J.S.G. Boggs was an American artist whose playfully realistic drawings of banknotes catapulted him to worldwide fame — and landed him in jail more than once. He is widely regarded as the Patron Saint of Cryptocurrency.
Boggs was a prankster and provocateur who gleefully challenged the authority of governments to dictate what forms of money could be used to conduct commerce. While he acknowledged the government’s right to issue fiat currency, he questioned its monopoly. Why shouldn’t Boggs’s own imaginative and finely wrought currencies — which, like fiat, contained portraiture, unique numerical markings and anti-counterfeiting measures — be allowed to serve as tender for goods and services, so long as they were deemed valuable by the recipient?
The person who planted this question in Boggs’s mind was also the first person to answer it. In 1984, Boggs was sketching a dollar bill on a napkin in a Chicago diner when his waitress offered to settle his 90¢ check with it. When she insisted on paying him the dime due in change, a new chapter in Boggs’s life —and contemporary art — began.
From that day forward, Boggs’s career was consumed by art-as-money and its many philosophical provocations: Why does an easily reproduced piece of paper carry any value in the first place? What is anything worth, if not the price another is willing to pay for it? Why shouldn’t citizens be allowed to create their own collectively agreed-upon means of exchange?
It makes sense, then, that in 1988, Boggs told a reporter, “I’d also like to create my own unit of currency, the Bogg.”
Patron Saint of Cryptocurrency
A decade later, cryptocurrency’s pioneers would come to agree with Boggs’s instinct to create his own stores of value and media of exchange. Some early bitcoin adopters were quick to credit Boggs as among their progenitors:
- In 2013, Business Insider compared Boggs to Satoshi Nakomoto, Bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator, describing both as “producing a work exploring the meaning of money.”
- On HackerNews, user Don Hopkins wondered, “I wonder what kind of abstract performance art [Boggs] could have done with bitcoin?”
- To mark his passing in 2017, Redditors in crypto forums recognized him as their forebearer: “Before Bitcoin there was Boggs Bills,” noted one; “J.S.G Boggs, a true Bitcoiner in spirit!” wrote another.
- In a February 2021 discussion of Satoshi’s identity, Redditor BitcoinPlato wrote, “I’ve read Satoshi’s white paper and it reminded me of J. S. G. Boggs.”
When considered alongside Boggs’s early experiments with iterative digital art and his interest in “Encrypted Online Currency” as early as 2000, his philosophical influence on crypto is apparent.
The artist’s estate is excited to begin the work to extend Boggs’s legacy into the 21st century — and beyond.
A Selection of “Boggs Bills”
About this Website
JSGBoggs.org is owned and operated by the late artist’s estate. Our mission is threefold:
- Catalog and preserve J.S.G. Boggs’s body of work;
- Promote J.S.G. Boggs’s legacy and influence on contemporary digital art and cryptocurrencies; and
- Create opportunities for art lovers, currency collectors and other enthusiasts to own new digital editions of J.S.G. Boggs’s work.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.