Is there a reason why we never see real money used in movies or TV?

It always looks fake. Is there a law that prohibits showing real money (bills and close ups of coins) in a TV commercial, show or film?

It doesn’t always look fake. It depends on the budget. If you don’t have the budget to borrow real cash to use (and the risks involved with such) you use fake money, but then you can’t make fake money that looks too real.

The reason may have changed since I read or heard about it the first time, but back then (maybe 50’s or 60’s) it was illegal (federal law like illegal) to produce real looking money. It was considered counterfeiting.

I must say that I have seem some fake money that looked very close to the real thing, close enough to wonder if that law had been modified.

Sorry I can’t supply a cite from an authority. This from (a probably flawed) memory.

Here’s some info from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing regarding the reproduction of currency.

C’mon, would you let ACTORS touch real money you hoped to get back? :wink:

Good point. After all, they roll up phony money to snort phony coke. You wouldn’t want to use real money that way.

Thanks for the link. My real reason for asking the question was, is it illegal to show real currency on screen? I produce local TV commericals, and whenever I see something involving paper money it’s usually animated. I had a producer who wanted to show a real dime on screen and I thought that it might be illegal.

I always thought the problem with using real money was that it was … real money.

I’m not going to film a show about a kidnapping and actually bring $10 million on set.

It’s easier just to pull a switch and throw out a suitcase full of dirty undies.

A friend of mine who is finishing up his PhD in film school made this claim to me years ago and I told him that I thought it was nonsense. He said that showing real money onscreen would be counterfeiting and thus illegal, and that every time you see money in a movie it’s fake.

Reading desdinova’s link it certainly sounds like there’s no problem showing actual currency onscreen - the image is certainly one sided for things like video (with film it’s actually transparent), in most cases it will be considerably smaller than the real item (the negative, that is, or the digital image unless you do something like scanned some money at approximately full size). Someone might try making an argument that the images haven’t been “destroyed or erased following their final use” but you could go round and round on that one (“We’re going to show the commercial again, so we haven’t erased the digital photo, it isn’t the final use yet”).

I think it is pretty clear that the link only refers to printing money on paper. Counterfeiting involves making fake money that might be passed off as real in commerce. There is no law whatsover against photographing money for viewing on a screen or monitor.

What it comes down to is if you’re filming a few $10 bills for a movie or photographing a pile of cash for a magazine article, it’s perfectly okay. If, however, you print bills, either with a printing press or by inkjet, laser printer, etc., and they are the size and color of real money, you’re breaking the law. So if you were printing a million dollars worth of fake bills to film in your movie, the bills would be illegal, but their images appearing on the movie screen wouldn’t be.

That’s my understanding… I produced that link in response to Zeldar’s comments. I swear I’ve seen real money used in a variety of commercials and movies, but I’m hard pressed to cite any specific examples just because I’ve never thought anything of it and wasn’t really paying close attention. Just off the top of my head, I expect the one dollar bills being bet with in Trading Places were real since I can’t imagine why they’d go to the trouble of making a fake one dollar bill for those shots.

So I guess that unless someone comes up with a federal law prohibiting the filming of currency, the facts are:
1.) Fake money looks really fake because otherwise they’re counterfeiting.
2.) You don’t HAVE to use fake money in a film or commercial, it’s perfectly legal to show real currency.

Now that I’ve said that I’m sure someone’s gonna come up with some federal law to prove me wrong :smack:

I’ve seen both fake bills and real bills in movies and TV shows.

Magicians on TV perform tricks with dollar bills all the time. If it were illegal to film money they would be picked up by the Secret Service in no time.

In The Brinks Job (1978), Peter Falk & others wallowed in a pile of real money. The money was loaned from a bank, which had guards standing by to collect the money after the scene was shot.

No cite, but I saw an episode of Groucho Marx’s quiz show “You Bet Your Life” in which a woman from another country said the secret word and got the bonus money, exclaiming that the bills she was handed were counterfeit. Groucho explained that it was illegal to show real currency on television. So that would’ve been some time between 1950 and 1961.

If anything, I might expect the stage currency to deliberately look fake to discourage someone from trying to swipe it, the reasoning being that though better-looking fake money would still be obviously worthless on close examination, they don’t want some under-educated Worst Boy delaying production by pocketing the “money” and then not admitting it even after it’s announced the stuff is fake out of embarrassment or fear of dismissal.

No cite, but I’m pretty sure that in the first half of the 20th century either it was illegal to use real money in movies, or else Hollywood universally treated it that way. In every movie from the 1920s through the 1950s I’ve ever seen, any cash shown was quite obviously fake. I even recall a Robert Benchley short in which the humorist makes a point of mentioning the phony money he has to use.

I’ve always assumed that in the early days of motion pictures no one knew what might be possible technically with images on 35mm film, and so someone decided better safe than sorry. Presumably, somewhere in the 1960s or later, it became clear that no one was using movie frames as the basis for counterfeiting, and the prohibition was dropped. But this is all WAGing on my part.

Perhaps one of our experts on old time movies can provide a more authoritative cite than my highly unreliable memory.

I’ve thought of some more instances of real money (or what appears to be real money) being shown on TV:

  1. Every two-bit poker tournament shows piles of cash being brought out when only two players are left. There’s usually an elaborate production involving scantily-clad babes and/or humorless armed guards. Here’s Joe Hachem after he won the World Series of Poker in 2005, broadcast on ESPN.

  2. Documentaries on the Discovery channel about the US Mint, which shows actual money being made.

  3. When the new dollar bill designs came out, every news show showed you how to recognize the new bills and explained the security features. It’s easy to see that real bills were used since they showed the magic ink that changed color depending on the angle.

  4. State quarters being sold on the Home Shopping Network.

  1. I see ads on TV for Indian casinos with real (looking) cash flying about all the time.

You can buy real fake movie money here (or should that be fake real movie money) (with pictures)