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

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  1,050 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 11th 2009 by Gotham (first published 2009)
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Paul Childs
Jul 23, 2011 Paul Childs rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
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
Jan 27, 2011 Carolyn rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 06, 2010 Hava rated it really liked it
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
May 16, 2015 Donna rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
John Hood
Dec 26, 2009 John Hood rated it it was amazing
Bound Miami SunPost September 30, 2009

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
Nov 10, 2012 Toni rated it it was ok
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 likab
Γιώργος Λιαδής
Η ιστορία ενός πλαστογράφου που μέσα σε λίγα χρόνια έφτιαξε δεκάδες εκατομμύρια δολάρια "σπάζοντας" το 100δολαρο του '96 που θεωρούνταν το πιο ασφαλές χαρτονόμισμα στον κόσμο.
Την ιστορία διηγείται ο συγγραφέας σε τρίτο πρόσωπο, βασισμένος στην έρευνά του, ομιλίες με τους πρωταγωνιστές και φυσικά την διήγηση του πλαστογράφου.
Στην αρχή, λίγο έλειψε να παρατήσω το βιβλίο λόγω των περιγραφών στην οικογένεια του Αρτ (όπως ειρωνικά ονομάζεται ο πλαστογράφος). Περιγραφές που έχουν, μεταξύ άλλων και τ
Apr 05, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 05, 2009 Ann rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 29, 2013 Cynthisa rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 05, 2010 Ellen rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 15, 2009 Amy rated it liked it
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.
Sep 27, 2009 Patrick rated it really liked it
Recommended to Patrick by:
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Jan 10, 2013 Juliette rated it liked it
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.
Jim Phillips
Nov 05, 2012 Jim Phillips rated it really liked it
I like the writing style. Very engaging character driven storyline.
Carlos Mendoza
Aug 06, 2010 Carlos Mendoza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kate Fitzgerald
Jun 07, 2016 Kate Fitzgerald rated it it was ok
This was more appropriate for a news article. It's interesting to hear the history of counterfeiting, the specific ways in which the protagonist (and others before him) have foiled the government, and some of his personal story, particularly the chapters near the end when he is in Alaska. But I could have read the meat of the story in a few pages, and that would have been enough. The biographer fills in the rest of the plot with Art's sexual conquests. And it reads like a 16-year-old kid bragged ...more
Jul 27, 2009 Jen rated it really liked it
An interesting look at the life of a criminal. A young Art Williams was doing well in school and showed a great deal of promise. He then became a product of his circumstance and started doing criminal acts in his South Side Chicago neighborhood. He had a mentor that introduced him to the counterfeiting business...he was hooked. He was soon printing his own money and getting away with it by selling it to other criminals as well as using it himself. His upbringing is heart wrenching and it makes o ...more
Jeff Grabowski
May 26, 2010 Jeff Grabowski rated it it was amazing
loved this book. having spent the first 30 years of my life living in chicago and cook country suburbs, i love kersten's attention to detail of naming off intersections, neighborhoods, specific locations, etc. i guess maybe i'm a bit nostalgic and home sick since i don't live there any more.

but even that connection aside, i still think it was written very well and was interesting.

my only comment is that kersten sensationalized a bit the nature of bridgeport. he commented several times that Brid
Tiffany Nicole
Feb 04, 2016 Tiffany Nicole rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks, 2016
"All over America they saw twentysomethings like themselves laboring in restaurants and strip malls, burning away their youth in pursuit of paper. Cataleptic cahiers worked to their advantage, but also reminded them of what they had escaped. While everybody else chased the dollar and daydreamed of what they'd rather be doing, they were doing it. They became firm believers in the adage that retirement is wasted on the old... 'We joked that we were doing life backwards, but was that any worse than ...more
Jan 19, 2012 Evangeline rated it really liked it
The book focused primarily on telling master counterfeiter Art William's story, with background details included here and there to provide context. A thoroughly enjoyable read, it gave me insight into the criminal mind (the high-level one, that is) and a deeper understanding of American society. More often than not, there's nothing inherently terrible or greedy about certain kinds of criminals, but circumstances and the influence from those around them push them in the direction of crime. At the ...more
Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton
I felt guilty reading this book. There's not much edifying about a book about a guy who counterfeits...except that the story has all the elements of a great Italian opera, minus the fat lady singing. There's crime, betrayal, family intrigue, the mafia, heists, love and romance, narrow escapes, and a constantly uncertain outcome. Oh, and lots of money...fake money and real. These guys spend it like it's going out of fashion, like they could just make more. Which I guess was the whole point, right ...more
Jul 25, 2009 D rated it it was amazing
I read the original magazine article in Rolling Stone about this subject and was afraid that It would only be so much fluff. However the details provided were very interesting, so I am pleased I bought it.
The Story of Art Wilson and his crime riddled childhood amid a less than happy family situation. He came up on the mean streets of Chicago where he learned crime and and then was tutored by a master counterfiter in how to create bills and the rules of counterfiting that would keep you out of j
Jul 08, 2009 Chris rated it liked it
A light palate cleanser after Infinite Jest, I enjoyed this breezy narrative about a guy who grew up with really awful parents and had moments of happiness in between stretches of ambition and punishment. This reads like a light novel and is probably a good gift for your business-y relative since it (literally) involves money and the thrills of crime. You don't learn a lot about the history of counterfeiting but there is a reference early in the book to a history book and enough detail about eff ...more
Dec 04, 2010 Clare rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ellen, Laurel
Recommended to Clare by: BN shelf
Full of suspense. Fascinating.

I learned a lot about counterfeit, the history of, techniques & strategies of, etc. I learned a lot about the Secret Service.

It was very interesting to watch Art's life unfold, to see how he was molded by his situation and to watch the choices he made.

It's too bad for Art that he reached out to his no good father when I bet that his mother could've really used his help if he had reached out to her instead. The choices we make in our family lives are always so co
Aug 24, 2016 Rick rated it liked it
I found that this story had great potential but it never really reached it. The most intriguing element of it is not so much the story of Art Williams and his family but, rather, the details of counterfeiting that is downplayed. Not the point of his own work, that is told quite well, but instead the larger framework that could explain the entire world of counterfeiting. We never know how Williams was in the larger counterfeiting world. Jason Kersten does an interesting job but it could have been ...more
Mar 08, 2010 Mike rated it liked it
I always enjoy true stories about underworld crime, and this was my first about counterfeiting. It was surely an enjoyable read but I did have higher hopes. I wasn't quite expecting a true beginning-to-end biography, and I think there was some faults with the narrative. We were hardly introduced to our protagonist before hearing tales of his childhood. I would have mixed background with current exploits to create suspense - which this novel lacked.

Additionally, I kept waiting for the author to e
Sean Hopkins
Apr 13, 2010 Sean Hopkins rated it really liked it
The story of Art Williams - a serial counterfeiter, who learned the art of counterfeiting from an older man in his neighborhood when he was a teennager. When the U.S. released new currency in 1996 with enhanced security features, he devoted himself to developing the perfect counterfiet 100 dollar bill. He printed and spent millions of dollars of counterfeit bills and eventually he was arrested as a result of his father's sharing of Art's secret with others during a stay in Alaska. In the end, cr ...more
Jeremy Kozdon
Aug 16, 2009 Jeremy Kozdon rated it liked it
The book chronicles Art Williams who was (is?) a counterfeiter. The amazing thing is that it is true, or at least it is the story the counterfeiter tells. Very hard to tell what was his story as opposed to interviews from others. The basic story is a kid who had a crummy childhood ends up being one of the best counterfeiters our there. He is caught in the end because his crummy upbringing catches up to him.

It is a very readable book, but not a page turner. Though the author does leave out detail
Dec 13, 2009 Liz rated it liked it
I read almost all of this book on a 3-hour flight from Dubai to Dhaka, following a 13 hour flight from DC and an 8 hour layover in the middle of the night. So it's not the most intellectually demanding book, but that's not a bad thing. The technical side of the protaganist's counterfeiting operation and the twists and turns of his life in crime are interesting. The author is perhaps overly sympathetic to the guy, with a heavy focus on the heartbreak and emotional trauma caused by his childhood, ...more
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is this non fiction? 2 4 Jan 12, 2014 09:13AM  
author falling in love with subject 1 14 Aug 25, 2009 07:53PM  
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