A live-action film or television show makes use of many props, from the clothing that actors wear to items in a house to fake blood, and a common prop for movies and television is prop money. Prop money is easily detectable as false monetary notes since prop money is made differently from real money, and a person holding it can easily tell them apart. Movie props often are real items or look similar to them, based on their nature, and fake money is one of the more common props that actors and directors will make use of during a shoot. Custom prop money may be ordered by a film crew based on the types of money being used in a film. In Hollywood, most prop money will probably be American bills and coins, but foreign currency such as Euros, Mexican pesos, or Japanese yen might appear as well and prop money for them will be needed, too. There are, of course, a number of legal guidelines in place to make sure that prop money is obviously fake and easy to tell apart from the real thing outside of a movie shoot. On the big screen, prop money looks real, but in person, the differences are clear.
How Prop Money is Distinct
A number of legal guidelines exist to ensure that any fake money is very easy to identify. For example, the Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992 mandated that reproduced bills should be either 75% of the size of a real bill or smaller, or 150% a real bill’s size or larger if it is an exact duplicate, and it should also be one-sided; as in, the other side will be blank, and actors in a movie or TV shoot will be careful to not reveal the blank side of prop money to the camera during filming. Meanwhile, Title 18, United States Code, Section 504 allows the reproduction of black and white paper currency, so long as it obeys the sizing restrictions mentioned earlier. And when using prop money, filmmakers are free to burn it for a scene’s shoot, since it is not real tender. By contrast, it is a major crime to burn or destroy real tender.
Another way to tell prop money apart from real, legal tender is the material used to make it. Despite the term “paper money,” real American bills are in fact made of 25% linen and 75% cotton, according to the Secret Service, and randomly distributed red and blue security fibers are threaded in it, which makes it nearly impossible to duplicate accurately and pass off as real money. And prop money, meanwhile, is made of actual paper, often high-quality paper that immediately feels different than real tender when touched. All of these factors and more ensure that prop money is nearly impossible to use as real tender, but if a person were to attempt that anyway, they will face stiff penalties. Illegal use of this false tender can be punished by fines up to $250,000 and up to 20 years in a state prison. Clearly, it is best to keep prop money on the movie’s set where it belongs.
A film crew or television show crew can order these props from printers that will, when an order is submitted, create as much false money as the film crew needs and send it, and a number of professional printer services should be able to help out with this. The film crew can specify the types of money being imitated with props, such as different denotations of American bills or various foreign or historical bills, and the right type and quantity will be printed and shipped for use on the set.