From Andy Warhol to Howard Finster to Shepard Fairey and numerous artists in between, the beauty of past and present currency has attracted a considerable number of artists to interpret it. Some are drawn to its formal qualities and engraving detail; some like its historical, political and monetary power, and a few have used their own customized versions in an attempt to simply honor the love of currency collecting. Indeed, how many graphic designers today can say that the design of currency was inspirational to them at an early point in their path to design?
Today I introduce an artist well known in numismatic circles but relatively unknown to the rest of us. Tim Prusmack (1962 - 2004) was very active ten to twenty years ago in currency and coin shows, where he exhibited and sold his complicated, hand-drawn in ink currency. His fans called him the “Mozart of Money Art,” many of whom enjoyed purchasing one of his accurate renditions of currency. Before his death, a Prusmack bill (in a printed edition of 250) could be bought directly from him for $10 bucks — essentially a novelty item for serious currency collectors.
Although the United States Secret Service can get irritable when money art begins to look too much like the real thing, Prusmack eventually found fans at the Bureau of Engraving in Washington, DC — including Mary Ellen Withrow, the 40th Treasurer of the United States under President Bill Clinton.
Quite a bit more can be learned about his art on this conversational thread on the PCGS Currency Forum, where most of these images were found. Though Prusmack never lived long enough to see his art escalate from novelty item to the niche collectible it is today, I am sure he would be happy to know that eBay and other auctions have commanded more than $2,500 for a single, printed and editioned note. As for an original ink drawing — I have no idea as to the cost.
Images from the PCGS Currency Forum and Heritage Auctions, Dallas.