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Paper money in old movies


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Does anyone know why the paper money that is shown in old movies looks so odd? At first I figured that the designs have changed over the years, but I've done some searching on the internet, and it doesn't appear that much has changed to the design of paper money in the last century. In so many movies and TV shows from the 1940s and 1950s, the paper money appears to have a totally differnet design and look to is. Any guess as to why?

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Hi rosinryanz,

 

 

Take a look at a thread I launched in *Your Favorites: Money In the Old Movies.*

 

http://forums.tcm.com/thread.jspa?threadID=161743&start=0&tstart=45

 

There, I discuss things like a value-converter for figuring out how much sums mentioned in old movies equate to in today's purchasing power, as well as to the issue of appearance. I even include links to menus (with prices) to classic era Hollywood hot spots and restaurants.

 

There, posted on *Sep 21, 2011 10:05 AM* , I said:

 

"Ever notice that the paper money used in old movie scenes looked conspicously fake? Why didn't they just use real bills to make it more realistic? There was a good reason. The Secret Service, which was charged with protecting our money from counterfeiters, at one time took an absolute, and I mean absolute zero tolerance attitude to currency reproduction in any, way shape or form, and that included depiction on film! Filmakers were put on firm notice that use of real bills in a screenplay would not be acceptable! This may sound overzealous to us today, but that's what it was. It wasn't until many years later that such restrictions were lifted. In *It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), *there is a luscious close up shot of a bunch of real hundred dollar bills (they had to be real, as making such copies would have been strictly illegal, even for movieland). "

 

Also:

 

"*Who's Minding The Mint (1967)* was made years after the govt let up a little from it's once over paranoid interpretation of "No reproduction!". Up until the late 40's and early 50's they used fake money, even in close up shots! Today, you can buy or make reproductions of US money (they sell repros of high denomination notes like $10,000 bills in gift shops.), the law says that they can't be in the original size. Making an original sized reproduction can still be prosecuted."

 

There were considerable design variations and changes in the paper money into the early 20th century. Also, there were many variations, as there were different designs for *Silver Certificates, Gold Crtificates, National Bank Notes and Federal Reserve Notes*.

 

In some very old movies you also notice that the paper bills were of a greater size than today. Paper money was shrunk to it's present dimensions in the late 1920's, although the larger notes continued to circulate for years therafter.

 

You can see the old notes on display and for sale in any stamp and coin shop. They are beautiful; no reproduction does them justice!

 

 

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Hi again rosinryanz,

 

As a follow up, I think what the Secret Service was concerned about in the case of movies was that the high resolution film cameras, with their 35mm film and high optics lenses, could have been used by a shifty cameraman, behind the back of the director or producer, to snap a good still photo of any currency used on the set. Such an image could then have been used in a photoengraving process by counterfeiters. A few seconds, when no one was looking, is all it would have took. Had a 50 or a 100 dollar bill have been used in a shoot (which was a lot of money to the average person at one time), it might have presented quite a temptation to a cameraman.

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Studios routinely used stage money that only bore a passing resemblance to real banknotes. While some used generic fake money, several had it printed up to their specifications; the designs often featured the name of the studio and even its familiar corporate logo (I have specimens of many of these in my collection).

 

Apart from the obvious advantage of not using real -- and valuable -- bills on set where they might conveniently disappear, there was always a concern that overly realistic duplicates of American currency, or even close-ups of real banknotes, might run afoul of U.S. Treasury regulations.

 

Both by dint of improved film stocks and lenses, and audiences' demands for more verisimilitude, stage money has become much more realistic, and real banknotes are often used when close-ups of money are required.

 

As for me, I'll take as much of the real thing as I can get my hands on.

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A lot of that sort of thing went on in old movies with more than money. Guitar logos were covered as well as camera names. Long time photography buffs can identify Jimmy Stewart's camera used in "Rear Window" as a Miranda due to it's design(I once owned a Miranda just like it), and guitarists could discern the instrument being played was either a Gibson or Martin by the shape of the headstock. But the manufacturer's name was taped over just the same. Probably due to some similar legal reason. MY beef about the stage money was the unusual size of the bills.

Sepiatone

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Hi sepiatone,

 

In the 1920's silent films you see the old sized bills. They were over 4 inches by almost 10 inches in size. When the screenplay called for British money, the pound notes of that period were huge and printed only on one side. Their size and proportions approximated one half of an 8 X 11 sized sheet, about 5 X 8. Sometimes French francs were also depicted, which were equally large back then.

 

I have images of British currency from the 30's posted on the thread I mentioned below: Money in the Old Movies.

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Hi Fred!

 

I knew you'd have something interesting to say on this subject!

 

I too have noticed dual portrait currency in old movies. I think those were deliberately used to reassure the Secret Service that no real bills were used in the shoot. It would have made sense, given how close Mexico was to Hollywood, and how the stuff could be had for cheap. (I'll bet many a director and producer had some of it left over from gambling jaunts to Tijuana!)

 

Also, it wasn't so wildly unrealistic to American viewers back then, as some older US money had dual portraits and even dual pictures, like the $10 US Notes of 1901. Dual pictures and portraits on the face side and even the back were very common on many of our 19th century issues.

 

Our paper money was reduced to it's present size with the Federal Reserve Note series of 1928. The larger notes continued to circulate for a few years after, especially the silver and gold certificates. (Gold certificates were terminated and withdrawn in 1933 when Roosevelt took us off the gold standard. Silver certificates circulated until the well into the 1960's, but were reduced in size as well) You could date an unrestored antique pre- 1930's cash register, from the larger sized compartments for the old larger bills! Also old pants in vintage clothing stores show the larger sized back pockets which were designed to accomodate the larger wallets and bills!

 

Edited by: ThelmaTodd on Dec 22, 2011 1:28 PM

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Someone posted the information about the Mexican money several years ago, but I don't remember what thread it was posted in.

 

Here's another article with different pages showing different versions of the Mexican and prop money. At the bottom of each page, click on the green arrows to see other pages:

 

http://papermoneyofsonora.com/history-paper-money-sonora/movie-money/estado-double-small.html

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Hi Fred,

 

How fascinating that link is! I definitely recall seeing this stuff, (or something that looks a lot like it) from many an old movie.

 

The various states of Mexico were allowed to design and print their own issues. The state of Sonora even made a business out of furnishing the American studios with "Motion Picture Money", as I see a category for issues printed for Columbia, Fox and Paramount, even with the studio name on them!

 

Besides keeping the Secret Service off their backs, I think the studios also liked the idea as it mitigated theft risk. Use of real bills would have required the contant presence of a security guard, who would have had to keep his eye on the notes continuously.

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>Besides keeping the Secret Service off their backs, I think the studios also liked the idea as it mitigated theft risk. Use of real bills would have required the contant presence of a security guard, who would have had to keep his eye on the notes continuously.

 

Ha, ha, ha! I never thought of that. Remember those scenes where someone throws a bunch of paper money up in the air and people on the sidewalks go running after it? I'll bet they wouldn't get it all back if it was real!

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Hey Fred,

 

All kinds of good information is being served up in response to our friend "rosin"! Our community is most olbliging in such cases!

 

PS: I noticed he/she has only had 170 posts since 2003! A person of few words! As encouragement, let me say to him/her what they used to say at the end of the *Beverly Hillbillies*:

 

*"Set as spell! Take your shoes off! Y'all come back now, ya hear?"!*

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Thank you so much for all the great information on the topic. Who would have ever thought that there would be such a backstory on a prop.

 

And to answer your question ThelmaTodd, I have indeed been an infrequent poster over the past 8 years. Chalk it up to having too many interests to ever focus on one full-time.

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Hi rosinryanz!

 

A couple of reasons I welcome your participation are inherent in your original post. I could tell that you must have seen a fair number of old films to have been able to make such an observation. It also tells me you are a highly observant person; not everyone notices such details! These are great qualifications for a poster around here!

 

Happy Holidays!

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Hi finance,

 

You got to take a look at Fred's link! The state of Sonora was running a lively trade with the American studios by printing and selling movie money. Some were custom made for a specific studio and bore the studio name. They even appeared in a variety of denominations. (They even printed fake confederate money, probably for use in civil war dramas!) The ones illustrated were for: Paramount, Universal, Republic, Columbia and Fox. Generic movie dough was also on offer, one class of such notes bore the inscription: "Phoney Mazuma"!! The Mexicans were most resourceful and totally at the service of these studio clients. No doubt they did it a whole lot cheaper than an American banknote company!

 

Who would have thought? So funny and fascinating! Fred scored a three pointer with this link!

 

 

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I believe I've seen American currency at least in silents. For one, The High Sign looks to have genuine bills in the till. Also, the Secret Service reasoning is actually pretty dumb. Anyone with an 8x10 camera could photograph both sides of a bill in much more detail than a cine camera, at 1:1 magnification and using filters to remove certain colors printed. All fairly basic photographic knowledge in the old days. I tend to believe fear of sticky-fingered actors was much more a reason for studios to have stage money. I mean, if you hired Jack Benny, would you want real money around? (old, old joke)

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From "Why Does Hollywood Use Fake Money In the Movies?"

 

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100619093008AAU0ucy

 

 

"There are *very* strict federal laws about making fake money and they apply to films just as much as they apply to the rest of us. The Secret Service says:

 

The Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992, Public Law 102-550, in Section 411 of Title 31 of the Code of Federal Regulations, permits color illustrations of U.S. currency provided:

 

* 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

 

* The illustration is one-sided

 

* 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

 

The Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992, Public Law 102-550, in Section 411 of Title 31 of the Code of Federal Regulations, permits color illustrations of U.S. currency provided:

 

* 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

 

* The illustration is one-sided

 

* 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"

Source(s):

http://www.secretservice.gov/money_illus…

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