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.

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.

What’s it all about?


Can the concept be summarised with a snappy sentence? Prags wondered about this…

  • The ultimate communist money making machine & the capitalists can play too
  • The aim of the game is to make more money than we need and more than we can give away and have a laugh all the way
  • An artistic equivalent of the Manhattan Project
  • Opportunity knocks…  ACME Arts sits on the step and occasionally sniggers…
  • A straight business more profitable than crime
  • The money for tomorrows drugs
  • Something better to do
  • Right livelihood
  • Pragyan’s practical guide to now/where.
  • When money is something made by peasants, vagabonds, orphans and artists the banks will be cleaner.
  • A pension you can wear.
  • A better way of doing business.
  • How to bullshit an easy existence for yourself and those around you.  Is peace what you want?

Astrological designs

Since 1974 I have been making silver pendants with astrological designs.  The first were made as presents for friends and I have never been able to keep up with the demand for them.  I am investigating a consistent production system to meet the demand on a commercial level.

Some “handmade in meditation” pieces will still be available, I will be happy to share the techniques with others interested in working that way, provide practical help with obtaining tools and materials, and co-ordinate hallmarking, polishing and distribution services.

The designs are based on astrologers written symbols for the sun signs and their ruling planets; giving a timeless beauty and international simplicity, equally acceptable for astrologers and the uninitiated, and being set in a circular frame they are comfortable to wear.