Then along comes this guy and earns $200K from just one penny portrait!
Admittedly, it was 12 feet tall, weighed 400 pounds and used 24,500 pennies. Congratulations to Richard Schlatter of Battle Creek, MI who won a $200K Grand Prize for his penny inspired depiction of our 16th President. (The top hat in your photo is a nice touch Rich…)
So it appears I’ve been doing it all wrong. I’ve been selling templates to aspiring artists to create their very own copper creations of Abe earning a few bucks at a time when the real cash is in art shows!
So who in their right mind gives out $200K for such precise penny placement?
Apparently, the folks in Grand Rapids, MI hold a contest every year called ArtPrize which is open to any artist in the world working in any medium – even pennies. The top prize is $200K, but nearly a half a million dollars was given out in prize money this year. Art is exhibited in and around Grand Rapids and voted on by the citizens. in 2016, they had nearly 1,500 works exhibited at 170 venues. The ArtPrize website claims it now attracts over 665,000 visitors, making it the most attended public art event in the world. (Though admittedly, when the venue is essentially the city, it’s a little easier to claim some lofty attendance figures.)
The good news for Rich is that his fame and fortune aren’t quite over. Ripley’s Believe It or Not has apparently shown interest in purchasing the portrait for one of their museums although the city of Grand Rapids has dibbs on displaying it for the next year. (Note to self, reach out to Ripley’s to see if they’d be interested in carrying Penny Portraits in their gift shops!)
Fans of this website often send me links to penny inspired creations made by other artists. (Okay, most of them are from my mom.) When passing along portraits of Abe in particular, folks often ask if I get upset that people stole my idea. Well, the truth is, creating a portrait of Abe Lincoln out of pennies was hardly my idea and is hardly new.
Back in 2007, I came across an article regarding a father and son in Florida who created a portrait of Abe to display at the son’s school. It was a rather large creation and only used two shades of pennies. The graphic artist in me felt I could improve upon their method and went about creating a smaller 18 x 24-inch poster using four shades of pennies to create added detail. Many hours and versions later I had a product I thought others might enjoy putting together and the Penny Portrait Kit was born! The funny thing is, the father and son claimed their inspiration for the portrait came from seeing a similar creation eight years earlier at a place you’ll never believe – a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum!
And now a word from our sponsor.
Well not really, but I would be remiss when talking about giant portraits of Abe Lincoln made out of pennies if I didn’t give a shout out to one of my favorite vendors, Vat19.com. You see, the fun-loving folks at Vat19.com love to promote the “curiously awesome” products they sell in unique and wacky ways. Fortunately for me, one of their favorite products to ballyhoo has been my Penny Portrait Kit.
I first discovered Vat19.com’s rather interesting promotional flair when someone sent me a link to a video of Penny Portraits being sold by shirtless men. I was completely unaware they were even making a promotional video for my product and was blown away by the production quality. Prior to seeing the video, I had only received one small test order from them for a mere 12 units.
Not to rest on their laurels, a few years and over 1000 units later the folks at Vat19.com decided to up their game and create a giant portrait of Abe out of nearly 15,000 pennies. Now I may be a bit biased, but I actually think the folks at Vat19.com did a slightly better rendition than the ArtPrize winner. The hair and nose, in particular, look fantastic. I feel like I could reach out and touch his fluffy beard!
Now if only they had known about this art show racket, they could have really cashed in. I’ll be sure to add “win wildly extravagant cash art prizes” to my next business plan. (Ha, who am I kidding… I never had a business plan!)
Now if you don’t have 465 hours $245 dollars in spare pennies lying around like Rich from Michigan, you can always pick up your very own Penny Portrait for a mere $20 and put one together in a couple of hours. Hit up www.PennyPortrait.com to get your very own.
What an amazing story. I love it when people find their passion.
The video was great. Those poor, bored people. Did they ever say how long it took them to make that? Did Rich do this by himself?
I believe Rich did do it all by himself… One of my kits takes about 5 hours, and he used about 30x more pennies than me, so around 150 hours of gluing those things. I think he may have earned that $200K.
Interesting ~ I have seen pennies used for many things, to include a floor design, which I love and if I had the time and patience would totally do in my kitchen. Art is an amazing thing that cost to produce in way more than the supplies ~ that is what many in the public mind forget ~ I love this project and just may get one soon to do with my Granddaughter.
200k! That is awesome. I wonder how they moved that thing around. That website you mentioned was pretty cool too! I cant look at stuff like this. When I do my money ends up going missing!! lol
The best way to keep your money from going missing is to glue it on a poster and hang it on your wall…
I had no idea that there were art contests that included the admittance of penny portraits like the art show in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is just showing that this form of art is becoming prominent! I am guessing that there are art shows and competitions exclusively for penny portraits? If that is so, where is the biggest show or competition?
Wow! Who knew there was a market for this? Start working on your prize winning portrait of Lincoln for next year and head on out to Grand Rapids, MI.
This was a fun post!
So I Googled “coin portraits” and found an artist who specializes in this numismatic art form. Perhaps it’s not too late to expand Penny Portrait’s offerings! 🙂
Wow, those are fantastic!
Who knew that this penny portrait stuff was a *thing*? Well, I guess you obviously know it is, but I have to say, it’s brilliant! It’s admirable that even though you know that other people out there are making their own versions that it hasn’t slowed you down or made you want to give up. And you shouldn’t give up because this business model is fabulous. Definitely contact the Ripley’s museum to see if they’ll contract with you.
Also, Have you ever considered trying other types of penny portraits? I’d love to do one of Rosie the Riveter or some other famous image.
ok, so I don’t want to be a troublemaker, here, but it seems like 24,500 pennies would cost a lot of money. Hang on a second, let me get a calculator…Yeah, that would cost $245 dollars. I don’t know why anyone would trade that in for 200 “k”s. I don’t think you should be jealous of that guy. I like your poster and hope you keep making it. But if you want to become an artist in your spare time that’s ok with me.
Awesome! My 20-year-old loves Lincoln and Pennies!! Sounds weird, I know, but she does. Looks like I need to get her a penny portrait to work on. Love the video. Now that is dedication. Look forward to learning more!!