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Super Bucks Lesson

Submitted by: Alix Peshette, R. W. Emerson Jr. High in Davis, California.
Unit: Drawing - Illustration - Caricature/Portrait
Lesson: Super Bucks
Grade: Middle School (high school may enjoy, too)



Currency hand-outs (images of money from around the world - $5.00 enlargements), Newsprint., 7 ½" x 18" (19 x 46 cm) Drawing Paper. (Any size may be used), Drawing Pencils., rulers, Magic Rub Erasers., shading worksheets, Saral Transfer Paper., lettering handouts Ornamental design handouts
Options: Use Crow Quill Pens. and India ink., and Colored Pencils..



Alix taught shading/value with a project called "Super Bucks." Using Drawing Paper. 18" x 71/2 inches (46 x 19 cm), the kids designed a piece of original currency. They had to include blended shading (5-step), hatching, cross-hatching, scribble shading and pointillism. There had to be a continuous border (She taught how to do 3-D ribbon borders), a motto, a portrait (here's where heroes, self portraits, anime or caricatures/cartooning can be used) and a denomination. This was all done in pencil. As a motivation, you can use Mona Bucks with this lesson.


Objectives: Student will:

  • Develop skills in shading - demonstrate 5 step shading and cross hatching techniques

  • Create a unified design reminiscent of paper money - incorporate border design.

  • Develop portrait skills (caricature or cartooning skills depending on assignment)

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Artwork from Susan Johnson, Harlingen CISD in Harlingen, Texas. Susan has done her own adaptation of this lesson. (Click images for larger views)



Banknotes: World Paper Money Gallery Travel the World with Banknotes.com. More than 2000 images of banknotes world-wide. Click on the links to view images and other info on banknotes and country of any continent.

British Museum: World of Money Exploration of money worldwide. The forms that different peoples have adopted or adapted for their money can tell us much about the nature of money and the history of its use.

Money from Around the World David Hasenick has collected money from his world travels. Many countries represented.

Money Around the World - quick links to facts - name given for money but no images. Nova - History of Money Timeline | J.S.G. Boggs  - Read more about Boggs and see more printable money.


Dover Design Books (good for border designs) Handbook of Ornament. by Franz; 1000 Ornamental Designs for Artists and Craftspeople. by Claude Humbert; Handbook of Renaissance Ornament. by Albert F. Butsch; 1,100 Designs and Motifs from Historic Sources. by John Leighton; Big Book of Graphic Designs and Devices. by Typony, Inc.


Worksheets and Planning Sheets

Shading Worksheet



Fancy Ribbon Worksheet



SuperBuck Planning Sheet



Teacher Resources

Curriculum sequence - incomplete draft



SuperBuck Assignment Sign



Assessment Sheet




Foreign Currency Sample 1

Foreign Currency Sample 2

Foreign Currency Sample 3

Foreign Currency Sample 4



I started the project by announcing that I was giving everyone $5. That caught their interest! I had enlarged (50%) and photocopied five dollar bills to give the students. Before anyone gasps at my counterfeiting attempts, I had contacted the secret service to ask about photocopying money. Their guidelines are that the copy must be at least 50% larger or smaller, not done to appear real or be used as real currency. At this point, since the new currency has come out, I suggest trying to find the older currency which is much more elaborate and interesting. The $5 sample was so that students could closely observe the designs and shading.

I offered extra credit to students who brought in foreign currency for us to look at. I also had sheets of photocopies of foreign currency which I had laminated. These were passed around for inspiration.

I also showed two PBS videos I had recorded while we worked; "Making a Dishonest Buck" and "The Money Man." The Making a Dishonest Buck is on how the government spots counterfeit money and how the currency is changing. It's really interesting.

The Money Man is about a performance artist named J.S.G. Boggs (Read more about Boggs) who draws perfect imitations of money, but only the front side. He puts his fingerprint on the blank back side. Then he goes out and 'spends' the money. The performance piece is that he convinces people that real currency is a work of art and it has an intrinsic value beyond 'coin of the realm.' His knock-off currency is also art and has an intrinsic value.  He has managed to buy a motorcycle and other products this way.  He collects the change and the receipt from each transaction. Art collectors then purchase these 'artifacts' of the performance and try to purchase the original 'J.S.G. Boggs' currency! This whole 'performance' really twists the mind around issues of art, money, etc. The kids had a great time discussing the video and the concepts.


I had developed a shading worksheet which we started the first day. There are five different shading techniques on it and we did one each day.  When we did each example, I suggested that students pull out a dollar bill to observe the shading.  As a little teacher humor, I then instructed them to leave the money on the table as a 'tip for the teacher!"

We also spent a period learning to draw 3-D ribbons ala Mark Kistler's imagination station. Each student got a 18" long piece of cash register tape (I find it at garage sales and thrift stores). They 'arranged' it into swirls and shapes and then drew it.  This was a good introduction into the idea of perspective, foreshortening, etc. From that the students practiced drawing an undulating ribbon design on Scratch paper.. I also drew a very large rectangle on the white board and 'started' the top line of a ribbon. Students volunteered to come up and finish parts of the ribbon. They got terrific tickets (my version of Mona bucks) if they got it right. They also got coaching from the other students.


Note: Students need to select their person for the portrait. These could be "Art Bucks" and students select an artist of their choosing - They could be Heroes Bucks and students select a hero - or self portraits. Decide at the start of the lesson what the focus will be. This could also be a lesson in caricature or cartooning. Students should work on drawing the portraits which will be transferred to the good Drawing Paper..

This was followed by a planning sheet where students did a rough draft of their 'currency' complete with ribbon, portrait, shading, etc.


Week Two:

The second week we started on the 18"x7 ½" (46 x 19 cm) paper. I cut down 18"x24" (46 x 61 cm) paper for this. Transfer portrait to white drawing paper and work design around it. Lettering will be important.

Work on shading techniques - include at least three different techniques: blended shading (5-step), hatching, cross-hatching, scribble shading and pointillism. Include border and denomination.


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Artwork from Heather Humbert - PA Learners Online. Click images for larger views


Heather used this lesson with 8th grade cyber students. They included a portrait for the money and the drawings were completed using pencil or black marker. They used the discussion board within the online course to share opinions about the artist and his work. Some students felt that JSG Boggs was trying to rip people off and others thought he had a great idea to use art as money. They also discussed counterfeiting and the rights of the artist.



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