wall Memorial”; inspired by the events of ’89.  The Berlin wall came down, built by a government to keep the people in; and a wall went up, built by the people of Christiania to keep the government out.  Constructed in a day, recycled railway sleepers with a concrete core, and would stop a tank.  The idea is to wrap that wall in copper sheeting, rather as Christo might in an impermanent medium.  It would be a sculpture positively improved by graffiti; and since Christiania is a car-free state, the only respectful way to visit would be on foot or by bicycle, so at least some of the tourist coaches that clog Christianshavn to see the church and the canals might stay away.

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The provisional budget of DKr3m comes from the way the piece of the bridge was acquired for the last work; the workers performing the 50 year service on the lifting bridge sit on one side of the road, enjoying their end of day beer, a 1×2 metre section of copper sites to one side of the rubbish heap opposite.  Their beer money for the next day or two.

Along comes the myopic artist, so out of it that he’s lost his glasses, and totally trips out over the rainbow colours in the raw metal that’s been inside a wall for half a century, shut away from man, gazing in fascination from the distance of a handspan.  The minutes pass.  Someone shouts across, “300 crowns and it’s yours”, I turn and look Thurber-blind at them, and shout back “Three hundred?  It’s worth Three Million if you find the right wall to hang it on”!  Back to the fascinated delight in the perfect surface, a minute passes, then a cry of “It’s yours if you can carry it”!

Now, Christo finances his work by selling the drawings and models from his previous stuff.  While many photos’ were taken of my last sculpturing, I have none.  The copper crown cork was thrown away by a drinking and philosophising partner in a fit of pique, so all I have left of it is the Barbour jacket and it seems unlikely anyone will front much for that.  Not until I’m famous, or dead, or both.

What they will pay money for are the pendants I’ve been making since the early seventies; sculptures small enough to wear.  The format is holes carved from silver discs leaving the design suspended in a circular frame, practically snagproof.  The standard size is that of a pre-decimal Penny; smooth edged, they are perfect to scribe round.  The first four were Christmas presents, and so many others have wanted their own, so many who wear them want to give one away, that every time I lose a workshop (this one is my seventh), there are orders for the next time I get my hands on the tools.

What price to charge? The years keep passing, and I’ve made them in six countries.

What is a fair price?  One of those ultimate questions, like “What is quality?”, Robert Pirsig’s obsession in Zen and the Art of MotorCycle Maintenance”.  Nobody needs what I make, so it’s a discretionary purchase.  Some I give away, people who like them enough give them to their lovers and children and grannies.

How much to charge?  Selling them in the market-place at the first price thought of, poorer people would spend a lot of time looking, talking, love the stuff, come back later; some would buy, willing to forego something they needed, others unable to.  The rich?  To them it was just another trinket, “Oh that’s nice!”, peel the notes off a fat wad, hardly even noticed they’d acquired another “thing”.

I meditated on how to set my price so it felt like the “Right Livelihood”.  Eventually the formula came, sell by weight!  My work is worth as much as it’s own weight in the very best hashish (also a discretionary purchase).  The designs are defined by the parts cut away, every strike of the tool sculpting that perfect balance to the eye lowers the value and then there is that bit over there, yes, now a bit off here.  Finally there’s a work of art I’m happy to part with, and for the price of what could be smoked in a few days they’ve got something to enjoy year after year. “Right Livelihood!”

Back in England again, and once more I’ve made the mistake of arriving without a return ticket to a civilised country (make that planet); the pain in the lower left molars insisted.  Still, it could be worse, Thatcher was deposed a month after my return; I claim no credit.  So I find the need to make some money of my own.

Meanwhile, the Chaos Theory has emerged: every point in the universe is simultaneously at the edge and at the centre, and finally we have the intellectual grappling-iron to haul our viewpoint back beyond the Big Bang.  Apparently our universe is the embarrassed blush when existence became self-conscious on having realised the possibility of “the other?”.  The dimensions unfolded to the present nine or eleven or whatever, of which we live in three.

The underlying reality is that there ain’t nobody here but us chickens, the improbable observer fractally imploded, grains on the chess board, double or quits.  Six billion and counting, and the one world is round, rich and beautiful.  It’s the only one we’ve got, and viewed from the outside it’s round.

So, obviously, the purest form for my circular framed design will have a One suspended in a Zero; piercing the upright of the One will be the ‘Kin’ell Bank’s logo, the apostrophes each side of the i’s dot; and suspended in the circle of that dot: a one, etc.  Go ask a computer if you don’t understand, ain’t no-one in there, only them ones and zeroes, the real numbers, by which all the rest are implied and defined.

If Time is Money, is Money not Time?  And time is what it takes to turn a sheet of silver into a zero and a unit, a nothing and a one, a few basic tools and the will to learn what they can teach.  The derivation of the word Bank is from bench, the workbench to which people came to find portable value, the metal worked so it’s worth can be seen.  New money for old.

How many of those stashing their banknotes under mattresses or in off-shore banks, know that all the value of all the money in the world was traded electronically, zeros and ones, ten times over in the last year?  What is money now, going round so fast that it’s reached escape velocity?  We don’t inherit this planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our grandchildren.  Time for some real money again?

What is it about the new one world money, that makes it really worth more than old money?  Well, once you own it, the value never goes down; so inflation becomes a thing of the past.

Now that the absurdities of state communism has led to it’s collapse, it is getting harder to ignore the instability of growth junkie capitalism; even Joe Citizen can see that it’s like a cartoon character that has run off a cliff and hasn’t fallen yet only because it hasn’t looked down.  However it all turns out, people will still want to wear shiny ornaments.

The time has come for me to take on apprentices and franchisees.  I’m progressively crippled by arthritis and have a suicidal lifestyle; it would be a waste for this business to die with me.

Consider the advantages; the entire workshop and stock will fit in a briefcase, with space for you accounts, spare knickers, socks and teeshirts, plus a packet of sandwiches and can of beer.  You can travel anywhere with hand baggage only, and be self supporting.  You can work at home, or on a park bench or at your favourite beach cafe.  No factories, no warehouses, no transport fleets; deliveries can go by mail and supplies that can’t be obtained locally come the same way.  The product is it’s own advertising, and what other business can buy it’s materials now for 1971’s price?  Plus, it’s a very green affair as all waste gets recycled.

Every ‘Kin’ell Bank franchisee will accept not only the local currency, it will of course take it’s own coins in payment for a piece to your own design.  So, a money proofed against inflation and collapse of the economy, and not only will it always be worth it’s own weight, every coin will be a collectors item, at more than face value!  It’s a numismatists wet dream, every coin unique, and hallmarks show the year and the maker.  Forgery is impossible by casting, as two the same would be a give-away and even if someone were dumb enough to try, the forgeries would be collectors items too!  Plus they would be able to wear their collections to display their wealth, or show what swaps they could offer.

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Last year (1991), a unique 1954 penny sold for £23,100, a mark-up of 954000% on it’s face value.  Screw the ECU, get your old money into ‘Kin’ell Bank coinage now!

The first apprentices are at work, and anytime we get ahead of the orders and build up some stock there’ll be a bureau de change down by the canal at Camden Lock Market.  Meanwhile, orders with up front payment take precedence and enquiries with SAEs stand best chance of a response: apply c/o ACME SILVER, 24 Hercules St, N7 6AS, Islington, London, Europe, The World.

Good Luck to all who sail in her!

1991 – No Copyright if quoted entire together with this condition.

With love from CityZen Alien 1809470001 AKA Swami Deva Pragyan.

Carma Communique Number One ends here.

2012 Update – While Prag’s Barbour remained a possession, it is not available to be purchased as a piece of art.  However, it did keep me warm and dry during one particularly damp Glastonbury!

The Capitalist economy has indeed imploded thanks to the greed of individuals and the manipulation of ones and zeroes to generate short term gain (bonuses) at the expense of long term stability and growth.

Central Banks have resorted to generating money by magyk (quantitive easing) in a desperate attempt to maintain the status quo.  All the while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

What happened to the utopian future I dreamed of when reading Science Fiction?  Through automation and technological advances the entire planet should be fed, sheltered and have sufficient leisure time that Artistic and Intellectual  pursuits are the principle reason for existence, not working more hours just to feed your family.

We need Real Money now more than ever.

Queries regarding availability/history of coinage or pendants are welcome.

The new contact address for ACME is Deva Pragyan, 39 Holland Mews, Hove, East Sussex BN3 1JG, England, Europe, The World.

Email: deva.pragyan@btinternet.com