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CRAFTS : Green Suits These Dressy Gift Cards

February 04, 1993|ZAN DUBIN | Zan Dubin covers the arts for The Times Orange County Edition.

What you see is what you get to spend with money cards.

The unusual gifts are greeting cards that display a catchy message: six crisp dollar bills. Vera Bollinger and Kathy LeMaster make the cards by folding the bills into miniature dress shirts--complete with stiff collars and cuffs.

Recipients simply pick off taped-on buttons, neckties, disassemble the taped-together greenbacks, smooth them out and go to town.

The cards cost $12.50, more than twice what's inside, but consumers don't seem to mind.

"We sold over 100 between last July and last Christmas," said Bollinger, a 74-year-old retired sewing teacher who is LeMaster's mother. The team sells the 4 1/2-by-6-inch cards to friends. They're also available at Ivy's Crafters Guild in Fullerton, one of Southern California's marketplaces in which crafters rent space monthly to sell their goods.

"They're novel, and I think a lot of people appreciate that," she said, "rather than somebody just putting a $5 bill in an envelope."

Bollinger, a Fullerton resident raised in Texas, learned to make the cards from her sister there last year. She then taught LeMaster, a work-at-home seamstress and mother of three who "needed something to supplement her income."

"I enjoy making them, and I'm glad to be doing something that helps her," Bollinger said in a recent phone interview, adding that her daughter gets all the profits.

Mother and daughter, who sell other items at Ivy's, use bits of double-face Scotch tape--never glue--to hold their folded currency in shirt shape and to affix the colorful ties and other decorations to the dollars.

She typically buys batches of 50 or 100 one-dollar bills--the newer the better--from her bank.

"If (tellers) don't have the brand-new ones, they've been real nice about picking out the best ones," she said. "Then, if they're not wrinkled or discolored, we spray-starch and press them."

Once a teller balked at Bollinger's request but promptly produced the dough--and bought three cards--when Bollinger showed her what the money was for. Occasionally, the crafter asks for higher denominations.

"One of my friends wanted a card for her son's 50th birthday," she said, ". . . So I made up a special one and used four 10s and two 5s."

The cards are most often bought for birthdays or anniversaries, Bollinger said, but LeMaster has designed a wedding set, with lace and faux pearls for the bride and a tux for the groom; a "maternity" card and a Valentine's Day edition.

Inside every card made of construction paper is a poetic message written by Bollinger's sister. It tells readers that the dollars are "Scotch-taped together with added trim, so you can take them apart when your wallet is slim."

"It's not the best poetry in the world," she said with a laugh. "I may get a friend to write another verse."

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