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ACCent: The Monthly Newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club
|Volume 6, Number 3||
|March Membership Meeting|
|Wed., March 3, 1993||Central Lutheran Church||
7:30 PM Meeting
We have a good idea who the hardcore members in the club are now. Eighteen ACC faithful and two guests attended the February meeting which occurred on the tail end of the coldest snap of the '92-'93 winter season. Following nearly a week of subzero temperatures, it had warmed up to about 9 above while the wind chill plunged due to 35+ mile/hr. gusts. Don't know what exactly the wind chill was but Damn Cold should suffice.
Mike Greer and Greg D'Atri showed up wearing unseasonably short "haircuts" ("hairshaves" is closer to the truth). Greg said his brother Terry "talked him into it", and Mike said his brother Phil offered him a "really good haircut". Anyone get the idea these are older brothers?
Greg proceeded to sell raffle tickets, and a fine job he did. He managed to extract a extra dollar or two from most rafflers. Witness the following conversation:
Larry: "Give me three bucks worth"
Greg: "How 'bout five?"
The prize for which Greg was selling chances was announced by D'Atri Sr. as "a 1917-P Walking Liberty Half. Don't trust the MS-60 written on the holder."
This inspired Mike McKinnon to say,
"Notice the luster"
Rod Meade1 chimed in,"Notice the cruster"
D'Atri Jr. (the raffle salesman] claimed it was a "VG". The coin was won by Bruce Gambell.
Two guests who visited were Jim Haley (who's "not collecting anything yet") and his daughter Alexandra who may turn out to be the big collector in the family. 2
Your Secretary/Treasurer/MVP, Benita Meyer, is stepping down from her too long tenure in that role. She was absent from the last meeting so yours truly got behind the table to take minutes and generally try to keep track of the proceedings:
Prez D'Atri called for old business items. He was greeted by silence. "O.K. Nothing", declared Bill. So we moved on to....
The first items for consideration were nominations for the soon-to-be-vacated club officer positions. Generally, this requires more than a little tooth-pulling but this time nominations were forthcoming:
Larry Nakata nominated Scot Hornal for Vice President thus perpetuating the time-honored ACC tradition of nominating people when they can't defend themselves (that is to say in absentia.)
Departing President Bill D'Atri nominated Mike "Lone Wolf" McKinnon also for Vice President. This conjures up the following image: Imagine if you will 'ol Lone Wolf presiding as Vice President in the hallowed3 chambers of the Senate ever ready to cast the deciding vote in case of Senatorial Deadlock.
It happens, the Senate ties 50-50 on an issue of great import like, for instance, a bill to cast environmentalists and other well-meaning but fuzzy-thinking do-gooders off of the yoke presently strangling development in our Great State. What does Lone Wolf do? Through long habit he votes NO!! Well, we (and the Senate) rarely tie4. End of (this) digression.
Rod Meade stood and nominated Larry Nakata for President. Steve Mead seconded this nomination. Larry retaliated by nominating Steve Mead for the same office. This was also seconded, but your impromptu Secretary failed to note by who.
Bill D'Atri nominated Paul Wheeler for Secretary ^Treasurer. Benita Meyer was also nominated but respectfully declines to serve yet another term.
Bill also volunteered to be Y.N. Coordinator and promptly called the next Y.N. meeting which was held at the Sears Mail Coin Show that weekend.
New Business closed with the following motion which was passed:
In reference to the ACC Fifth Anniversary Commemorative Medal: "All Bronze medals which are not part of sets shall have reeded edges."
Thus endeth the Minutes for last month...
1 Rod wore a button that night which offered a version of the Great Alaska Summer Battle Cry:
"When the going gets tough the tough go fishing."
2 I sure hope I got their names right
3 Just Kidding (hallowed, my foot).
4 By me Way. does anyone else suspect that Al will be the bull that Gores Alaska's developmental ox from now until the end of the Century?
Simple questions like,
"Hi. Are you having a good time?", and
"What's your name?",
would have made a well-intentioned acknowledgement of parental loyalty a bit more gracious5.
Your Editor felt generally magnanimous (and more than a little perceptive) when he made mention of a woman (and her son, one "Kevin Guido") who was seen "enduring the proceedings" of Our January meeting. You may recall I mentioned I had spotted her reading a novel while seated at the back of the room and that she was the mother of the YN named above. It seemed a neat touch to point out a fine example of paternal sacrifice. Lord knows that she could have read that novel at home in a comfy chair. Magnanimity gave way to mild embarrassment when the letters reprinted below were read aloud at E-Board by Robert Hall:
Thus, I violated the Journalistic Maxim which goes something like: "Say what you will about me, but get my name right." Obviously, I Ain't No Journalist.
5 But not Dearly as much fun as it turns out.
Yet Another Belatedly Discovered Mistake
Just as the Newsletter was going to press last Month Your Editor noticed two misspellings smack in the middle of the front page. Normally no big deal, except this time it was Scott Hornal's name I got wrong. Twice.
I'd have apologized in person last meeting except he was gone at the Long Beach "terrorizing dealers", according to Robert Hall. Sorry Scott, at least I got it right in the Headline.
Well folks, it's official. Good ol' Bill is three for three in '93 with the column published below. Three-in-a-row make a definite Trend. Soon it'll be a Tradition. So much the better. You'll agree after reading this, I'm sure, that Bill's hitting his stride:
Fur Rondy is barely behind us, and the Iditarod is right around the corner. The first quarter of the year is always dynamic and it will directly affect all of us, for better or for worse, throughout the balance of 1993.
What a great time to slip in something as exciting as our Annual Club Officers Elections. For those of you not aware of it, the March meeting will offer the best candidates for President. Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer since Slick Willie underwhelmed his way into the Oval Office. Speaking of underwhelmed, I about hit the floor when I found out that he thinks I'm one of those "rich folks" he promised to raise taxes on. Come to think of it, you are too!
Regardless of what you think about how the national elections went, I guarantee that your vote will have an impact on our gregarious and gung-ho group Please make the effort to come down and make yourself heard, even if it means actually speaking out on an issue near and dear to you. As a group we are only as good as our active membership, and voting for those individuals who want to volunteer their time and effort towards the betterment of the Club is one of the most PRO-ACTIVE things that we can do.
Speaking of pro-active, Larry Nakata presented a very appropriate suggestion at the February E-Board meeting to stimulate interest in our inactive in-house auction program. Larry's suggestion, which we opted to pursue, is for a MAIL AUCTION. Personally, I love the idea. If I'm not mistaken there will be sections for the following major groups of numismatic materials: U.S. Coinage, World Coinage, Bank notes, and Ancients.
The particulars are listed elsewhere in this profoundly poignant, periodically published polar pamphlet. If interested in intellectually ingesting the insightful instructions on how the auction will be structured, please peruse your way through the plethora of pleasantly palatable articles encountered throughout the accompanying pages to find out more on this exciting program.
As you can tell, I occasionally get carried away when looking for the correct word to use. Blame it on over-participation in grammar school sports without protective headgear. Fortunately, Jim Susky listened to his coaches when they told him "wearing that helmet is for your own good". Try to imagine what format this newsletter would have if we attempted to get it done without Jim's stewardship. I believe that a collective "Thank You" and "Good Job" are due.
Speaking of Dues, Good Job's, and Thank You's, Benita Meyer has been doing one helluva good job one heckuva long time as Secretary-Treasurer. It's my understanding that after this March she won't be able to fulfill her duties that we've come to take for granted. I would like to take this opportunity to say "Thanks", and I recommend that each and every Club member do the same. I know that she didn't put up with all the frustration for the money, even though I understand that she is "rich folk" in some peoples eyes.
Speaking of eyes, I really am at wits' end trying to figure out what in this world Jennifer Flowers ever saw in slick old you-know-who. For that matter, what in the world do you think he saw in old Hilary-know-who? Stay tuned for more insightful intrusions in common sense in the months to come.
In the course of this article you probably noticed that the word "pro-active" is in bold print. I wanted to bring your attention to thinking pro-actively. Proactive is positive; inactive or reactive carries a negative connotation. If we all strive towards being more pro-active, this world will be a better place because of it.
Thanks for putting up with me again.
Larry Nakata presented the following proposal at E-Board:
Notice to All Anchorage Coin Club Members:
At the February 17th E-board meeting, a decision was made to resume the Coin Club auction with some changes. The key change is an expansion of the auction to include mail bids from anyone (both members and non-members). The coin club auction would be held every two months starting with the May auction on May 5th. The auction to be limited to 100 lots.
For the May auction, the details of the auction are as follows:
1. Coins can be submitted at anytime during the period from the March coin club meeting (March 3rd) thru the April E-board meeting (April 21st). Submissions can be made by anyone (both members and non-members).
2. The coins will be graded at the E-board meetings in March (March 17th) and April (April 21st). The first 100 lots will be accepted on a "first come/first serve" basis.
3. The results of the grading will be posted in the March and April coin club newsletters.
4. The coins on auction will be displayed for inspection at the April coin club meeting (April 7th), and again at the May 5th coin club meeting (prior to the auction).
5. Mail bids can be sent to the Anchorage Coin Club post office box. The post office box address is shown on the front of every month's newsletter. Mail bids will be accepted up to the day before the coin club auction (May 4th). Anyone (both members and non-members) may bid.
6. At the May 5th coin club meeting, the 100 lots will then be auctioned. Any winning mail bids will be notified by mail.
7. Winning mail bids will have 10 days from the date of notification to submit a check or money order to the coin club. Winning mail bids must also include $2 for postage and packaging of the coins.
8. Upon receipt of monies, the coin club will then mail the coins. The winning mail bidder may return the coins, within 10 days, for a refund if not satisfied.
9. Otherwise the coin club will then forward the monies, less 5%, to the person who submitted the coins for auction.
It isn't every day you can steal from the "New Yorker" for a coin publication. This article "borrowed" (or perhaps merely "copied" or "counterfeited") from their Jan 18, 1993 issue was written by
"MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING"
OH, no. What kind of mess has Boggs got himself (and the rest of us) into this time?
Readers will perhaps remember Mr. Boggs from the Profile I did of him, which first appeared in these pages precisely five years ago this week: J.S.G. Boggs, to be exact, the young artist whose principal métier appeared to consist of drawing near-exact single-side renditions of various national currencies and then going out and "spending" those drawings-that is, persuading merchants to accept them knowingly, at face value, in lieu of cash, as payment for a wide variety of goods and services, a trick that at the time of my original article he'd managed to pull off to the tune of more than thirty-five thousand dollars' worth of transactions in just two years.
Although many collectors were eager to own Boggs's drawings, he made it a rule never to sell them; he only spent them. He would, however, occasionally sell collectors the receipt and the change from a given transaction (at a considerable markup), which would enable the collectors to track down the recently spent drawing and attempt to purchase it.
Boggs's was a comedy of compounding value, for such were the arcane realities of the art market that the entire concatenation of objects surrounding any given transaction - the drawing, the item purchased, the receipt, the change, the original "model" of the bill on which the drawing was based- once documented and framed and offered up for auction, invariably and quite mysteriously sold for considerably more than the sum of the component parts. This comedy, however, generally failed to amuse the national banks and treasury police of the various countries in which Boggs chose to enact his elaborate performances, and he was regularly hauled in on a variety of counterfeiting charges, all of which he righteously contested - until now with an unbroken string of successes.
In 1987, for example, a British jury took only ten minutes to buck the presiding judge's express instructions that Boggs be found guilty of "reproducing" Bank of England notes. Two years later, an Australian court not only found Boggs not guilty of similar charges but ordered that he be awarded more than twenty thousand dollars as compensation for all his trouble. And in 1991 the United States Attorney for the Wyoming District, who'd begun an investigation of Boggs's transactions, ultimately decided not to participate in what he called "the Boggs publicity game." The Secret Service (our country's treasury police) did, however, retained6 fifteen of Bogg's bills from that investigation.
Each of these run-ins with the law appears to have only further emboldened Boggs, provoking him to make ever more daring forays into the borderland between artistic self-expression and legal constraint. Or so I came to realize the other day, when he dropped by my office here in New York to bring me up to date. (He was in town helping to prepare the way for the premiere of "Money Man, "Philip Haas's documentary film about Boggs's. activities and in particular his attempts to reclaim his Wyoming bills from the Secret Service; the movie will begin a two-week run January 13th at Film Forum.) In many ways, these have been an immensely successful five years for Mr. Boggs. To date he had "spent" well over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars of his bills; he has enjoyed major gallery shows and a touring museum exhibition (entitled "Smart Money"); and, perhaps most improbable, for the past twenty months he has been comfortably ensconced as the Fellow of Art and Ethics at the Center for the Advancement of Applied Ethics of Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University
But these have also been years - at least, to hear him tell it - of endless churning. "Believe me, I've tried to kick this habit," he says. "I'll resolutely start out on some new tangent - a series of abstract canvases, for example - but then somebody always comes along and asks me something like 'Well, what do you think that painting's worth?' and I find myself being drawn right back in. Because what does anybody mean by 'worth'? And how's that different from 'value'? And what, precisely, is it that one values in value? What is good value? The questions lead me on, and before you know it I'm right back in that hall of mirrors, with the mirrored door clicking shut behind me."
Short of escaping the hall altogether, he has endeavored to give each new foray a clean, fresh edge - an edge that invariably seems to bring him closer to The Edge. Thus, having begun by trading hand-drawn renditions of bills, he took to wondering, Why not attempt to traffic in multiples of various sorts, initially in lithographs (would people accept those?) and then in engravings (would those get him in trouble?) and, finally, in simple photocopies? People did keep accepting them - by no means everyone, but enough people to keep things interesting - and treasury police all over the world grew more and more nervous.
For a long time, I had thought of Boggs as something of a Socratic artist- money's gadfly- endlessly confounding his everyday interlocutors with the precariousness of everything they took for granted about both money and art. (Why accept one kind of drawing and not the other? | Why, exactly?) But, listening to him the other day, I began to realize that, if anything, his is more of a Zenonian passion. Zeno of Elea was the pre-Socratic philosopher who contrived a famous series of paradoxes around the notion of infinite regress - the idea, for example, that a runner in a race must first traverse half of the course, and then half of the remaining remainder, and thus can never actually reach the finish line. Boggs seems to be engaged in an analogous brinkmanship with the laws of counterfeiture, converging ever more closely upon a limit he may never actually attain. (This insight reminded me, in turn, of the old story about the mathematician and the engineer who were deeply embroiled one afternoon in a dispute about Zend's Paradox when a beautiful woman happened to walk by. The mathematician, the paradox fixed firmly in his mind, despaired of ever being able to attain her, but the engineer remained serenely confident that he'd be able to get close enough for all practical purposes.
"Close enough for all practical purposes" is a territory that both Boggs and the Secret Service spend a lot of time thinking about.)
As the latest installment in his Zenonian passion, Boggs now informed me, he'd decided to raise the ante considerably He was about to embark on what he was calling "Project: Pittsburgh." He had fashioned an entirely new edition of Boggs bills -brand-new drawings in denominations ranging from one, five, ten, and twenty dollars on up through ten thousand. He'd laser-copied a million dollars' "worth" of these bills -enough to fill a bulging briefcase. Starting on January 1st ("I like to keep things neat, everything in a single calendar year," he explained), he was going to try to spend these bills in his usual fashion, by getting people to accept them knowingly in exchange for goods or services, only this time he'd be adding a twist: he was going to encourage anyone who accepted his bills to keep them in circulation. This time, he was using the back side of the bills as well: an elaborate lacework design filigreed around five empty circles. Anyone accepting a bill was to immediately press his or her thumbprint into one of the empty circles ("just like being arrested," Boggs noted, with. evident satisfaction), and the bill would not be deemed to have completed its life cycle until it had changed hands five times, acquiring a full complement of five thumbprints. "I want others to share in the fascinating experience of trying to get people to accept art as value," Boggs said, with expansive generosity. " And I, in turn, want to share my collectors' experiences of trying to track these pieces down." Be that as it may, the practical consequence of Boggs's experiment was that he was going to be creating five million dollars' worth of value out of nothing7 - an alchemical transformation likely to provoke the Internal Revenue Service every bit as much as the Secret Service. (He assured me that he stood ever ready to cut the I.R.S. its fair share of Boggs notes.)
Sure enough, the Secret Service has lately been showing signs of increasing agitation. Back in October, when Boggs paid a courtesy call on the local Pittsburgh Secret Service offices (he always tries to keep the local constabularies apprised of his plans, precisely so that there can be no subsequent imputation of chicanery), they confiscated copies of his "Smart Money" catalogue and a collection of mine which included the Profile of him-he'd brought them along as evidence of his art-world bona fides - summarily declaring the bonks themselves contraband. And then, on the morning of December 2nd, a few days after a detailed exposition of his plans ran in a Pittsburgh alternative newspaper, Boggs looked up from the dashboard of his beat-up Nissan pickup to find himself surrounded by flashing lights and officers waving badges and ordering him out of the truck. "Four Secret Service agents," he subsequently told me, "two Pittsburgh police, three search warrants-one for my person, one for my Carnegie Mellon office" The agents escorted Boggs back to his apartment, and proceeded to search. "They just tossed the place like so much salad," Boggs recalls. "They emptied file cabinets, scattering the contents all over the floor, upended drawers, accidentally intentionally broke my glasses -dropped them on the floor and then ostentatiously stepped on them8. They were confiscating drawings left and right, and receipts, too-seven years' worth of work. I have a file detailing the appearances of money in ads and other sorts of media-they took that. I asked, What do you need that for? They're of no use to you and to me they're irreplaceable.
'Evidence of transactions. It was incredibly humiliating - there was this terrible, all-permeating feeling of violation." Boggs was shaking as he told me this and seemed genuinely upset. "They left the place a shambles. It'll take me months to even figure out everything they took-let alone to locate anything they left behind"
Afterward, the raiding party moved on to his Carnegie Mellon office and joined up with a half-dozen other agents already on the scene . "Where are you hiding the million dollars?' they kept demanding," Bogs says. "And , of course, I wouldn't tell them. 'You're in big trouble, buddy. Manufacturing counterfeits. Uttering counterfeits.' Uttering that means passing them, spending them. 'You're looking at fifteen years and a five-thousand-dollar fine on each count. And you stand a good change of getting the maximum, because you've been duly warned. Now, where's the million dollars? I told them they knew they didn't have a case or else they'd arrest me right then and there. 'Arrest me or leave me alone,' I said. And, as for the million, they could come to a public performance, which had already been announced for that Saturday, in which I'd be participating with several other Pittsburgh artists and where I'd be displaying the work for the first time. They'd be able to see it like everybody else."
The Secret Service didn't arrest Boggs that afternoon at Carnegie Mellon, but they did confiscate further batches of evidence. Nor did they arrest him that Saturday night, when, before more than four hundred art fans ("The place was pulsing, like a heart") he indeed displayed his bulging briefcase containing the million in Boggs bills.
He taunted the agents he recognized in the audience, saying, "Here it is. Go ahead, arrest me. O.K., you're self-conscious. I'll wait for you outside." He did. Nobody came by.
It's not entirely clear what the Secret Service and the United States Attorney for the Pittsburgh District are up to in this latest skirmish with Boggs. The signals they've been sending are mixed (and neither office has been willing to comment to the press on what they are characterizing as merely an ongoing investigation into possible violations of Section 474, among others, of Title 18 of the Federal Criminal Code and Rules, which expressly forbids making "obligations" in the "similitude" of any United States currency). On the one hand, it seems they may be gearing up for a major trial, figuring that Boggs has finally gone too far, and that this time they will have an easier time convincing a jury that they're simply trying to protect some future innocent shopkeeper, someone not unlike themselves, from unwittingly getting saddled with bum paper. Even if Boggs himself is going to be scrupulous in abiding by his rules of transparent disclosure, they may intend to argue, who is to say how the third or fourth transactor down the chain might behave?
Or, on the other hand, they may now have embarked on a preemptive war of attrition. "What's it going to take, Boggs, to make you stop?" Boggs claims that one of the agents kept yelling at him during their December run-in. "Are we going to have to come by and do this to you every other week? If that's their plan, they may be daring him to sue them to get them to stop, both sides knowing that in such a suit his odds decidedly narrower: he would be the plaintiff and they the defendants; in all likelihood, they could confine the case to a judge without a jury; all they'd have to prove would be that they had probable cause to engage in the ongoing investigation of which these confiscations were a necessary part. In any event, the entire ordeal would end up costing Boggs a fortune in real money he doesn't have. (Some attorneys he's consulted have estimated upward of a hundred thousand dollars.) If that's their scheme, it raises some First Amendment issues, not the least being the question of prior censorship.
"What's driving them so crazy?" Boggs asked me forlornly -and somewhat rhetorically- the other day. "I mean, it can't just be the alleged counterfeiting. A million dollars, even five million-that's less than nothing in the full money stream. No, it can't be just that. It must be the way these bills of mine subvert the whole system, calling into question the very credibility of the country's entire currency. Because what's it all based on? Nothing. Sheer faith." He reached into his satchel and pulled out one of his Pittsburgh bills. "Look here." He showed me the back side with its five empty circles, each awaiting its thumbprint "I based that design on this bill here." He pulled out a photocopy of an 1886 five-dollar silver certificate. "In the old days, paper was sheer mystification - nobody trusted it. So that, as in this case here, they literally portrayed the five silver-dollar coins for which you could redeem the paper on the bill itself. And you used to be able to do precisely that-to cash in the paper for specie. Not anymore, of course. There's a great old cartoon by Thomas Nast from around that same time which shows a gold coin standing on its side, with an arrow pointing to it saying 'This is specie,' and the coin is casting a faint shadow, with an arrow pointing to it saying 'And this is paper money,'
Now that paper has lost even its gold backing, it has become the shadow of a shadow."
Another Zenonian regress - Boggs's art turned out to be mirroring, from its own side, the infinite regress of value inherent in paper money itself.
Boggs turned the bill over, revealing a near-perfect rendition of the back of an ordinary ten-dollar bill, with its magisterial representation of the U.S. Supreme Court Building. "Terrific likeness," I said.
"Think so?" Boggs smiled.
He reached into his wallet and extracted a real ten-dollar bill, on the back of which was a representation of the U.S. Treasury Building.
Nice trick. I asked him which denomination the Supreme Court actually graced, and he answered, "None. I made it up. It's my own fantasy."
Maybe, it subsequently occurred to me, he'd put the Supreme Court there in anticipation of a perhaps not so distant day when the full panoply of Boggsian perplexes will be landing squarely at its steps.
In the meantime, Boggs has gone back to Pittsburgh and started spending his new bills. On January 1st, he passed six prints, "worth" a total of twelve hundred and thirty dollars. One of them, a crisp Supreme Court ten-clearly a bill in a hurry-has already changed hands three times.
6 Call it what it is: "stole"
7 This is an unfortunate conceptual (and perhaps purposeful) error. Boggs's notes (his art) are "nothing" in the same way that Bev Dolittle creates value out of "nothing" when she authorizes 69.996 prints to be made of one of her very popular paintings which then are offered for upwards of several hundred dollars each at "a fine art gallery near you." For that matter his notes are at least as substantial as the scrip issued by the same government that reaches it's hand into your pocket to pay the salaries of the criminals Boggs has run into lately.
8 Does this piss anybody else off? Or am I another "lone wolf" in this club?
The Anchorage Coin Club is a non-profit organization formed to provide information, education, and a meeting place for individuals having an interest in numismatics.
Correspondence Address: Anchorage Coin Club, P.O. Box 230169, Anchorage,