How to Spot a Prop Bill When You See One

Using counterfeit money can result in serious punishments, especially for filmmakers who use prop money. So it’s important to know what’s real and what’s fake when it comes to dollar bills. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to tell the difference between real and prop money. Let’s take a look at a few key security features that should be present on all real $100 bills.

prop money motion picture purposes

Watermark: All real U.S. currency should be printed with a watermark. This watermark can be seen when the bill is held up to the light. On a $100 bill, Benjamin Franklin will appear on the far right side of the bill on both sides. If a watermark doesn’t show, then the bill is not real currency. Most prop money will simply have a blank spot where the watermark is located on real bills.

Security thread: On $5 bills and higher, there will be a security thread that should be able to be seen when the bill is held up to a light. The embedded thread runs vertically and is imprinted with “USA” and the cash amount, alternating down the strip. If an ultraviolet light is available, the security thread should glow a different color under UV light. Money prop designs should not include a security thread.

prop money print

Color-shifting ink: One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between real money and prop money is by the ink. On real money, the ink that the “100” is printed in on the right bottom corner will shift in the light. When the bill is tilted in various directions, the ink will change from copper to green and back again. Additionally, the ink printed on real bills is slightly raised, which can be felt by touching the bill. If a bill feels flat, it’s not real.

Fortunately for filmmakers, there are several laws in place that allow prop money to be printed fairly realistically, but not too realistically. For example, Title 18, United States Code, Section 504 says that black and white currency can be produced, as long as it meets the prop money size regulations. So money prop designs are distinguishable from real bills — and keeping these few important security features in mind will help you tell the difference between real and prop bills.

If you’re looking for more information on whether prop money is legal and how to buy fake money that looks real, check out the Legal Disclaimers on our site. Prop Movie Money makes fake money that looks real so you can use money for your filming needs that meet all of the counterfeit laws. Contact us today for more information!

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