If you want to buy a piece of modern art, one that will always retain its price (if not its value), then the Treasury Department has just what you’re looking for: The new counterfeit-resistant $100 bill.

In the late twentieth century the reinging paradigm of modern art was, as Tom Wolfe both explained and lamented, flatness. But we live in the Age of Cameron (James, not David) where the new nexus of art and money is the 3-D effect. It’s not surprising then that where art and money combine most literally—on our currency—that the trend would be taken to the extreme. The 3-D effect is used on the most prominent new features of the redesigned $100 note, the 3-D Security Ribbon and the Bell in the Inkwell.

No doubt these changes will make it more difficulty to copy. But who would want to reproduce this Frankenstein meets Franklin monstrosity? While it may mark an advance in currency technology, the new note is a step backwards for American aesthetic sensibility. The money is so ugly that it acts as its own anti-counterfeit device.

Fortunately, we Americans can take comfort, as we often do, in knowing that other countries are often worse off than we are. Our new money is ugly, but it’s certainly not the ugliest currency in the world. Here are five currencies that out-ugly our homely hundred dollar note.

(Note: Ironically, all of these examples are taken from an MSNBC article on the World’s Most Beautiful Currencies .)

Iceland (Kronurs)

What Lady Gaga and her backup singers would look like if they were Icelandic puritans.

Faroe Islands (Kronurs)

Why is a monster crab attacking a Jackson Pollock-knockoff?

New Zealand (New Zealand Dollars)

Can someone please get Sir Edmund Hillary some sunglasses? That snow off the mountain is blinding him. Or maybe he’s just squinting to avoid looking at the orange sherbet color scheme.

Switzerland (Francs)

Sure, Giacometti’s “Walking Man” sold for a gazillion dollars . But do they really want that on their money? It makes it look like Switzerland is a country of anorexic zombies.

Cook Islands (Cook Island Dollars)

The only redeeming quality about this image of a naked women riding a shark is that it may someday inspire the Treasury to put Obama riding a narwhal on U.S. currency.

Articles by Joe Carter

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