Why Do Hollywood Movies Use Prop Money Instead of Real Cash?

Rohan Mathew

Seen any good movies lately? With popular streaming services making films readily available, it has never been easier to consume film.

How close attention do you pay attention these movies and shows? Have you spotted anything fishy? Have you rewound it just to see if your eyes weren’t fooling you?

One thing you will want to look out for next time is prop money. It’s true, the money you see depicted on screen isn’t real.

Curious to know more about the history and rules regarding movie money? Read our post below!

Logistics and Liability

Can filmmakers and producers use real money? Do they need to trouble themselves with using fake money?

There are several hoops needed to jump through when a film uses prop money. It’s more a logistical nightmare to use real money.

There is a system of processes and distribution when using real money. This starts with how it’s made and then used on set.

Everything on set must be accounted for. If a production studio were to use real money, this would create ripples of logistical problems down the line. Scenes using large stacks of movie money that gets destroyed are one prime example.

Early Appearances

Money has made its way onto sets since the dawn of the medium. One of the earliest appearances of it showing up was Thomas Edison’s “Cockfight” in 1895. The infamous film, “The Great Train Robbery” of 1903 used actual money in the stickup scene.

During this time, counterfeit money was flooding the country. This forced the regulation of movie money into action.

Fake Money History

Fake money has made its way throughout history. In the U.S. alone, counterfeit money and real USD almost go hand-in-hand through time. Post Civil War, approximately 1/3 of the money in circulation was faux.

As a result, new federal laws were born including the ban on photographing real money.

After the Mexican Revolution in 1920, Mexican cash had lost its value. Filmmakers would use the currency as an attempt to escape the regulations. This didn’t last and studios began printing prop money.

Counterfeit Laws

The Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992 imposed three federal rules for the use of prop money in TV and film.

For starters, the illustration must follow certainly dimensions. Only one side is allowed for printing bills. And lastly, every aspect of the design and printing process needs to be destroyed or deleted upon completion.

The counterfeit laws in place have streamlined the process for filmmakers. Some would argue they are too strict and are too obvious to detect when on screen.

Prop Money in Pop Culture

Hollywood now relies on third-party prop companies for their prop money needs. Some notable companies include Independent Studio Services and RJR Props.

It is a fine line for these prop companies when it comes to designing currency on film. The phony money needs to be convincing enough for the audience’s eye. They also need to be cognizant of the federal rules in place.

Certain insignias or words will be printed on the prop money to ensure they do not cross any lines. Words like “Unreal Fake Currency Reserve” and “Not Real Currency” are marked on RJR’s money for example. Have you spotted a fake 100 dollar bill in your favorite film?

End Credits

We hope you enjoyed our informational piece on prop money in the film industry. See if you can spot any the next time you watch your favorite show.

For many more blog posts on the arts and the like, you’ll want to check out our blog.

Keep up with the latest entertainment news and write some of your movie reviews! What would your magic movie money look like?