D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: How to Make Money

James Brockman writes about his lifelong mission to create his own dollar bills.

Illustration by Ricky Ferrer
Illustration by Ricky Ferrer

Making money — literally recreating the paper dollars that we carry around in our wallets and trade for goods and services — is expensive. And it’s hard work. That’s my takeaway from the latest entry in our 40 Greatest Stories series, “Confessions of a Convicted Counterfeiter.”

James Brockman goes into detail about the technical hurdles he faced in trying to create his own versions of $10 and $20 bills. It was an obsession of his starting in childhood, and for years he worked to develop a technique that would yield passable currency. There’s something admirable about that level of commitment, even if it was to a criminal enterprise.

Brockman writes with such seeming candor about his career as a counterfeiter that I believed him at the end of the story when he implied that his criminal days were behind him. So I found myself strangely disappointed when I looked into public records to see what’s become of him since the story was published in the December 1981 issue of D Magazine.

For one, I discovered that he had omitted from his story a previous arrest and imprisonment for aggravated robbery in 1965. He never claims to be a saint in the piece, but he also depicts himself far more as a man merely devoted to perfecting a craft than as a career criminal, so I was surprised.

There are also arrests for writing bad checks, credit card fraud, and mail fraud on his record. In 2000 he was arrested for felony theft, and eventually he had to spend a year in prison in Huntsville in 2003-2004. He died in 2006, at the age of 65.

Crime didn’t seem to pay for James Brockman, even when he was making his own money.