How U.S. Counterfeit Laws Impact Hollywood Prop Money

iStock
iStock

Hollywood studios may spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make a movie, but you’ll rarely ever see any real money on the screen. Due to the liabilities involved in having large sums of money in front of cameras, especially when a script calls for thousands or millions of dollars to be shown (or destroyed) in a scene, the movie industry relies on prop currency to create everything from a mobster’s briefcase full of hundreds to a madman's pile of burning bills. But there’s a fine line between creating the perfect prop and unintentionally bringing counterfeit currency into the world.

In the wake of the Civil War, crimes involving counterfeit U.S. currency were on the rise, with some estimates claiming that anywhere from one-third to half of all the country’s money was fake. This prompted the creation of the Secret Service, which was originally conceived to investigate counterfeit crimes. In the immediate aftermath of the war, there was a nationwide effort to crack down on this fake cash, and at one point in the early 20th century, a federal law was briefly put on the books that forbid the use of actual money in full-scale photography.

Up until this point, the nascent movie industry had been using real money in its productions, so according to Pricenomics, the only real solution to this law at the time was for filmmakers to use Mexican currency that was rendered useless after the Mexican Revolution ended in 1920.

That solution turned out to be nothing more than a Band-Aid; as the decades went on, the supply of Mexican currency purchased by the studios began to shrink, leaving producers looking for alternatives. One quick fix came when studios began printing their own prop money, albeit with original designs on the bills, including the studio’s name front and center on each note (since any reproduction of U.S. currency was forbidden at the time, this prop money was based on the Mexican design).

Though the early 20th century laws forbidding real money from being filmed didn’t last long, the problem of finding props that looked authentic persisted through the ‘60s and ‘70s. This is when movie prop houses began to create more believable money that was based on the designs of actual U.S. currency. As the laws surrounding the reproduction of money were loosened, this new prop money passed muster with the Secret Service. Much of this was achieved through black-and-white reproductions of U.S. money that was passable in quick shots.

Over the decades the laws regarding currency reproduction have changed, and today we abide by the Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992. According to the law, filmmakers can reproduce full-color U.S. currency, provided that they adhere to the following restrictions on each bill:

    (1) the illustration is of a size less than three-fourths or more than one and one-half, in linear dimension, of each part of the item illustrated;
    (2) the illustration is one-sided; and
    (3) all negatives, plates, positives, digitized storage medium, graphic files, magnetic medium, optical storage devices, and any other thing used in the making of the illustration that contain an image of the illustration or any part thereof are destroyed and/or deleted or erased after their final use.

If a prop company comes too close to the real thing, they can expect a not-so-friendly visit from the Secret Service, as Independent Studio Services found out after some of its faux money from Rush Hour 2 made its way into the local economy. The company was ordered to destroy its entire inventory of prop money at a considerable loss, which led Gregg Bilson Jr., the CEO of Independent Studio Services, to rethink the prop money strategy. To avoid more run-ins with the Feds, his company now prints stacks of blank bill paper and places a lone, authentic $100 bill on top to simulate a large sum of cash.

Today, prop money still gets passed off as authentic from time to time, even if the bills follow the federal guidelines of reproduction. As Secret Service special agent Chuck Ortman explained to the Los Angeles Times, “[If] it's green and it says '20' on it, somebody will take it."

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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America’s Most Popular Horror Movie Villains, Mapped

FrontierBundles.com
FrontierBundles.com

No matter how you feel about scary movies, it's hard to avoid them around Halloween. This is the time of year when the faces of cinema's classic horror villains seem to pop up in every store window and television set you see. Depending on where you live, certain horror icons may be especially hard to ignore. Check out the map below to find out the most popular scary movie villain in your state.

To make the map, FrontierBundles.com chose 15 classic horror movie antagonists and looked at regional Google Trends data for each name from the past year. Frankenstein's Monster from 1931's Frankenstein dominates most of the country, with 11 states including Pennsylvania and Arizona searching for the character. Ghostface from 1996's Scream ranked second with eight states. Chucky from Child's Play (1988), the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, and Norman Bates from Psycho (1960) also rank high on the list.

FrontierBundles.com

Not every Halloween term Americans are searching for is horror-related. Some of the more wholesome seasonal queries that appear in Google's data include candy, crafts, and maze. But for every Google user searching for family-friendly fall activities, there are plenty looking up horror movies and monsters as well. Here's what people are Googling in your state for Halloween.