Defacing the Dollar

Argentina can’t feel good about what one artist is doing with its currency. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

With Argentina’s inflation rate so high—nearly 90%—its currency has become so devalued that one of its pesos is worth about a half of a US penny.  That’s why one artist in Argentina has started using the peso there as his canvas, painting pictures on it from a portrait of Lionel Messi to a picture of Jaws. His works also include the US one-dollar bill.

And that’s where the story goes from funny—when we’re talking about Argentina’s currency—to no longer legal when we’re talking about American dollars.  Most people don’t know that under the US Code, it’s illegal to cut, deface, or perforate any US currency with intent to render it unfit to be reissued, and the penalty can be a fine or even imprisonment. What isn’t clear is what the Argentinian artist will accept as payment for the currency he’s painting on. Maybe he’ll take non-defaced US dollars.

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