The world has a currency defacing problem

March 4, 2015 12:36 PM

Meanwhile in Greece a different, overtly political, form of graffiti has started to emerge. An artist known as Stefanos has been defacing euro notes with images of little human figures in a painfully bleak depiction of life in Greece under austerity.

The €100 note is particularly poignant and shows an apparent suicide by hanging while bystanders, including a child look on.

The €10 seems to depict a black hole sucking people into it – a possible reference to the euro itself and the seemingly unending extraction of wealth from working people in servicing a debt from which they derived no benefit.

Other images refer to violent crime, police harassment and possibly football hooliganism. The grim reaper is shown on the €100 note and the €50 note features a figure who has been stabbed in the back while another looks on from the shadows – a possible reference to the betrayal of the people of Greece by their own elites.

It is a criminal offence to deface the euro in a manner that is deemed offensive, whatever that means. Cited as examples in law are pornographic or violent imagery.

Shop-keepers and lenders are obliged by law to accept legal tender and cannot refuse a note that has been defaced.

Stephanos defaced the notes, photographed them to circulate on social media and then released them back into circulation in the hope that the universal imagery would communicate a message across European state and linguistic boundaries.

It is an interesting phenomenon and bears watching. We expect the trend to grow in popularity as disaffection with the euro, the dollar and other paper currencies builds.

What if this sort of thing catches on and people begin to deface debt-based and increasingly debased paper currencies across Europe and the world? It could be a further factor leading to the penny dropping and a tipping point being reached regarding the intrinsically worthless nature of paper and digital currencies today.

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About the Author

Mark O'Byrne is executive director of Ireland-based GoldCore.