Whether you are a production designer, art director, prop master or anyone else that works in film you may be tasked with choosing movie props, specifically prop money! Most people that are not in the industry do not know that there are some very strict guidelines for using prop money.
Prop money is money that is designed to look like real money but not real enough that it can be confused with counterfeit money. There is a balance when choosing movie props like fake money that any professional should adhere to.
What’s the Deal with Prop Money for Movies?
Uncle Sam is very particular about his money. There are rules and regulations in place to ensure that “realistic” prop movie money, is never used as legal tender. If you try it, you could wind up with a $250,000 fine and an unwanted vacay in your state prison for up to 20 years.
Rule number one is never try to buy anything with prop money, it will end badly for you, but that is not the only rule. There are rules that cover the size of the money, the material that the money is printed on and more.
If you are in charge of choosing movie props, then the next section is going to be something you want to pay attention to or risk the wrath of the US government.
What Should Money for a Movie Look Like?
Until the early 20th century most filmmakers used real money in movies. Today, because of potential liability, keeping real bills around is not really an option. Luckily (hmm) the government stepped up and came up with some very stringent guidelines to provide guidance.
Every detail about movie money has been covered under the Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992 like the size of the bill. The bills must be at least 75% smaller than a real bill or 150% larger than a real bill to ensure that someone can tell the difference.
The repercussions for not following the guidelines can be very real. Not long ago an industry company had a visit from the Secret Service when their bills showed up in circulation after being used on a popular movie set. They were forced to destroy their entire inventory.
The best way to ensure that you are getting the quality cash you need for your next production is to use a trusted source that has done all the legal leg work for you. It is always best to be the person that takes the time to know who you are doing business with, than to be the person left holding the bag when the feds show up!