Printin’ for fun and profit

This article about artist/counterfeiter Hans-Jürgen Kuhl is a must-read. The guy becomes infatuated with Warhol, loves printing, but then he slides down a slippery slope into counterfeiting. He ends up serving some soft time.

The majority of counterfeiters, as one federal investigator told me, are meth heads who, after three nights without sleep, suddenly get the bright idea to scan a $20 bill, bleach a bunch of $5 bills, and print the image of the $20 on that same paper. Even the most senile merchant can usually spot these shams. But with his scrupulous craftsmanship, Kuhl placed himself among a rarefied class of counterfeiters who can produce truly high-quality fakes. They possess sophisticated knowledge about paper and dyes, and they have expertise in printing machinery and banknote security features such as watermarks and color-shifting ink.

In the end, the happy ending to this story is: “for the first time in 20 years, he’s painting.” (Not sure that’s an improvement.) If for no other reason, you should check out this article for the great illustrations by James Yamasaki.

When I first decided to pursue printmaking as a vocation, every man in my family made corny ill-informed jokes about counterfeiting money. Indeed, many of these gentlemen still make these jokes. Maybe this is why I feel a certain kinship with the criminal printer. Perhaps we all do.

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Categories: Print-related

2 Responses to “Printin’ for fun and profit”

  1. Luther says:

    I like how the story ends with him saying he still wants one more shot at making the perfect bill. Also pretty interesting that they basically give you directions on how to forge a bill including a recipe for making the paper the right color.

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