Is Prop Money Illegal? We Answer 13 FAQs About Prop Movie Money

Is Prop Money Illegal? We Answer 13 FAQs About Prop Movie Money

Prop movie money can help bring an important scene to life. Whether you’re shooting a TV commercial, a social media campaign, or a Hollywood film, prop money can give the on-screen illusion that actual cash is being used when dollars are involved. In fact, if you’re a die-hard fan of the hit TV show Narcos, or perhaps Orange Is The New Black, Mr. Robot, or From Dusk till Dawn, then chances are you’ve already seen our prop money being used on-screen. While this clever trick can easily deceive the audience, when prop money becomes too realistic on-set, it can quickly entice people to pop a couple of bills in their pocket. But beware of the risks. Trying to spend fake dollar bills can get you in serious trouble. In this article, we’re going to answer your top 13 questions about the production, creation, and use of prop movie money, as well as educate you on the rules and regulations relating to buying and owning fake money.



1: What Is Prop Money? How Is It Different To Fake Dollar Bills?

Prop money, often referred to as ‘fake dollar bills,’ is used by filmmakers, directors, photographers, and other creatives to engage viewers into believing real money is being used in a story. This helps minimize the financial risk of shooting an important scene or capturing a picture that involves a lot of cash. Bringing down the cost of production is important, but using prop movie money also helps reduce the risk of theft while shooting a luxurious scene, where stacks of cash are needed to portray the wealth of a main character.

As a professional and highly experienced manufacturer of movie prop money, our fake dollar bills are made to strict industry standards. This means to the untrained eye; it is difficult to tell whether our notes are genuine or not. However, there are plenty of rules and regulations to be aware of when investing and using prop money.


2: Can You Legally Produce Fake Dollar Bills?

For media, marketing, promotions, training, and advertising, it is legal to buy and use fake money. But try to use it for any other purpose, and you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law. It is illegal to have movie prop money off-camera or try to use it as legal tender.


3: Is It Illegal To Own Movie Prop Money?

Each of our prop bills has been specially marked with the motion picture disclaimer ‘ This note is not legal tender’ and ‘For motion picture use only.’ It is a criminal and federal offense to use our movie prop money to purchase goods or services. Try to do this, and you’ll eventually be caught, arrested, and prosecuted.


4: Then How Is Prop Money Not Against The Law?

To make movie prop money different from counterfeit currency, we are required to abide by all legal requirements during the production of prop money. All our designs are created in-house by our talented graphic designers to be hyper-realistic without breaking the law. Every single element on our bills is fictitious, which means the artwork you see on our notes, including the serial numbers, buildings, emblems, seals, and other key design characters, are all fabricated by our in-house artists, and therefore have no resemblance to the original tender. By doing this, you will not be able to use our movie prop money as fake dollar bills, and business owners will not mistakenly accept movie prop money as legal tender.


5: Can You Legally Buy Fake Dollar Bills?

Yes, we help our customers purchase movie prop money for big-screen production and hit TV shows. We work hard to ensure that our prop money clears all legal requirements relating to the production and use of movie props. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that they are designed and cut to be smaller than actual currency, a legal requirement to differentiate them from counterfeit money. On camera, you won't be able to tell the difference. If you take our New Style $100 Full Print Prop Money Stack, for instance, you will see that it is designed for high-resolution video productions. The textures, colors, and designs are highly comprehensive, reproduced with the highest resolution.

However, they won't include a working hologram, and the color will be a shade lighter than real currency. This is for the ease of post-editing as well as color correction work. We also reserve the right to refuse or deny service to anyone if we doubt that their intentions are genuine.


6: Can You Keep Movie Prop Money?

As long as our prop money is being used only for films and television shows or other video productions, you can own prop money. But using our prop bills to deceive someone willfully is 100% illegal no. As can be seen, the pictures of presidents are replaced by fictional cartoon characters and other comic characters to stop anyone trying to use our cash to buy goods or services. We also print the words “For Motion Picture” underneath the characters. In our New Series $100s Aged $10,000 Full Print Prop Money Stack, you’ll also find that the bills are specially designed to have a torn and damaged look and don't have any elements to make them resemble original United States currency.


7: Can I Keep Fake Dollar Bills & Movie Prop Money?

Movie prop money should have no resemblance to real-life currency or notes. However, ongoing and off-screen possession of our movie prop money may not be considered legal. Trying to spend the money will be regarded as attempting to use and pass on counterfeit bills. These bills are only supposed to be used for cinema or motion picture purposes, so it’s best not to keep hold of them. Although, thanks to the development of technology, there are now plenty of ways for business owners and companies when counterfeit currency is being used, which actually makes our job as movie prop money providers even easier.


8: What Happens If You Buy Fake Dollar Bills?


This is a really good question, as there are a lot of third-party websites and supplies out there, attempting to deceive members of the public when it comes to buying movie prop money. Remember, legal action can be taken if you are caught with counterfeit cash, or you are involved in the production of fake dollar bills intended to be used as legal tender. Charges will depend on the amount of money found in your possession. In some cases, you could face up to 20 years in prison or a significant $250,000 fine.

Even Amazon has been found guilty of continuously allowing fake money to be sold on its online marketplace. There are also cases of film crews pocketing fake cash, believing it was real, and attempting to spend it in real life. One famous example is Rush Hour 2. A scene depicting an explosion in a Las Vegas casino required a massive amount of fake dollar bills. Since the blast blew a lot of the money off-set, it was later investigated by the secret service. As a result, the props were seized, and the company was fined.


9: What Should I Do With Movie Prop Money After Use?

You’ll need to destroy all the evidence...quite literally. According to the law, all negative plates, digitized storage medium, graphic files, magnetic medium, optical storage devices, and any other thing used in the production of the illustration that contains an image of the illustration or any part thereof must be deleted or erased after use. Keeping hold of movie prop money is just not worth the risk!

10: Can ATMS Detect Movie Prop Money?


As we previously mentioned, technology is now able to detect even hyper-realistic fake dollar bills. ATM machines will almost always be able to detect fake cash, and trying to insert movie prop money into an ATM machine is not a good idea. If the machine takes the fake money, your account will likely be frozen and investigated, even if you are completely unaware that the money isn’t genuine legal tender. If you ever suspect someone is trying to give you fake money, whether to exchange it for smaller notes, or pay for goods or services, try to avoid the transaction or trade. If you do accept the cash and later believe that it’s fake, it’s important to report this to the police. Place it in a plastic pouch or envelope and try not to touch it too much, as you could be replacing their fingerprints with your own, making it much harder for the police or secret service to investigate the case.


11: What Do People Use To Detect Fake Money?


Even if you try to use hyper-realistic and professional movie prop money in real life, there’s a high chance you’ll be caught and find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Advances in technology and in particular financial security, means spending fake money is a high-risk endeavor. There are three different types of detection devices used to spot fake dollar bills; magnetic detection, ultraviolet detectors, and infrared. Magnetic detection is fairly common and involves detecting the use of magnetic ink. Cold hard cash is made with a number of security features and one of which is magnetic ink. Scanning money using a magnetic device is fast and efficient and will alert a cashier to the use of fake dollar bills. However, there have been cases of fake money being produced with magnetic ink, fooling this detection method.

Another way to spot fraudulent activity is by using ultraviolet light. Real cash contains ultraviolet fluorescent phosphors, and when exposed to ultraviolet light will glow. If the cash doesn’t glow, you might feel a firm hand on your shoulder from a security guard. This is a reliable method to identify movie prop money and actual fake dollar bills, but some crooks have still managed to develop ways around this.

Last but not least, we come to infrared detection. This aims to detect whether the cash has been made with the correct ink. Often counterfeit money is not advanced enough to get past the infrared sensors, making it a tried and tested way to stop and prevent criminal activity.


12: How To Tell Real Cash From Movie Prop Money?


If you are interested in buying movie prop money for an upcoming production, scene or photo shoot, you’ll need to know whether the bills you’re buying online are specially made movie prop money, or actual counterfeit currency. So, it’s always best to be aware of the security features used to produce real money to tell the difference.

Prop money experts will never try to replicate advanced security features, as they have no need to, and they are not required by genuine customers either. The only reason ‘movie prop money’ would include such security features would be if they are actually being made to be used as counterfeit currency.

Real dollars will have a watermark, which when held up to light is clearly visible. Fake dollar bills ,on the other hand, will attempt to replicate this element. Another way to tell if the money is real or not is that the ink will change color slightly when folded. Unfolded, it will appear copper, but when tilted or gently folded, it will have a green tone. Movie prop money will never try to fool the public by including this security feature when producing dollar bills for the entertainment industry.

As we’ve mentioned before, prop money, while hyper-realistic on-screen, should be easy enough to tell is fake in real-life. One of the most obvious ways to know you’ve bought movie prop money and you’re not mistakenly handling fake cash, is that props will have a disclaimer printed on each bill, such as ‘For Motion Picture Use Only’. Removing this disclaimer is a big red flag that the company is not genuine and could be involved in criminal activity.

13: Why Can’t Directors Use Real Cash?

Why can’t directors and photographers just use real cash rather than movie prop money? For small amounts of money and low-productions, a dollar bill here or there is probably fine, but if you need a large amount of cash, this creates a financial liability on-set and could be stolen. If you want to burn, rip up or destroy real cash, it’s illegal and you’ll need to invest in high-quality movie prop money instead. So, avoid the fuss, stress and legal risk of mistakenly handling counterfeit currency and choose a reputable and experienced prop money expert, for complete peace of mind.


If you would like to purchase legal movie prop money for an upcoming movie production, photo shoot or TV show, feel free to contact our team today. As a top-rated industry leader, we help film crews, photographers, and creatives bring key scenes to life with hyper-realistic but 100% legal movie prop money. Whether you need small notes for a money counting scene, stacks of cash to represent the criminal underworld, or a pile of $100 bills to explode on-scene, avoid getting into a legal nightmare and choose professional and experienced movie prop money experts.

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