Michel: Use your time & talents wisely

Published 7:55 am Wednesday, October 7, 2020

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Emanuel Nenger bought the highest quality bond paper he could find. He cut the paper, soaked it in a diluted coffee solution, carefully placed this blank sheet on top of a banknote and began to trace. To complete his forgery, Nenger used a camel’s hair brush and ink. He began with $10 bills, then made 20s, 50s, and 100s during his years of counterfeiting.

The replicated money was so close to the genuine that from 1887 to 1896, Nenger circulated hundreds of bills. He intentionally omitted the phrase, “Engraved and printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing” because he said they didn’t print them.

Nenger was caught in 1896 when money he handed to a clerk became wet and the inks began to run faster than he could. He admitted to painting 390 bills, but it’s believed that he was responsible for many more.

In addition to the art supplies found in Nenger’s attic at the time of his arrest, police also found three portraits. These paintings were auctioned for what would equate to about $16,000 today.

Rather than remembered as an artist, history records Nenger as a counterfeiter, a thief who some said stole from himself. I disagree. I believe he stole from us all. His undisputed artistic gift might have been used to create masterpieces. Instead, it is illegal to own one of his forged bills.

Yet as soon as I begin to point a finger at Nenger, I’m reminded that I will still have four fingers pointing back at me. While I may not misuse my time or talent on illegal activities, the fact remains that I don’t always use them wisely.

May we all use our God-given talents and the precious gift of time in ways that bring God glory.

Ronny Michel can be reached at rmichel@rtconline.com.