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Funny Money: When Mangled Coins and Defaced Currency Become Works of Art

One way to become a successful collector is to build your collection using things other serious collectors do not want. Harley J. Spiller is successful collector of coins and currency because he specializes in money that is mangled or defaced. Most numismatists are not interested in such things, but every piece Spiller finds has a story behind it. Spiller’s first book has been published, called Keep the Change: A Collector's Tales of Lucky Pennies, Counterfeit C-Notes, and Other Curious Currency. He says,

“By looking at coins and bills through the cockeyed lens of mutilation,” Spiller says, “I had the area to myself. Nobody wanted it. It was a way to have my own Picasso collection, if you will.”

The “Picassos” in Spiller’s currency collection include munched quarters, verdigrised pennies, and dollar bills worn almost to the point of illegibility. What caught my eye, though, in Keep the Change was the chapter on currency that has been transformed into pocket-size works of art.

Spiller is fascinated with artists who use money as a medium, and met some of those artists in researching his book. He talks about art on money, the artists, and the joy of collecting something unique at Collectors Weekly.

(Image: “Comedy & Tragedy,” 2013, by Mark Wagner)

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