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The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter

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The true story of a brilliant counterfeiter who "made" millions, outwitted the Secret Service, and was finally undone when he went in search of the one thing his forged money couldn't buy him: family. Art Williams spent his boyhood in a comfortable middle-class existence in 1970s Chicago, but his idyll was shattered when, in short order, his father abandoned the family, his The true story of a brilliant counterfeiter who "made" millions, outwitted the Secret Service, and was finally undone when he went in search of the one thing his forged money couldn't buy him: family. Art Williams spent his boyhood in a comfortable middle-class existence in 1970s Chicago, but his idyll was shattered when, in short order, his father abandoned the family, his bipolar mother lost her wits, and Williams found himself living in one of Chicago's worst housing projects. He took to crime almost immediately, starting with petty theft before graduating to robbing drug dealers. Eventually a man nicknamed "DaVinci" taught him the centuries-old art of counterfeiting. After a stint in jail, Williams emerged to discover that the Treasury Department had issued the most secure hundred-dollar bill ever created: the 1996 New Note. Williams spent months trying to defeat various security features before arriving at a bill so perfect that even law enforcement had difficulty distinguishing it from the real thing. Williams went on to print millions in counterfeit bills, selling them to criminal organizations and using them to fund cross-country spending sprees. Still unsatisfied, he went off in search of his long-lost father, setting in motion a chain of betrayals that would be his undoing. In The Art of Making Money, journalist Jason Kersten details how Williams painstakingly defeated the anti-forging features of the New Note, how Williams and his partner-in-crime wife converted fake bills into legitimate tender at shopping malls all over America, and how they stayed one step ahead of the Secret Service until trusting the wrong person brought them all down. A compulsively readable story of how having it all is never enough, The Art of Making Money is a stirring portrait of the rise and inevitable fall of a modern-day criminal mastermind. An Interview with Jason Kersten, author of THE ART OF MAKING MONEY Q: What compelled you to write The Art of Making Money? A: Curiosity about the crime of counterfeiting initially drew me in. Master counterfeiters- criminals who produce superior quality notes and sell them-are extremely rare. Unlike other kinds of career criminals, they are also craftsmen, and they typically learn from another master through apprenticeship. When Art Williams learned to counterfeit from a master at just 16, he was the last link in a chain of counterfeiters that went back generations. I found this so fascinating, this idea of legacy. I wanted to know how Art learned the art of counterfeiting, the dynamics of that student- teacher relationship and how it changed him. Then of course there was his pursuit of a counterfeit of the 1996 New Note, the most secure US bill ever created. It was a quest, and quests always make for great stories. While it was the world of counterfeiting that originally attracted me to Art's story, what ultimately made a book-length project worthwhile wasn't the crime, but the man. Art's quest to reconnect with his father was far more compelling than his criminal escapades, and it is the conflict that arises between these two goals that gives his story so much dramatic weight. Q: How did you find Art Williams and his story? A: Art Williams actually found me. Back in 2004, the Hollywood producer Paul Pompian spent a week in Chicago scouting locations for one of his films. Paul didn't have a car, so one of his friends loaned him a car and driver. That driver turned out to be Art Williams. As the week went by, Art kept hinting to Paul that if he really wanted to make an interesting movie, he should listen to his story. Of course, being a veteran Hollywood man, Paul hears such claims on a daily basis, so he pretty much blew Art off the entire week. On his last day in Chicago, Paul had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport. By then he had taken a liking to Art. They were both native Chicagoans, both from the streets, and in a few of the details Art revealed about his past Paul saw shades of his own memories growing up in the city. Paul offered to buy Art lunch and, grudgingly, finally listen to his story. Upon hearing that Art had learned to counterfeit at 16, Paul was shocked, and of course there was much more to the story. He thought that Art's life might indeed not only make a good film, but an interesting book. Eventually he contacted my literary agent in the hopes of finding someone to write it. I really didn't know what to think when my agent told me about Art. I was fascinated, but there was no way I could commit to anything without meeting Art myself. After spending an hour with him on the phone and doing a little research, I though it would at least make an interesting magazine article. The resulting article ran in Rolling Stone in July of 2005, and by then I had learned enough about Art's story to want to write the book. Q: How much money did Art Williams counterfeit? A: By Art's own estimate, he counterfeited about ten million dollars worth of US currency over a ten-year period. While that is quite a sum for a lone counterfeiter, the dynamics of the crime make getting rich from it a bit more complicated. Since he sold much of it for 30- cents on the dollar, he only got about third or less of the face value. Overhead, his splurging lifestyle, and the countless bills he burned because he wasn't quite satisfied, reduced his net profit even further. Q: Have you ever seen one of Art Williams's counterfeit bills? A: I have, though interestingly this didn't happen until the book was almost finished. The bill, a C- note, was stuffed inside a journal sent to me by someone close to Art. This individual had tucked it in there as a memento years earlier and completely forgotten about it. Seeing it was a strange sensation. If I hadn't spent so much time learning about both real and counterfeit currency, I wouldn't have been able to distinguish it from a genuine bill. Holding it in my hand, I realized how easy it would be to just go spend it. Art always told me that spending his bills never felt like a crime to him, and I could see why: it was too easy to believe the bill was real. Q: While writing this book, did you have fantasies about becoming a counterfeiter yourself? A: There came a point when I realized that few people-perhaps nobody other than Art and Natalie-knew as much as I did about how Williams made his bills. At the same time, I also had intimate knowledge of the personal tragedies and sufferings that his life as a counterfeiter had caused him. That kind of knowledge tends to strip away the glamour of the crime. Even so, there have certainly been times when I've daydreamed about making my own bills. Those fantasies are very short-lived. The likelihood that I would wind up in prison aside, counterfeiting at Art's level requires tremendous skill and patience, and it helps if you enjoy the work, which comes down to printing. Art always said he did it more for the challenge than the money, and I believe him. Sadly, if Art applied the same discipline to his counterfeiting to a legitimate endeavor, he would not only be successful, but free.


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The true story of a brilliant counterfeiter who "made" millions, outwitted the Secret Service, and was finally undone when he went in search of the one thing his forged money couldn't buy him: family. Art Williams spent his boyhood in a comfortable middle-class existence in 1970s Chicago, but his idyll was shattered when, in short order, his father abandoned the family, his The true story of a brilliant counterfeiter who "made" millions, outwitted the Secret Service, and was finally undone when he went in search of the one thing his forged money couldn't buy him: family. Art Williams spent his boyhood in a comfortable middle-class existence in 1970s Chicago, but his idyll was shattered when, in short order, his father abandoned the family, his bipolar mother lost her wits, and Williams found himself living in one of Chicago's worst housing projects. He took to crime almost immediately, starting with petty theft before graduating to robbing drug dealers. Eventually a man nicknamed "DaVinci" taught him the centuries-old art of counterfeiting. After a stint in jail, Williams emerged to discover that the Treasury Department had issued the most secure hundred-dollar bill ever created: the 1996 New Note. Williams spent months trying to defeat various security features before arriving at a bill so perfect that even law enforcement had difficulty distinguishing it from the real thing. Williams went on to print millions in counterfeit bills, selling them to criminal organizations and using them to fund cross-country spending sprees. Still unsatisfied, he went off in search of his long-lost father, setting in motion a chain of betrayals that would be his undoing. In The Art of Making Money, journalist Jason Kersten details how Williams painstakingly defeated the anti-forging features of the New Note, how Williams and his partner-in-crime wife converted fake bills into legitimate tender at shopping malls all over America, and how they stayed one step ahead of the Secret Service until trusting the wrong person brought them all down. A compulsively readable story of how having it all is never enough, The Art of Making Money is a stirring portrait of the rise and inevitable fall of a modern-day criminal mastermind. An Interview with Jason Kersten, author of THE ART OF MAKING MONEY Q: What compelled you to write The Art of Making Money? A: Curiosity about the crime of counterfeiting initially drew me in. Master counterfeiters- criminals who produce superior quality notes and sell them-are extremely rare. Unlike other kinds of career criminals, they are also craftsmen, and they typically learn from another master through apprenticeship. When Art Williams learned to counterfeit from a master at just 16, he was the last link in a chain of counterfeiters that went back generations. I found this so fascinating, this idea of legacy. I wanted to know how Art learned the art of counterfeiting, the dynamics of that student- teacher relationship and how it changed him. Then of course there was his pursuit of a counterfeit of the 1996 New Note, the most secure US bill ever created. It was a quest, and quests always make for great stories. While it was the world of counterfeiting that originally attracted me to Art's story, what ultimately made a book-length project worthwhile wasn't the crime, but the man. Art's quest to reconnect with his father was far more compelling than his criminal escapades, and it is the conflict that arises between these two goals that gives his story so much dramatic weight. Q: How did you find Art Williams and his story? A: Art Williams actually found me. Back in 2004, the Hollywood producer Paul Pompian spent a week in Chicago scouting locations for one of his films. Paul didn't have a car, so one of his friends loaned him a car and driver. That driver turned out to be Art Williams. As the week went by, Art kept hinting to Paul that if he really wanted to make an interesting movie, he should listen to his story. Of course, being a veteran Hollywood man, Paul hears such claims on a daily basis, so he pretty much blew Art off the entire week. On his last day in Chicago, Paul had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport. By then he had taken a liking to Art. They were both native Chicagoans, both from the streets, and in a few of the details Art revealed about his past Paul saw shades of his own memories growing up in the city. Paul offered to buy Art lunch and, grudgingly, finally listen to his story. Upon hearing that Art had learned to counterfeit at 16, Paul was shocked, and of course there was much more to the story. He thought that Art's life might indeed not only make a good film, but an interesting book. Eventually he contacted my literary agent in the hopes of finding someone to write it. I really didn't know what to think when my agent told me about Art. I was fascinated, but there was no way I could commit to anything without meeting Art myself. After spending an hour with him on the phone and doing a little research, I though it would at least make an interesting magazine article. The resulting article ran in Rolling Stone in July of 2005, and by then I had learned enough about Art's story to want to write the book. Q: How much money did Art Williams counterfeit? A: By Art's own estimate, he counterfeited about ten million dollars worth of US currency over a ten-year period. While that is quite a sum for a lone counterfeiter, the dynamics of the crime make getting rich from it a bit more complicated. Since he sold much of it for 30- cents on the dollar, he only got about third or less of the face value. Overhead, his splurging lifestyle, and the countless bills he burned because he wasn't quite satisfied, reduced his net profit even further. Q: Have you ever seen one of Art Williams's counterfeit bills? A: I have, though interestingly this didn't happen until the book was almost finished. The bill, a C- note, was stuffed inside a journal sent to me by someone close to Art. This individual had tucked it in there as a memento years earlier and completely forgotten about it. Seeing it was a strange sensation. If I hadn't spent so much time learning about both real and counterfeit currency, I wouldn't have been able to distinguish it from a genuine bill. Holding it in my hand, I realized how easy it would be to just go spend it. Art always told me that spending his bills never felt like a crime to him, and I could see why: it was too easy to believe the bill was real. Q: While writing this book, did you have fantasies about becoming a counterfeiter yourself? A: There came a point when I realized that few people-perhaps nobody other than Art and Natalie-knew as much as I did about how Williams made his bills. At the same time, I also had intimate knowledge of the personal tragedies and sufferings that his life as a counterfeiter had caused him. That kind of knowledge tends to strip away the glamour of the crime. Even so, there have certainly been times when I've daydreamed about making my own bills. Those fantasies are very short-lived. The likelihood that I would wind up in prison aside, counterfeiting at Art's level requires tremendous skill and patience, and it helps if you enjoy the work, which comes down to printing. Art always said he did it more for the challenge than the money, and I believe him. Sadly, if Art applied the same discipline to his counterfeiting to a legitimate endeavor, he would not only be successful, but free.

30 review for The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Childs

    This was a fascinating book about a guy that grows up in an environment that was simply awful and how he eventually goes on to become one of the best counterfeiters in the United States. Seems his only real advantage was that he was smart. In every other way; parents, where he lived, friends, and schooling, he got a raw deal. After growing up as nothing more than a petty criminal he learns the basics about counterfeiting from his mother's boyfriend and learns just enough to get him hooked. The boo This was a fascinating book about a guy that grows up in an environment that was simply awful and how he eventually goes on to become one of the best counterfeiters in the United States. Seems his only real advantage was that he was smart. In every other way; parents, where he lived, friends, and schooling, he got a raw deal. After growing up as nothing more than a petty criminal he learns the basics about counterfeiting from his mother's boyfriend and learns just enough to get him hooked. The book details some of the techniques and processes he used in order to become so good at making money and how he was able to not get caught for so long. It was also interesting to read about the kinds of people that buy counterfeit money and what they use it for. While the whole book was pretty interesting I must say the end was a real page turner. I could see where it was going to end up but I just couldn't wait to get there. If you like great books about bad people then this is the book for you...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    So, so, so, SO good!!! Recommended to me by one of my favorite people, and one of the best book recommenders I know!! A very quick read, and a peek inside the mind of a master criminal. Maybe it's just the former banker in me, but I couldn't put this book down. HIGHLY recommend.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    When I brought home this audiobook, my husband was excited that I was tapping into my entrepreneurial side. I laughed and said, that it wasn't about that kind of making money. It was about counterfeiting. He just said, "Oh." This was a solid 4 stars for me. It was not boring at all. I loved the slight humor that was written into this. Art's story was fascinating. So why did I give this 3 stars and not 4? It was because of the audio performance. The reader did a good job, until he started butcheri When I brought home this audiobook, my husband was excited that I was tapping into my entrepreneurial side. I laughed and said, that it wasn't about that kind of making money. It was about counterfeiting. He just said, "Oh." This was a solid 4 stars for me. It was not boring at all. I loved the slight humor that was written into this. Art's story was fascinating. So why did I give this 3 stars and not 4? It was because of the audio performance. The reader did a good job, until he started butchering Alaskan names. Ugh. That is such a pet peeve. Why do they not do their research so they can get the pronunciation correct? It isn't that hard to find out.

  4. 4 out of 5

    John Hood

    Bound Miami SunPost September 30, 2009 http://miamisunpost.com/themorgue/200... Dough-Re-Me, Baby! Jason Kersten Knows a Cat Who Really Makes Money John Hood You know, if the economy wasn’t so screwed up and a few less folks owed me loot, I would’ve have written up Jason Kersten’s The Art of Making Money (Gotham $26) way back at the beginning of June, when the book first hit shops. But I was so intrigued by the notion, and so in need of what the notion might deliver, that I figured I’d go ahead and t Bound Miami SunPost September 30, 2009 http://miamisunpost.com/themorgue/200... Dough-Re-Me, Baby! Jason Kersten Knows a Cat Who Really Makes Money John Hood You know, if the economy wasn’t so screwed up and a few less folks owed me loot, I would’ve have written up Jason Kersten’s The Art of Making Money (Gotham $26) way back at the beginning of June, when the book first hit shops. But I was so intrigued by the notion, and so in need of what the notion might deliver, that I figured I’d go ahead and try my hand at really making money too. Alas I’ve neither the patience nor the fortitude to become a counterfeiter. I know that now. And it is much to my chagrin that I even considered the prospect in the first place. However I am rather well adept at bringing the news about books, especially of the more nefarious breed. So it is with great good pleasure that I at last bring you news of Kersten’s rollicking chronicle. Of course I was kidding about actually trying out some of the principals involved in The Art of Making Money; had I truly been of that kinda mind I would’ve been ensconced in the trade way back in the early ‘90s when the late, irate Loompanics published a buncha books on the craft. But with the world the way it is, I can see how some people might be tempted. Me? I’m content to sit on the sidelines of this game and regale you with the tall tales as they’re presented. And yes, as you might well suspect, this is some tall tale. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it. The thing is though this tall tale is all true, and nothing but true. Or as true as any hustler’s tale can be anyway. And to me that kinda gives it an even greater height. Meet Art Williams, a South Side Chi-town street creeper with a yen for more, more, more. The more, of course, is money. And he’s driven to careful extremes to make it, literally. First under the wing of a clever old school master craftsman named DaVinci; then on his own in a makeshift printhouse he called “the Dungeon.” But Williams was driven by another deep need, and that was family. He wants to find his father (who abandoned the coop long ago). And he wants to know his son (who’s mother just so happens to be Chicago PD). It’s that last drive which will do him in. But it’s the action that gasses Art’s last drive which gives this story the get-up and go-go. Rumor has it that all-in-all Williams printed nearly $10 million in sourdough. It was good stuff too. Damn good stuff. In fact a Fed said only the North Koreans printed better. And the Commies did (and do) so from a $10 million machine just like the one used by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Williams was one of the damn few cabbage-growers who wasn’t thrown by the 1996 New Note, the Fed’s most counterfeit-proof piece of long green. And once he mastered the bill’s intricacies he became the most in demand money machine in the Midwest. Underworld types offered him riches for his recipe; Russian gangsters promised stately layouts on the Caspian Sea. And the Feds made Williams a person of very special interest. Kersten sprung this longplay from his same-named 2005 Rolling Stone feature. He had the story then; he’s got the life now. The Life. Three-hundred pages of unmitigated drama and intrigue. As the world turns for the worse and more folks keep getting less and less, it’s unlikely we’ve seen the last days of the counterfeiter. Whether or not we ever see another as colorful – or as colorfully realized – as Art Williams is anybody’s guess. But if you’ve got an interest in loot and the back-alley ways in which it’s sometimes made, this book is for you. Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. I’d hate to lose a pal to some kinda wild whim.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hava

    On break at the library one day with the book I was reading at home, I started wandering through the new non-fiction section and found this book. The front cover caught my eye, and I sat down to read. The background story was slow-going, but once the author got into the meat of the story, I was hooked. Here was a guy named Art (re-read the title of the book now - it's a play on words) who, by a strange twist of fate, ends up making counterfeit money. There was no doubt about the fact that Art wa On break at the library one day with the book I was reading at home, I started wandering through the new non-fiction section and found this book. The front cover caught my eye, and I sat down to read. The background story was slow-going, but once the author got into the meat of the story, I was hooked. Here was a guy named Art (re-read the title of the book now - it's a play on words) who, by a strange twist of fate, ends up making counterfeit money. There was no doubt about the fact that Art was destined for a life of running from the law (his parents weren't much of parents at all, and Art started stealing at a young age) but if he hadn't been taken under a mentor's wing and shown how counterfeit, he would have ended up a petty thief or drug dealer and no one would know his name. There certainly wouldn't be any books written about him. But because there is glamor and intrigue associated with counterfeiting, and Art was one of the best counterfeiters that there was, he got a book memorializing his exploits. I'm not saying I agree or disagree with this - I just think it's interesting. Anyway, although counterfeiting is supposedly glamorous, I found it mostly depressing. There is no peace and rest when you counterfeit. You can't spend it willy-nilly - you have to be careful about where you spend it, and how much you spend. You're constantly on the run; you can trust no one; and security cameras give you the heebie-jeebies. At certain points, he was richer than Midas, but he certainly wasn't happy. I thought it was a fascinating look into a world which I will never occupy. I also thought it made a great case study of human behavior. I bet psychiatrists would have a field day with this guy. If you're at all interested in the world of counterfeit money, or you want an armchair view of the seamy side of life, you'll love this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    When I borrowed this from the library, I thought it would be more about the actual counterfeiting and less of a biography of the counterfeiter, but it was still okay. Luckily, I picked it up as an audio book, because the author gets VERY overly dramatic at times, and as an audio book, it's a bit easier to take, possibly because it sounds like the narrator of the old "Lone Ranger" or "Rocky & Bullwinkle" shows. On the written page, it would be MUCH harder to take. There's really only one likable p When I borrowed this from the library, I thought it would be more about the actual counterfeiting and less of a biography of the counterfeiter, but it was still okay. Luckily, I picked it up as an audio book, because the author gets VERY overly dramatic at times, and as an audio book, it's a bit easier to take, possibly because it sounds like the narrator of the old "Lone Ranger" or "Rocky & Bullwinkle" shows. On the written page, it would be MUCH harder to take. There's really only one likable person in the book--the mentally ill mother. Art junior had a terrible childhood and I certainly felt bad for him then, but it's still hard to like him as an adult. He makes a lot of excuses, never seems to learn from his mistakes, and is just probably going to remain a criminal the rest of his life, in and out of jail. One unintentionally funny part was to discover that there really ARE people foolish enough to fall for the "Nigerian money" schemes that pepper my email, and that at least in this instance, they aren't innocent little grannies. They're budding--but dumb--criminals themselves. Poetic justice I guess. The author's narration gets really tiresome--especially when in the epilogue he tries to assert that the step-mother got an overly harsh sentence. She had a long history of criminal behavior including dealing in illegally obtained prescription drugs, so I personally thought she got off pretty lightly. The author might have felt sorry for the characters, but I didn't. It's much easier to like Frank Abignale ("Catch Me If You Can"), which is the comparison that will inevitably be made when the movie comes out, but the stories really aren't that similar.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    I've decided that truth is far more interesting than fiction. The plot of this book is fascinating. An incredibly precocious boy abandoned by his father and raised in a horrid ghetto by a bipolar mother becomes the world's best counterfeiter. The description of the process he used to outwit all the government's security systems and create a perfect bill read like a mystery novel. He loved the challenge and worked to perfect his craft. Even his personal life made him a very sympathetic character. I've decided that truth is far more interesting than fiction. The plot of this book is fascinating. An incredibly precocious boy abandoned by his father and raised in a horrid ghetto by a bipolar mother becomes the world's best counterfeiter. The description of the process he used to outwit all the government's security systems and create a perfect bill read like a mystery novel. He loved the challenge and worked to perfect his craft. Even his personal life made him a very sympathetic character. In order to cash the counterfeit bills, he would shop in malls, donate his purchases to churches and keep the change. I had hoped for a better ending. Unfortunately he is back in prison. He should get out soon and our government would be smart to find a way to use his considerable talent to make our money safer.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Juliette

    I took this to be a social study of Chicago in the 1970s, and less about counterfeiting and the counterfeiter. In that sense, it's a decent book. What detracted me was the magazine-style writing. It's quick and sassy in a 10 page article, but it's grating in a 300-page book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jim Phillips

    I like the writing style. Very engaging character driven storyline.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael Hames

    This was a great book and very interesting look at the life of a counterfeiter, how he got started, how he went about defeating the security mechanisms of the US dollar bill and some of the things you wouldn’t even think about with respect to moving the counterfeit bills. Highly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    RC1140

    loved it , while you can't justify what he did , he was pretty successful and suffered a lot , made me appreciate my life more

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fab Mackojc

    A neat story about the guy who managed to counterfeit the 1996 new $100 US note.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Mendoza

    Back in 1987, I was working at Footlocker in a Houston mall, and I took a counterfeit $100 bill. I knew something was wrong with the bill--it just looked wrong, faded, and the paper definitely felt wrong. The guy passing it to me gave a nervous laugh as I scrutinized it and said "Yeah, it's a fake, hehe." I took it anyway, deciding it was probably real and had just been washed in somebody's jeans a few times, and gave the guy his change. The next day my manager got a call from the bank saying the Back in 1987, I was working at Footlocker in a Houston mall, and I took a counterfeit $100 bill. I knew something was wrong with the bill--it just looked wrong, faded, and the paper definitely felt wrong. The guy passing it to me gave a nervous laugh as I scrutinized it and said "Yeah, it's a fake, hehe." I took it anyway, deciding it was probably real and had just been washed in somebody's jeans a few times, and gave the guy his change. The next day my manager got a call from the bank saying they discovered the bill in our nightly deposit and the Secret Service would like to come interview us. Many other stores in the mall had been hit too. My boss decided he didn't want to fool with it, so he was just going to tell the SS that nobody remembered anything. I protested, knowing I could describe the guy in detail and give the exact time it happened, but he wouldn't let me talk to the SS. Ever since then, I've had an axe to grind with counterfeiters, so I was intrigued by this book. The author does an admirable job of trying to paint him as the protagonist, the victim of a broken household, with a derelict father and a psycho mom. Add growing up in the gang-infested slums of Chicago into that mix, and it's no wonder he turned to a life of crime. Still, I didn't feel the least bit sympathetic to the guy, and was glad to see him pinched. Repeatedly. The author really goes into way too much detail on the techniques this guy used to beat the "super note" $100 bills, and all the security features. His greed and desire to reconnect with father ultimately led to his downfall. It's a great read throughout. Defintely recommend.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    A surprisingly captivating tale that could have been dull or, worse, cynically served up to an audience expecting a cathartic "cops vs. robbers" story, The Art of Making Money is a well-fleshed out, carefully researched look into the life of Art Williams, Jr., a kid who got no break from the horrors of life on the South Side of Chicago in the '80s and '90s, and, through a 'lucky' discovery, learned the professional trade of counterfeiting from a career counterfeiter as a teenager. Taking the ski A surprisingly captivating tale that could have been dull or, worse, cynically served up to an audience expecting a cathartic "cops vs. robbers" story, The Art of Making Money is a well-fleshed out, carefully researched look into the life of Art Williams, Jr., a kid who got no break from the horrors of life on the South Side of Chicago in the '80s and '90s, and, through a 'lucky' discovery, learned the professional trade of counterfeiting from a career counterfeiter as a teenager. Taking the skills he learns, he builds on them, and improves them for the modern era, and discovers through hard work and effort how to defeat the U.S. government's new 1996 hundred dollar bill, chock full of new and challenging security features. What's great about this book is that it does not bog down in the technical details of how Art learned to counterfeit, but gets deep into his motivations, his circumstances, and the troubled relationship with the father who abandoned him. It's a truly sad story, and the ups and downs of Art's life only make his downfall even more tragic, as we see a young, clearly brilliant man brought down by the people around him, and the temptations his skill inspires. Definitely worth a close read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cynthisa

    An excellent book. As interesting as I'd expected the technical details to be (and they were), the human story of Arthur Willams, Jr.'s life were even more compelling. Jason Kersten does a tremendous job of placing all the elements of Art's life into context. Expecting to read about counterfeiting, I was mezmerized by this tale of a talented, but troubled, young man and his far-flung life of crime, of which counterfeiting was, in a way (at least, as portrayed by Kersten) the culmination of an al An excellent book. As interesting as I'd expected the technical details to be (and they were), the human story of Arthur Willams, Jr.'s life were even more compelling. Jason Kersten does a tremendous job of placing all the elements of Art's life into context. Expecting to read about counterfeiting, I was mezmerized by this tale of a talented, but troubled, young man and his far-flung life of crime, of which counterfeiting was, in a way (at least, as portrayed by Kersten) the culmination of an almost ineviable trajectory. Absolutely the best non-fiction book I have read in a while. I will absolutely be seeking out more of Mr. Kersten's work, especially his Rolling Stone articles.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I heard a discussion of this book on NPR and had to read it. It's interesting that we all live such parallel lives with such vastly different experiences. This book reads like a novel - the description of the counterfeiting process was fascinating - as well as the story of this dysfunctional family and the main characters struggle to be a "success." I was constantly reminding myself that this really happened.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    Excellent book! As the title explains, it tells the tale of a master counterfeiter - it was very interesting to read how he perfected his art of counterfeiting. I learned a lot about US currency and the secret service. The counterfeiting story is combined with the individual's personal struggles - both of which stories were very interesting. It was a quick read, as the writer left me constantly wanting to know what would happen next.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    What a great story. It would be a pretty good read if it were fiction, but the knowledge that it is real makes it really compelling - I literally could not put this down. The details of the technology and artistry of counterfeiting are fascinating, and the human reaction to the notes is just as compelling.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    The true story of a brilliant counterfeiter who "made" millions, outwitted the Secret Service, and was finally undone when he went in search of the one thing his forged money couldn't buy him: family. Art Williams spent his boyhood in a comfortable middle-class existence in 1970s Chicago, but his idyll was shattered when, in short order, his father abandoned the family, his bipolar mother lost her wits, and Williams found himself living in one of Chicago's worst housing projects. He took to crime The true story of a brilliant counterfeiter who "made" millions, outwitted the Secret Service, and was finally undone when he went in search of the one thing his forged money couldn't buy him: family. Art Williams spent his boyhood in a comfortable middle-class existence in 1970s Chicago, but his idyll was shattered when, in short order, his father abandoned the family, his bipolar mother lost her wits, and Williams found himself living in one of Chicago's worst housing projects. He took to crime almost immediately, starting with petty theft before graduating to robbing drug dealers. Eventually a man nicknamed "DaVinci" taught him the centuries-old art of counterfeiting. After a stint in jail, Williams emerged to discover that the Treasury Department had issued the most secure hundred-dollar bill ever created: the 1996 New Note. Williams spent months trying to defeat various security features before arriving at a bill so perfect that even law enforcement had difficulty distinguishing it from the real thing. Williams went on to print millions in counterfeit bills, selling them to criminal organizations and using them to fund cross-country spending sprees. Still unsatisfied, he went off in search of his long-lost father, setting in motion a chain of betrayals that would be his undoing. In The Art of Making Money, journalist Jason Kersten details how Williams painstakingly defeated the anti-forging features of the New Note, how Williams and his partner-in-crime wife converted fake bills into legitimate tender at shopping malls all over America, and how they stayed one step ahead of the Secret Service until trusting the wrong person brought them all down. A compulsively readable story of how having it all is never enough, The Art of Making Money is a stirring portrait of the rise and inevitable fall of a modern-day criminal mastermind.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sean Hong

    The Autobiography was very interesting due to the reality of the story told. The book follows the real life of Arthur Williams, who becomes one of the best counterfeiters known to be. The story takes place in Bridgeport, one of the worst neighborhoods in Chicago due to gang violence. One day, Arthur finds out the underground process of counterfeiting through his mother's boyfriend, and the rest is history. The story was interesting to me due to the fact that most of the story is based on reality The Autobiography was very interesting due to the reality of the story told. The book follows the real life of Arthur Williams, who becomes one of the best counterfeiters known to be. The story takes place in Bridgeport, one of the worst neighborhoods in Chicago due to gang violence. One day, Arthur finds out the underground process of counterfeiting through his mother's boyfriend, and the rest is history. The story was interesting to me due to the fact that most of the story is based on reality, with some based on police reports. The book comes to life through interviews with Arthur himself, friends, and other family members involved. I disliked the book at the beginning due to its slow start, but after a few pages, I was glued in. I recommend this book to those interested in a thriller or have interest in real stories.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Adriane

    Overall I enjoyed reading the book. I think counterfeiting & the Secret Service are interesting topics to explore. This book goes in depth into the life of Art Williams, Jr. An exploration of what drew him to crime that leads to a page turning book. HOWEVER - I really had trouble with the writing. Every chapter seemed to end with - "And everything seemed to be going great...or so he thought!" Dun dun dun. A lot of melodramatic lines & voiceover type narration were added; which seemed incongruous Overall I enjoyed reading the book. I think counterfeiting & the Secret Service are interesting topics to explore. This book goes in depth into the life of Art Williams, Jr. An exploration of what drew him to crime that leads to a page turning book. HOWEVER - I really had trouble with the writing. Every chapter seemed to end with - "And everything seemed to be going great...or so he thought!" Dun dun dun. A lot of melodramatic lines & voiceover type narration were added; which seemed incongruous with the main narration/story. The author's tone changed drastically from section to section, and I simply couldn't decipher the reasoning behind it. Ultimately for me it continuously detracted from the book & Art's story.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Henry Fosdike

    Counterfeiters, con artists, heists… There is just something about these worlds that draw me in. This particular tale concerns a man who was drawn into a life of crime by his somewhat irregular and unfortunate upbringing, taken under the wing of a counterfeiter and from there set out on his own to truly master forging the US dollar. The tale concerns his exploits primarily during the late nineties when the US had added watermarks and paper that could be tested by a simple brush of a pen. It’s hu Counterfeiters, con artists, heists… There is just something about these worlds that draw me in. This particular tale concerns a man who was drawn into a life of crime by his somewhat irregular and unfortunate upbringing, taken under the wing of a counterfeiter and from there set out on his own to truly master forging the US dollar. The tale concerns his exploits primarily during the late nineties when the US had added watermarks and paper that could be tested by a simple brush of a pen. It’s hugely interesting (if you like the subject matter) although it’s hard to truly feel for anybody in this tale. Well-written though hearing a little more about the manufacturing could have been interesting (although who knows, perhaps it would have been a little too informative!)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Conrad Mason

    Such a good read with so many twists and turns. Loved the history behind the main character Art as it really helped to give some insight into why people turn to a criminal life. The book is much more than just about how Art counterfeited millions of dollars, it is also about his personal and criminal relationships. I didnt think this book would include the mafia and many other underworld characters. This book was in some parts similar to the story of Frank Abignail in the book (and movie) Catch m Such a good read with so many twists and turns. Loved the history behind the main character Art as it really helped to give some insight into why people turn to a criminal life. The book is much more than just about how Art counterfeited millions of dollars, it is also about his personal and criminal relationships. I didnt think this book would include the mafia and many other underworld characters. This book was in some parts similar to the story of Frank Abignail in the book (and movie) Catch me if you can, but took more of a route into the criminal underworld. Highly reccomended - would make a great film (if it hasnt been made already?)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sue-Lynn Voigt

    This was a good book and a fast read. Although you know where the ending is going, the ride was fascinating. I learned much about counterfeiting and Secret Service history I did not know. This story, which I believe started out as a Rolling Stine article, gives the full picture of Art's life. It does not gloss of the bad and ugly parts. You also know the good is not going to last long. I would recommend this to anyone. The story is a spiral of dysfunction, but it is honest in its presentation an This was a good book and a fast read. Although you know where the ending is going, the ride was fascinating. I learned much about counterfeiting and Secret Service history I did not know. This story, which I believe started out as a Rolling Stine article, gives the full picture of Art's life. It does not gloss of the bad and ugly parts. You also know the good is not going to last long. I would recommend this to anyone. The story is a spiral of dysfunction, but it is honest in its presentation and warnings. Good book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steve Perrie

    Amazing story. The profile of the man and the details of his craft were well displayed. It held my attention cover to cover. I would have preferred if it had been written, or ghost written, in first person rather than in the style of a news article, with quoted interruptions from side characters. But that's a very minor pick in an incredible book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lea

    This book was so so good. I love that it read like a magazine article, but a long one that I couldnt put down. I love that it's a true story, and Kerston answered all of my questions beginning to end; I had nothing to wonder after turning the final page. Jason Kerston will definitely grace my tbr pile and I only hope he keeps writing!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    There's something about good crime novels and stories about master criminals that always make you sympathize with the criminal in someway and root for them. This is one of those stories. Kersten managed to capture Art Williams Jr.'s life quite beautifully from the emotions to the artistic expertise. A fascinating read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie Cramer

    Since it's been almost ten years since this book came out, I decided to read it again. There was a lot I'd forgotten (like how the first quarter is devoted to the subject's crappy childhood), so for the most part I got to enjoy it all over again. It's sad and fascinating on several levels.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Linda Sullivan

    Interesting read about a criminal and his struggle to perfect the perfect $100 bill. If he hadn't been abandoned, poor, & raised in a bad neighborhood, he could have accomplished most anything with his brains & tenacity. Interesting read about a criminal and his struggle to perfect the perfect $100 bill. If he hadn't been abandoned, poor, & raised in a bad neighborhood, he could have accomplished most anything with his brains & tenacity.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Really enjoyed this story, mostly because it happened in my lifetime. Mr. Williams was a genius and loved how the book shared how he got away with his counterfeiting operation for years. Spoiler: Google this guy to see what he's doing now; it's heartwarming.

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