Business: Negotiable Art

The bank check, that most businesslike slip of paper, has suddenly become something of a piece of art. In many parts of the U.S., checks are blossoming with multicolored pictures of snowcapped mountains, cactus-studded deserts, or even doves of peace.

The idea originated in—where else? —California. San Diego's United States National Bank has long used four-color pictures of a local statue, and in 1965 officials of the Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco offered checks decorated with the silhouette of a stagecoach. Check writers as far away as Laos sent in requests to...

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