Zero-Dollar Bill

Back in 1992 or 1993, when I was living at the House of Everything with Elliott Evans and Dan Efran, we did this art project. I'm pretty sure it was Dan's idea.

(Click for high-resolution versions.)

This was partially inspired by the work of J. S. G. Boggs, who was in the news at the time for riling up the government with his money-based art.

Our version was tamer, since, of course, it wasn't even pretending to have monetary value. We had fun with it, though. You can spot all sorts of tiny detail. That's my signature and Dan's as the Treasurer and Secretary. The eye in the pyramid is saying "We're not watching you." I'm particularly proud of changing "Washington, DC" to "Weisshaupt, DC". (Although I spelled it wrong -- oops. Should have double-checked my copy of Illuminatus!)

You may be shocked to learn that this was not a Photoshop job. I used Photoshop (a pirated copy, of course) to make some of the details. Other bits, like the "All Others Pay Cash" line and the non-portrait, were created as vector art in PostScript. But the final assembly was cutting out bits of paper and pasting them on a magnified photocopy with spray-mount! And then photocopying it again for the final "render".

That's why it's monochrome, of course. (Color photocopies? On our budget?) (Our budget was zero dollars.) The one touch of color was the seal on the right side of the front, which was hand-stamped in green. We had a few of these stamps. This one has faded (it's been thirty years!) but you can still make out the Erisian apple-with-a-K.

For a couple of years, we carried around stacks of them and handed them out. We added them to restaurant tips. (Not as the only tip, jeez, we're not monsters.) I carried my last $0 in my wallet for years until it fell apart. But yesterday I was looking through an old box and found another in mint condition! So here it is.

These days it's easy to find novelty zero-dollar bills. Mostly they're cheap political commentary: person-you-hate is worthless as President! A quick web search turns up versions ragging on Trump, Obama, both Clintons, George Bush, and Justin Bieber. But I think ours predates all of them.

Here's another funny-money-art bill that I own:

(Click for high-resolution versions.)

This was made by Love 22, a politician or political satirist or performance artist who's been making $22 bills for decades. Still going strong, or so that article says in 2019. Good for him.

Last updated January 5, 2022.

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