Paper Money

Would a movie maker blow up real paper money?

The firm RJR Props, Atlanta, produces prop money for television and movie companies. The firm says its products have never been used in a crime.

Image courtesy of RJR Props.

The recent apparent epidemic of movie prop money being passed as the real thing prompted a number of questions about the reason for the existence of such money in the first place. It has nothing to do with anti-counterfeiting regulations. In fact, the law explicitly permits the use of paper currency in filming in the U.S. Code (18 USC 504) under the title, “Printing and Filming of United States and Foreign Obligations & Securities.”

The reason is far more practical: What television or movie producers in their right minds would want to go to a bank, withdraw wads of cash, watch it get treated in all sorts of interesting and maybe abusive ways, and at the end of filming for the day have to collect it all, account for every piece, and then either safeguard it or redeposit it at the bank?

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Instead, there is prop money — not meant to be the real thing, but only to resemble it closely enough that it passes under cursory viewing. David Albert Pierce, an attorney specializing in film and television covers the subject on the Movie Maker  website (“Cinema Law”). He says that anyone using prop money must comply with the provisions for prop money cited in the Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992, including those requiring size limitations, printing on both sides, and destruction of plates and storage media. Additionally, prop money will never have common security features such as watermarks, security threads, and holograms.

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RJR Props and Set Dressing Services of Atlanta claims to be one of the leading prop money suppliers. Its website offers both a wide selection and a candid explanation of its products. The firm offers two grades of money — standard-grade, printed on two sides and that looks real from a distance of 3 feet or more, and a high-grade version suitable for closeups and printed on only one side. They also say “If you see 2-sided prop money that looks too real, it is probably illegal, and it can shut down your production, get you a pricey fine, and put you in jail. The FBI and Secret Service are cracking down. They can force you to pull down a video or production, and edit out the scene. If [you’re] doing a TV show or Feature Film, it can cost Millions in down time and legal costs.” The firm also says its products have never been used in a crime.

The firm’s array of movie money with pricing is on display at its online shop.

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