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Filming Money

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JulieBFilming Money
by on Oct 26, 2005 at 5:43:35 pm

Hi Everyone,
Is it illegal to videotape or film money? I'm working on a video about money and can't find any info on the topic. Any help is greatly appreciated!!

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alexRe: Filming Money
by on Oct 26, 2005 at 7:27:47 pm

No, not illegal per se, I've done it several times. But if you are hesitant, the people to call and ask are the Secret Service....

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JulieBRe: Filming Money
by on Oct 26, 2005 at 10:00:35 pm

Does anyone else have advice...or know where it may be written in the law books? Just because Alex has done it, doesn't make it legal :)

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Mark FrazierRe: Filming Money
by on Oct 26, 2005 at 10:32:34 pm

I've done it, too. Does that make it any more legal? (Sorry... sarcasm is a vehicle with no brakes.)

I do agree that the Secret Service will be your best option for information. will link you to local office or an email address.

That being said, I've seen scores of stock photos of money from a variety of commercial sources. One could assume that something that public would not be illegal.

But you know what happens when you assume.

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JulieBRe: Filming Money
by on Oct 26, 2005 at 11:36:11 pm

Thanks Mark.
Any stock photos of money (greater than a $1 bill) has always been a portion of the bill, never a full bill...that is why I had the concern. According to, videotaping/filming is OK, but printing (in some cases) is not. That's probably why the stock photos I've seen are not of full bills.
Thanks both of you for the resource!
And yes I do know what happens when one assumes :P ... that is the *last* thing I want to do for my boss! :)

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by on Oct 26, 2005 at 11:41:45 pm

Sorry, Alex, for the scarcasm. I didn't realize the Secret Service had anything to do with money...I just thought you were being a smart***. Again, it's that whole "assume" thing :)

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Tim KolbRe: PS
by on Oct 27, 2005 at 3:22:00 pm

[JulieB] "Sorry, Alex, for the scarcasm. I didn't realize the Secret Service had anything to do with money."

Since counterfeit is the primary concern here, the Secret Service would be the place. They handle all counterfeit investigations. We have a paper lab in our building that has clients occasionally pull up in plain sedans with government plates...


I doubt there would be a huge problem with filming (or certainly videotaping) money as the primary concern is whether or not the image can be used to create counterfeit mony. Of course, video and even to some extent, motion picture film won't work very well for that. I know that scanning a bill in a flatbed and creating graphics can be a little dicey, though I think there's something in the newer bills to mess up flatbed scanners...but I've never tried so I don't know.


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Mark SuszkoRe: PS
by on Oct 27, 2005 at 4:21:21 pm

Secret Service is a part of Treasury Department, unless I have that backwards. That's why you ask them.

I had a pitch once for a PSA shoot that required a car full of paper money, like, the passengers were in the car and money apparantly was filling the car up to their armpits, with stray bills blowing about in the interior and falling out the windows in a loose scattered trail behind. We would have put in a large sheet of cardboard in there with them like a tray, surrounding their bodies and reaching to the dashboard and doors, then stacked/piled the money on top of that so an inch-deep layer would look like it was four feet deep. That one would have required massive printing of fake bills, but my work-around was we'd only print one side, slightly oversized, and could modify even that. The video cameras would read it as real-looking, but any eyeball inspection would give it away immediately as fake. Like the Larry David "Curb" episode. The pitch was declined, partly because the budget was too low even for a ream of copier paper and some green toner, but also with concerns about causing disruptions out in the field shooting this without adequate lock-up of the location. With the micro-budget they wanted, I couldn't give them that.

But it sure would have looked cool....

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DougRe: PS
by on Oct 27, 2005 at 5:52:34 pm

my work-around was we'd only print one side, slightly oversized

You might want to be careful of that in the future. Several years ago a radio station my company owns had a contest where listeners could provide one dollar bills with the stations freq. numbers on it for a chance to win. They initially encouraged people to fax the bills to the station. After a few days of this we had a 'visit' from the Secret Service telling us to cease and desist. It appears that even a crappy fax image of money....printed on one side in black and illegal, I can only imagine what they would say about your idea. :)

Fortunately they came as a courtesy, not to arrest us for encouraging people to break federal laws.


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Frank OttoRe: PS
by on Oct 27, 2005 at 4:43:54 pm

Speaking of money, here's my .02

Information from Treasury (via Secret Service) as of 2001 was that the filmic use of curency was allowable, however the bills shown must never be shown in a 1:1 ratio. There was a clause in the usage that prohibited currency being shown in such detail that embedded security material is visable, but changes in the formatting of currency has eliminated that issue. They also dropped the showing of consecutive numbering...what that had to do with shooting currency I haven't the foggiest idea, and the agent I worked with didn't seem to know.

As I understand the act, there are no restrictions, except that no representation or photographic images of in-service instruments of currency may be duplicated, printed, broadcast or represented in a 1:1 ratio, unless the word "SPECIMEN" appears in bold type, of a color in contrast with and 50% larger than the largest wording and must appear in two locations on each side of the instrument/currency.


Frank Otto

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JulieBRe: PS
by on Oct 27, 2005 at 6:43:26 pm

Thanks everyone! You all have been most helpful!

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BruceRe: Filming Money
by on Oct 27, 2005 at 7:31:01 pm

If you go to this web site and click on the pictures of money you will find links to legally download examples of various bills back and front (with specimen printed on them) that you can use. I have the new Photoshop CS2 and it will not let you print out these examples but you can use them easily in video productions.

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Frank OttoRe: Filming Money
by on Oct 28, 2005 at 4:45:21 pm

Thanks, Bruce for the update!

I see the requirement for a larger specimen font has been I said earlier, my info was from 2001 so it's good to get the correctyed info and link.



Frank Otto

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foleyvideoRe: Filming Money
by on Oct 28, 2005 at 8:45:31 pm

I've videotaped money before -- in fact, a bank let me use THEIR money for the shoot! We did it at the bank with security guards standing by and of course a full count of the cash before and after the shoot.

Why not invest in some "movie money" -- the kind of stuff you see on TV all the time. It looks convincing from a distance but wouldn't stand up to close inspection -- unless your audience thinks Bill Gates has his picture on a hundred dollar bill.


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Wayne KeyserRe: Filming Money - The Federal Law
by on Oct 29, 2005 at 2:29:56 am

This isn't such a mystery when you go to the source - the Bureau of Engraving and Printing website has the following under the topic "Reproduction of Currency" (quoted in pertinent part)

...authority is hereby given for the printing, publishing ... or the making ... of the necessary plates or items for such printing or publication, of color illustrations of U.S. currency provided that:

1. The illustration must be of a size less than three-fourths or more than one and one-half, in linear dimension, of each part of any matter so illustrated; 2. The illustration must be one sided; and 3. All negatives, plates, 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 shall be destroyed and or deleted or erased after their final use in accordance with this section.


The comparatively poor (for counterfeiting purposes) of film and video, and their projection at various sizes, would seem to meet the above requirements, in my view - as for the last part about destroying the preprint materials, film and video seem to have indefinite lives, so who is to say when the final use of the preprint materials occurs? Note that the statute does not require the destruction of the finished prints/tapes.


There is no "way to peace." Peace is the way.

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JoseppiRe: Filming Money
by on Oct 31, 2005 at 1:32:52 am

I come from a print/graphic design background, where the restrictions tend to be more strict, since the tools of graphics and printing are what counterfitters use... scanners, plates, negatives, printing presses, and color printers and copiers have been a leapfrog competition with security measures for years.

At a printing company I used to work at, years before I was there, the secret service came in, and in no uncertain terms, took the plates and negatives for a printing job. It seems a client had a $10 bill be printed, smaller than 100%, in a fake-looking green, and only on one side of the paper. They printed their business card info on the second side, so when the "bill" was folded in half, it attracted attention when handed out. Turns out somebody had actually passed off the fake money in another state.

When the guys in beige sedans pull up, and walk in wearing suits and flash a badge, it's not something you want to happen a second time...


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