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Counterfeit Cash

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Seems legit.

"We're in the basement, learning to print
All of it's hot!
10-20-30 million ready to be spent
We're stackin' 'em against the wall
Those gangster presidents"
The B-52s, "Legal Tender"

Instead of robbing or stealing directly, some criminals prefer to make fake bills — that way, not only do they not have to pay for whatever they're "buying", they get real money back as change. It can be anywhere from one dude operating a low-grade printer out of his garage to a gang using a top-end press making super-bills. Sometimes, this extends to creating fake coins as well.

In other words, "Screw the rules, I make my own money!"

When Played for Laughs, there will be a GLARING difference between real and fake bills, like the counterfeiter's face instead of Benjamin Franklin or Queen Elizabeth, or "unconventional" denominations such as a $37 bill.

Counterfeiting rings tend to be popular villains for Kid Detectives and other G-rated heroes, since the crime is serious enough to call for legitimate secrecy and cunning, but not instantly synonymous with Family-Unfriendly Violence like robbery or drug-dealing. That said, don't expect every counterfeiter (fictional or otherwise) to be a pushover; it takes a lot of muscle to carry all those printing plates, after all...

Compare Magical Counterfeiting, where money or other items of value are duplicated by magical means rather than messing about with coin stamps or printing plates.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • "The Hunt for Greenback Jane" from Black Lagoon: Jane wanted to create the perfect counterfeit bills, The Cartel that employed her wasn't happy with the Schedule Slip that resulted from her belligerent perfectionism.
  • One chapter of Case Closed had Conan end up on the trail of a group of counterfeiters who had kidnapped one of his classmates' brothers; another had an old counterfeiter who'd hidden his work in an abandoned house when his conscience caught up to him.
  • One Gunsmith Cats manga arc had counterfeit plates and treasury-grade paper as its MacGuffin. Bean destroys them after he learns that the man paying him to deliver the goods was planning to pay him from the first production run instead of in real money.
  • One episode of Super Milk Chan had Milk and Tetsuko given the mission to find a counterfeiter who was printing his money so he could buy waffles.
  • Zipang features the heroes producing a large amount of fake Imperial Japanese occupation currency (the so-called "banana currency") to discretely buy supplies with from the contemporary black market. In a sign of Values Dissonance, some of the 21st century sailors wonder about breaking the law and scheming the government even though they were transported to the middle of World War II.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • The story "The Joker's Millions" has the Joker inheriting rival mob boss "King" Barlowe's fortune, only to find out most of it was fake. Posthumously, Barlowe knew the clown would waste the real cash quickly and now has to choose between admitting a dead man conned him and become Gotham's Butt-Monkey (which he won't do due to his tremendous ego), getting jailed for tax evasion (which he can't do either), or returning to crime to pay off the inheritance taxes and protect his image. This was later adapted into an episode for The New Batman Adventures.
    • In the Batman: Black and White story "Funny Money", a criminal gang hijacks a shipment of the special paper that real banknotes are printed on so that they can use it to print undetectable counterfeit hundred dollar bills. Batman foils the plot by intercepting their engraver and having him make a tiny alteration to the plates…
  • Zig-zag: A Marvel issue of Hanna-Barbera's Dynomutt has him and Blue Falcon stopping the theft of some charity money by the Zoot Suit Brutes. They apparently jettison the money, which Dynomutt recovers. Later, Blue Falcon makes change out of a $100 bill with the charity money. As Radley Crown, he and Dynomutt are at a restaurant where Crown pays for dinner with a $20. It turns out the $20—and all the money still at the charity drive the Zoot Suit Brutes jettisoned—was money the Brutes stole from a bank. Radley is unable to explain where he got the stolen $20 for fear of giving away his secret identity. Dynomutt has to do some fast detective work to clear him.
  • The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers:
    • In an All Just a Dream episode, Phineas gets a job as a printer. He starts printing fake bills, only for the FBI to burst in... but they're looking for pornography, and don't care about the cash, because "that stuff soon won't be worth the paper it's printed on."
    • The brothers get in trouble in Mexico. Don Longjuan The Yaqui Brujo uses some real notes, a pair of scissors and a colour photocopier to make high-value fake notes (e.g. US$25,000) to bribe them out. By the time the fakes are detected, the brothers are well away.
  • Lucky Luke:
    • In one story, we meet the master counterfeiter Fenimore Buttercup, who would have been successful, had he not printed 3-dollar bills and signed them with his name!
      "I am an artist! Shouldn't an artist sign his masterpieces?"
    • In The Daily Star, the crooked shopkeepers printing a tabloid quickly find more lucrative uses for their printing press, like counterfeiting money. Then Greeley interviews the banker after the crooks are caught...
      Greeley: When did you realize the $3 dollar bills were counterfeited?
      Banker: [utterly shocked] Counterfeited? My $3 dollar bills?
  • In the Marsupilami book "Le Temple de Boavista", photocopier tycoon Harold Stonelove carries with him a Briefcase Full of Money ; he mentions in an Aside Comment that "only" half the bills are fake.
  • Richie Rich:
    • Invoked then averted in a short story in which US government treasury agents suspect Richie of running a counterfeiting press. After breaking down the doors and handcuffing Richie, they then discover that all of the "notes" have Richie's photo along with "Play Money" printed clearly on them.
      Agent #1: Richie didn't say we have to repair the doors.
      Agent #2: You want his father to buy the mint and fire you?
    • Invoked and averted again in another story where one of Richie's many uncles is highly eccentric and prints his own money, but averted when it turns out that Richie's dad has an arrangement with the people who deliver supplies to the uncle where Richie's dad will replace all of the uncle's "counterfeit" money with genuine currency.
    • Invoked and partly averted in a story where Richie's mischievous cousin Reggie Van Dough prints almost-perfect fake money to use to prank people with. The partial aversion comes about because Richie has an actor pose as a treasury agent to warn Reggie that he's actually breaking the law by pretending that the notes are real, even though he intended to give the people the same value in real money later.
  • Similarly, a Gold Key issue of Scooby-Doo has the gang helping at a telethon which gets terrorized by a (duh!) ghost. During the confusion, Daphne makes change from it as she runs an errand for the telethon host. The police are immediately called in as the $10 Daphne gave for the coffee she bought was counterfeit.
  • Tintin:
    • In The Black Island, this is the mystery of the eponymous island.
    • The Crab with the Golden Claws also starts with mentions of counterfeit coins, but this plot point is soon dropped and forgotten after the murder and Tintin's abduction.

    Fan Fiction 
  • A single-page Beetlejuice picture strip has Beetlejuice asking Lydia for change for a seven dollar bill. She gives him a three and a four. Once B.J. discovers Lydia scammed him:
    Beetlejuice: (full volume angrily) GOOD ONE, LYDS!!!
    Lydia: (demurely ) Sealed with a kiss, B.J.!
  • In Side Story of Support, Vega offers a bag of gold to a slave trader for Sandara's freedom which he later admits was completely fake. After freeing the rest of the slaves, he brandishes a separate bag of real gold to help them get back on their feet.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Film: 5 Fingers (1952), James Mason plays a valet at the British Embassy in Turkey who sells secrets to the Germans. He is eventually discovered and runs, although his lover (a snooty countess he's pretty much bought with his money) runs off with much of the cash. It then turns out that the money they got from the Germans was counterfeit and she has been arrested and now the police are there for him.
  • The A-Team are tasked by General Morris to retrieve millions in counterfeit money printed in the one U.S. printing press not on American soil. The money, and more importantly the printing plates, become the MacGuffin of the film.
  • L'Argent: The catalyst of the plot is a counterfeit bill of 500 francs. It falls in the hands of the unsuspecting protagonist, whose life falls apart after he tries to pay for a drink with it.
  • Though it doesn't appear in the film itself, the comic book and novel adaptations of Tim Burton's Batman (1989) have the people of Gotham City find out that the "free cash" that the Joker was giving away at the city's 200th birthday celebration parade he was hosting was all counterfeit bills with the Joker's face on them.
  • This was the line of business for Mark Gor and Sung Tse Ho in John Woo's A Better Tomorrow. At one point Mark even lights a cigar using a fake 100-dollar bill.
  • Beverly Hills Cop III has a counterfeiting operation hidden inside a theme park. This eventually gets used in one of the most hilarious scenes of the film, in which Axel taunts the main bad guy by printing a roll of bills with his face and the words "Kiss My Ass" on them!
  • During one sequence in Big Money Hustlas, the counterfeiter Bootleg Greg tries to pay his tithe to the crimelord Big Baby Sweets with counterfeit bills. Sweets's bodyguard kills him and flips his bills over - they're only printed on one side.
  • The events of the Ridley Scott film Black Rain are set in motion by a conspiracy by the Japanese Yakuza to distribute fake U.S. currency via The Mafia, only a renegade Yakuza steals the counterfeiting plates.
  • The Counterfeiters is a Very Loosely Based on a True Story tale of a group of Jews caught during WWII that were made to counterfeit pounds and dollars to weaken the UK and US economy.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond realizes the smugglers had paid him in counterfeit cash because Messrs. Albert Wint and Charles Kidd try to burn him alive immediately after he pockets the cash.
    James Bond: Where's the real money?
    Morton Slumber: What do you mean?
    James Bond: You wouldn't burn up 50,000 real dollars, now, would you?
  • Count Sergius and his two fellow con artists are funding their lavish Monte Carlo lifestyle in Foolish Wives by passing counterfeit French banknotes.
  • The Fratellis operation in The Goonies involves crafting this in their shack.
  • Buster Keaton's character in The Haunted House runs afoul of counterfeiters.
  • In His Girl Friday, Walter has a friendly crook pass counterfeit money to Hildy as part of a gambit to get Bruce arrested.
  • In the opening scenes of In the Line of Fire, US Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) and his partner are busting a counterfeiter group. In Real Life, as a part of the Treasury Department the Secret Service also handles financial fraud issues, as well as the protection service that's the focus of most of the film.
  • In Lethal Weapon 4, fake bills were being cranked out in order to bribe the brother of a crime boss out of prison.
  • The story of Emerich Juettner (see Real Life folder for the details) inspired the 1950 movie Mister 880, named after the number of his Secret Service case file. Said movie was later adapted into an episode of The 20th Century-Fox Hour anthology series, "The Moneymaker" (aired October 31, 1956). Ironically, the real Juettner made more money from the movie than he did in his entire counterfeiting career.
  • A variation in Nightmare Alley (1947) and its remake. Stan thinks he and partner Lillith have just made a fortune, him packing in a score of cash. But as he examines the bills closely, Stan realizes that while each roll has a $100 bill on the top, the rest of the money is $1 bills and he's been double-crossed.
  • The Resistance Banker. To fund a national railroad strike, La Résistance plan to remove government treasury bonds held in the Central Bank and replace them with forgeries. There's skepticism as to whether the forgeries will pass inspection, until it's pointed out that the electricity is out in the basement vault (due to wartime fuel shortages) and so the inspection of the bonds will be made via lamplight.
  • Rush Hour 2 features fake bills nearly indistinguishable from real ones because the printing press being used is an intaglio type used by the US government for actual US currency that was given to the Shah of Iran prior to the 1979 Revolution. The only reliable way to distinguish a fake note from a real one is by burning it due to the ink being used - real ones burn black while fake ones burn red. The counterfeits are being laundered by the bad guys, first through an Illegal Gambling Den on Crenshaw Avenue (Carter knows the proprietor and hits him up for a lead once he proves to him that the bills used by one of the patrons are fake) and then later through a just-opened Red Dragon Casino in Las Vegas.
  • In The Sleeping Cardinal, Moriarty's scheme involves breaking into banks, stealing large sums of cash, and leaving behind an identical amount of counterfeit cash.
  • In The Sting, after Hooker blows through his entire cut from a successful con in an afternoon, he's forced to pay Lt Snyder off with marked money when the latter comes looking for a bribe. It's used against him later.
  • The infamous Bison Dollars from Street Fighter are this, since, as Sagat points out, they're worthless since Bison is basically a warlord who controls a tiny country in Southeast Asia. He plans to take over the world (OF COURSE!) and make the Bison Dollars a global currency. In the meantime, he has a plan: to kidnap the Queen of England and blackmail the Bank of England into making 1 Bison Dollar worth 5 British pounds.note  Turns into a Brick Joke when Sagat and Dee-Jay steal a chest full of riches during the AN's assault on Bison's fortress, only to find that it's stacks of worthless Bison Dollars. Of course, this is technically real money, just money with no official exchange rate with any other currency, which then drops from theoretically worthless to genuinely worthless when Bison's country goes from a minor nation with no diplomatic recognition to simply ceasing to exist.
  • To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) is about a Secret Service agent who becomes obsessed with catching the master counterfeiter who killed his partner, eventually crossing the Moral Event Horizon.
  • In A Walk Among the Tombstones, when a Russian gangster's daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom, he doesn't have the million dollar ransom demanded, so makes up the amount with counterfeit cash. Despite his worries the cash turns out to be convincing enough... until one of the kidnappers is counting it and suddenly notices he has printers ink on his fingers. Violence ensues.

  • There's this poor but not so honest farmer who's so poor he's practically forgotten what money looks like. He finally decides that the only way he's going to get any money is to print his own, but he's a bit vague about the denomination he should print, so he finally settles on a fifteen-dollar note. He takes his freshly minted note to the store and gets some items. The shopkeeper says "That's exactly three dollars" and the farmer hands over his fifteen-dollar note. The shopkeeper looks at the note, looks at the farmer, looks and the note again, looks at the farmer again and finally says "How do you want your change? A nine and a three, or two sixes?"

  • In Animal Farm, Mr. Frederick buys some timber from Animal Farm — with counterfeit money. Napoleon is furious when he finds out he got cheated.
  • One of several plots in The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers, has the villains trying to throw the UK into crisis by pouring counterfeit money into the banking system.
  • The final volume of The Baroque Cycle deals with the cat-and-mouse game between Master of the Mint Sir Isaac Newton and Jack Shaftoe, who has taken up making counterfeit gold Guineas.
  • Burke mentions a counterfeiter who altered the "In God We Trust" on his US dollars to "By God We Must". Burke buys some off him after he's able to slip one past a bartender even after Burke warns him about dodgy bills making the rounds. He also mentions using slugs for pay phones (see Real Life) which leads to the following pun in Strega when Burke is calling up a mobster.
    I put a slug into the pay phone—another slug answered.
  • Counterfeiters are a stock enemy in Enid Blyton's more Action-Adventure-oriented works, such as The Island of Adventure.
  • Circleverse: In Cold Fire, Frostpine is kept busy hunting down a counterfeiter, leaving Daja to deal with the main plot.
  • Counterfeit Wife is an installment of the Michael Shayne detective fiction series in which Shayne winds up accidentally in possession of a briefcase with $50,000 in counterfeit money. The plot revolves around a kidnapping in which the counterfeit money was to be paid as ransom, to launder the cash.
    • Another Michael Shayne novel, Tickets for Death, plays with this trope. Instead of cash, it's tickets at a racetrack. The crooks counterfeit racetrack tickets and then hand in the winning tickets for cash.
  • In one of The Demon Princes books, Kirth Gerson finds out how currency is verified, and uses this knowledge to scam 10,000,000,000 SVU out of a kidnapping organization.
  • Discworld: Owlswick the stamp forger in Making Money. At the end of the same book, Vetinari notes with amusement that the Times has printed lifesized images of the front and back of the new banknotes, to aid people in recognition, and tells Drumknott "even now, honest citizens are cutting them out and gluing them together".
  • In Fredric Brown's short story "Don't Look Behind You", a man with a gift for printing is recruited to make plates to print counterfeit money.
  • Counterfeiting plays an important role in at least two of J.T. Edson's novels. In The Rebel Spy, the Union plans to flood the Confederacy with counterfeit cash to undermine its economy, while in Two Miles to the Border, a crook comes up with an elaborate scheme that involves robbing banks, swapping the stolen money for a similar amount of counterfeit cash, then abandoning the counterfeit cash so the bank thinks they have got their money back while the outlaws abscond with the real cash.
  • This is the dark punch line to the Fear Street novel "The Rich Girl." Friends Sydney, Emma and Jason find a bag in the woods with thousands of dollars inside. They decide to hide it while figuring out what to do but Jason starts acting up and in a fight, seemingly dies. After hiding the body, Sydney starts seeing Jason following her, driving her to a full mental breakdown. At which point, it turns out Jason is alive and he and Emma faked this whole thing to get rid of Sydney so they could keep the money. When they go on a shopping spree, they're thrown when the shop clerk giggles "these are pretty funny." Getting their first good look at the cash in the light of day, the pair see the bills are labeled "Untied Stares of America" and Benjamin Franklin is wearing a beanie with glasses. Emma is stunned to realize she drove her best friend insane for a bag of play money.
  • In Good Omens, when one printer tells another that the current fad for books of prophecies is "a licence to print money", a footnote adds that the second printer's own thoughts on that subject eventually led to his arrest.
  • In the Horatio Hornblower short story, "Hornblower and the Widow McCool", Hornblower discovers several bundles of banknotes in a secret compartment of a sailor's chest and suspects they were counterfeit, meant to support Irish revolutionaries, along with a propaganda letter and a list of confederates. He puts everything back and has the chest thrown overboard so as not to embarrass the officer who previously inspected the chest but missed the secret compartment. He later finds out the sailor was unmarried, having lied to have his chest and an encoded poem sent to an address in Ireland to support further revolts.
  • A bonus chapter in the UK edition of How To by Randall Munroe looks at the steps governments have taken to make this difficult, ending with a cartoon of Black Hat Guy saying "My new business idea is like printing money — difficult, expensive, and not worth the cost."
  • Maul: Lockdown: Coyle is a convicted counterfeiter who Maul hires to make 300,000 fake credits that he plans to use to buy a nuke from Radique. The fakes are pretty good, but Radique, Zero, and their Weequay lieutenant think Maul is a member of the Bando Gora, a group they refuse to do business with for any amount of money. Also, given that Coyle is secretly another member of Radique's inner circle, they likely know that Maul's credits are fake the whole time.
  • In Mr Bean's Diary (a spin-off book from the TV series Mr. Bean), the diary features a hand-drawn ten-pound-note with "TEN POUNS" on it. Underneath is written: 1. Photocopy this ten million times, then 2. SPEND it.
  • Partners in Crime: The Tommy and Tuppence story "The Crackler" has Blunt's Brilliant Detectives assigned to break up a counterfeiting ring, since forged pound notes have been showing up in circles the Beresfords have access to as themselves. Tommy names the mysterious ringleader "the Crackler" after the sound a banknote makes.
  • Scavenge the Stars: The plot revolves around the distribution of fake gold coins which are destablishing the economy of the city-state of Moray. These coins also carry a lethal consequence, as their gold coating is created from the dried up remains of a poisonous sea creature and hence prolonged contact will kill its user.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • The eponymous engineer in "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" is told the hydraulic press he's repairing is for brick-making, but quickly realises it's too powerful for such a task, and finds metallic deposits on the floor. Since the police are already looking for a counterfeiting gang that has been "turning out half-crowns by the thousand", it doesn't take Holmes long to deduce the real purpose of the machine.
    • The criminal in "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" is attempting to gain access to a printing press that was used to create counterfeit banknotes.
    • In the flashback arc of "The Valley of Fear", Pinkerton Detective Birdy Edwards infiltrated the Scowrers by claiming to be a counterfeiter. In truth, the money he was "forging" for the gang while gathering evidence against them was real.
    • In Mycroft and Sherlock by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse, a criminal gang launders its gold by creating counterfeit sovereigns; few would suspect that a coin with the correct amount of gold was fake, because that would seem to defeat the purpose.
  • In the Stephanie Plum novel Four to Score, counterfeit money proves to be very important to Stephanie finding her current skip (and in the process, accidentally helping Morelli with his current case).
  • One novel in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Expanded Universe had the Enterprise investigating a planet the Ferengi were uplifting. One part of it had Wesley pick up some of the local currency and information on what you could buy with that much money so that analysts could figure out the strength of the local economy. Data ends up examining the money and determining that the random sample of bills was made with a wide variety of paper qualities, inks and printing methods, from which he concluded that at least a third of the money was fake, indicating that the world in question had a serious crime problem.
    • Other novels explain that the reason why many races in the Star Trek universe use gold pressed latinum as a currency is because latinum is a material that is extremely difficult to synthesize, preventing anyone with a shipboard replicator from running a mass counterfeiting operation.
  • The Stormlight Archive: The currency of choice has a built-in anti-counterfeit measure. Spheres are the most common form of money, and they take the form of small glass spheres with gemstones at the center. The size and color of the gem indicates its value. Real gems can hold Stormlight, but fake ones can't. Stormlight does fade over time, however, so dun spheres are theoretically as valuable as infused ones, but you might have to call in a moneychanger to make sure the gemstone is genuine. This causes some problems for the burgeoning Knights Radiant, who are subconsciously using Stormlight to fuel their abilities and don't understand why their spheres keep going dun.
  • The Thinking Machine: In "The Problem of the Organ Grinder", investigating a seemingly pointless crime (the murder of an organ grinder's monkey) leads to Van Dusen exposing an extremely professional and well-organized counterfeiting ring.
  • Tortall Universe: In Beka Cooper, the slang term for such is "coles" ("colesmiths" are counterfeiters). Due to its economic implications, the crime carries a heavy penalty — colesmiths are boiled in oil and anyone who passes fakes along gets one hand chopped off. Coles play a small role in the first book (a guard is said to have accepted coles in payment and Beka busts a minor colesmith), and are a major problem in the second, which deals with a large colesmithing ring in Port Caynn.
  • The Witches: The Grand High Witch has a machine for printing bank notes in all currencies, which she dishes out to all the witches of the world.
    Grand High Witch: I have six trunks of English bank notes, all new and crisp. And all of them home-made.
  • In the Young Bond novel Heads You Die, the villains create great amounts of poisoned counterfeit banknotes, and attempt to flood England with them. It's all part of a grand evil plan to force them to become part of the Soviet Union.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. has the hero trying to track down a set of stolen treasury plates before they could be used.
  • Badger: While investigating a shipment of counterfeit money in "The World According to Carp", McCabe and Cassidy keep watch on Frankie Moncur, an arrogant local villain who also runs an apparently respectable restaurant. Moncur is aware of their surveillance, and constantly mocks their efforts.
  • Barbary Coast: In "Funny Money", Jeff's plan to find a stash of counterfeit money goes sour when the counterfeiter is killed. His solution is to enter a reluctant Cash in a high-stakes poker game.
  • One suspect in Barney Miller is an elderly man who only counterfeits small bills so he can pay for groceries and such in between Social Security checks. He's caught when his failing eyesight results in a Lincoln wearing a leisure suit, very embarrassing.
  • A non-cash variety appears in the 60's Batman (1966) where the foreman of a stamp factory uses the place as front to counterfeit priceless rare stamps to sell to collectors. He was the only villain of the series to be remotely subtle and practical about his operation rather than flamboyantly evil. Batman only got wise to him as a result of the story being a Crossover with The Green Hornet, who had been investigating the fake stamps.
  • Bottom had an episode featuring the production of £27 notes featuring pornographic depictions of the Royal Family, "Welsh money" (the notes are triangular), and the infamous line "That's not the Queen, it's Danny La Rue!" "Well, it's a queen..."
  • In Copper, counterfeiting is the main racket of the Druids gang, which Maguire joins after he is booted off the force in season 2.
  • CSI ran into some counterfeit bills that the Secret Service had released on purpose—part Secret Test of Character, part to track criminal organizations.
  • CSI: Miami
    • The cast runs into some super-bills that were distributed from an off-shore gambling casino. Wolfe gets the hairy eyeball from Caleigh when he turns up with some on his person.
    • Another episode has Horatio stopping an armed robbery of a bank truck. When going over the cash, a tech discovers the money is actually Iraqi dinars washed out and printed over with real-looking U.S. currency. The robber can't believe someone swapped the cash for fake before he got to it.
  • CSI: NY: The first season finale, "What You See Is What You See," was based around this. "The Ride In" from season 3 and "Keep It Real" in season 8 involved counterfeiting as well.
  • The main conflict of Drake & Josh Go Hollywood is two thugs using a stolen money printer to get rich quick.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard addresses this one a few times. In one particular incident, the counterfeiting was done by an elderly widow that the Hazzard boys agreed to be silent about.
  • One episode in Fast Lane dealt with one of the Buddy Cops' father's old profession as a counterfeiter as a part of an infiltration job.
  • Referenced in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where Will's friends Jazz and Tyriq get mad at each other — Tyriq is mad that Jazz tried to sell him a counterfeit Rolex watch, and Jazz is mad that Tyriq paid for it with a fake $20 bill with Jermaine Jackson's face on it. Will chides them both, saying that they both ought to recognize fake goods when they see them.
  • In Season 1 of Good Girls, the three women have to smuggle a package from Canada into the US for gang leader Rio. It turns out it's counterfeit money disguised with gift wrapping paper.
  • In Goodnight Sweetheart, Gary's friend Ron is a printer who creates white fivers for him to take back to the 1940s.
  • Hawaii Five-O had an episode with an attempt to foil a plot to flood the market with near-perfect — for the time — counterfeit bills. This, of course, is less "I want to get stuff without paying for it" and more "I want to crush capitalism and set up a system where I — I mean, we all — can benefit."
  • Hogan's Heroes:
    • One episode of featured a mysterious case that was revealed to contain dollar plates. Rather than destroy the plates, the heroes "signed" them, making them Nazi dollars.
    • In the pilot episode, Hogan mentions that the prisoners have a counterfeiting operation running alongside all their other sabotage activities. They also mention that their fake German currency was of higher quality than the real thing.
    • In another episode the prisoners find out that the Germans are trying to print fake money (British five-pound notes and American twenties) at Stalag 13. They manage to trick one of the workers (who was against counterfeiting anyway) into thinking that as soon as enough money has been printed to ruin the economies of the Allied nations, he'll be killed. He then works with them to set the building on fire so the prisoners can run in and trash the place under the pretext of fighting the fire.
  • In an episode The Honeymooners counterfeiters leave a briefcase on Ralph Kramden's bus. Afraid to claim it and get caught they wait until the waiting period is over and Ralph gets it. By the time they catch up to him, he's opened the briefcase and is living like a king.
  • Jake and the Fatman: In ''Snowfall", the Secret Service gets help from Jake in catching a money counterfeiter, who trades his product for cocaine. It becomes personal for Jake when a friend is killed during a failed raid.
  • Janda Kembang: To Rais' massive disappointment, the money he gets from selling an expensive smartphone turns out to be fake, something he only finds out after giving it to other characters.
  • In the Leverage season 4 episode "The Office Job," the team goes undercover at a greeting card company to investigate possible fraud. They initially think that someone is making fake orders for supplies and pocketing the money but they find that the supplies all arrived as ordered. They then discover that the supplies and equipment ordered were of much higher quantity than needed for printing greeting cards. An employee was running a counterfeit operation and tricking the clueless owner of the company into buying all the supplies for it.
  • Counterfeit cash plays an important role in the MacGyver (1985) episodes "Three for the Road" and "Rock the Cradle".
  • MacGyver (2016): A group bleaches the ink off of $1 bills to turn them into $100 bills.
  • In one episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm finds out that his neighbors set up a block party in celebration of their annual vacation, which obviously upsets him. So he desperately tries to go around doing good deeds to help make his family (or at least him) less despicable. Sadly, he inadvertently helps someone else steal his neighbors' belongings. However, when the police arrive, he uses his eidetic memory to recite all the things that were stolen... which happen to be materials for printing stock certificates, which he quickly realizes.
  • At least two episodes of Married... with Children feature the issue of counterfeit money. In one of them, Al and Griff blackmailed their boss. Because Al doesn't believe there are $100 bills, he thought she tried to trick him with fake money. In another one, Al tried to bribe Bud with Xeroxed bills and even moaned that each copy cost him eight cents. When Bud asked him about the original bill, Al realized he left it IN THE COPYMAKER.
  • Mission: Impossible: The IMF have to stop counterfeiters and recover stolen printing plates in at least two episodes: "The Money Machine" and "Fool's Gold". (The episode "The Counterfeiter" is actually about someone manufacturing counterfeit drugs.)
  • Mr. Lucky: The Fortuna becomes the dropping-off point for counterfeit currency, unbeknownst to its owners, in "The Money Game."
  • On My Name Is Earl, this was apparently Joy's first major run-in with the law. She took a dollar bill and tried to photocopy it.
    Joy: Excuse me, can I get some more green ink in this machine?
    Kenny: Is that...are you...counterfeiting?!
    Joy: Shh! Keep quiet about this, and I'll make it worth your while.
    Kenny: I can't allow you to do that! COPY RESPONSIBLY! COPY RESPONSIBLY!
  • One episode of NUMB3RS dealt with an artist kidnapped to help a counterfeiter gang.
  • In one episode of The Office (US), Creed hands Jim a $3 bill with George W Bush's face on it.
    • And on sister series Parks and Recreation, when Tom and Jean-Ralphio started Entertainment 720, they acquired a printing press to make fake money with their faces and the e720 logo on it; their plan was to promote their business at clubs by tossing the bills in the air screaming "FREE MONEY!"
  • A Christmas Episode of Only Fools and Horses, "To Hull and Back", had Del acting as a courier between Boycie and some Dutch diamond smugglers. Del quickly realises the cash Boycie gave him for the transaction is counterfeit. What he doesn't realise is that his own payment for services isn't fake, and the episode ends with him throwing it away.
  • The BBC comedy-drama Private Schulz is based on a real-life Nazi plot to destabilize the British economy by flooding it with undetectable fake banknotes. In the series the title character recruits some Jewish prisoners to do the actual forgery (kind of like a more mercenary version of Schindler), and spends the rest of the war and afterward in various unsuccessful schemes to acquire some of the forged notes for himself.
  • In one episode of Psych, Shawn and Gus worked alongside a government agent and his own psychic to catch an international counterfeiter. Turns out that the psychic was in league with the forger.
  • In one episode of Raising Hope, mention is made of Frank apparently accepting a $70 bill with Ryan Seacrest's face on the front.
  • In the CBC teen consumer educational series, Street Cents, had the villain, Ken Pompadore, creating his own money for an episode to illustrate some concepts about currency. At the end of the episode, a Mountie (In full Red Serge uniform) appears to explain to Ken the crime of counterfeiting and tells him to gather his money up and get rid of it.
  • A one-off That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch has a counterfeiter proudly displaying his newly printed fake £10 notes... that are hilariously shoddy in almost every respect (they don't even have the correct queen on them, and clearly have "Ten Punds" written on in marker). The counterfeiter repeatedly excuses away the glaring defects and insists that "the man on the street" won't notice, but when it becomes clear that his boss isn't having it he pulls out a more modern equivalent: counterfeit credit cards, which actually look realistic... but, being printed on cheese slices, are floppy and stink.
  • A Touch of Frost. In "Penny for the Guy" the Villain of the Week is kidnapping people for ransom. The businessman being extorted was the victim of a con where he was tricked into accepting a large amount of counterfeit cash, and Frost suspects he might have tried to kill two birds with one stone by using some of the money to pay off the ransom. It later turns out the kidnapper is getting revenge on the businessman for having his wife Driven to Suicide, after she discovered he was slipping the counterfeits to his customers as spare change.
  • Features in Unnatural History at least once.
  • "The Night of Sudden Death" and "The Night of the Circus of Death" from The Wild Wild West. Since the main characters are Secret Service agents (and thus employed by the Department of the Treasury), this is technically the kind of thing they're supposed to be spending every episode investigating.
  • The Wire: In season one, there is an issue with a junkie buying heroin with crudely photocopying dollar bills that have been crumpled and scuffed up to disguise them. The corner hopper who accepts them gets in trouble from the gang's higher-ups.
  • Wiseguy. The protagonist uncovers a Government Conspiracy to ruin the Japanese economy with fake yen, and finds he's been set up to be the fall guy.
  • Yancy Derringer:
    • In "The Saga of Lonesome Jackson", Colton asks Yancy to investigate counterfeit money that's being passed throughout the French Quarter. His investigation brings him into contact with Lonesome Jackson, a Virginia City miner who recently struck in rich and came to New Orleans seeking a wife. The Treasury Department suspects Jackson because of the large bankroll he's carrying, but Yancy believes that the miner is being set up as a patsy by the real counterfeiters.
    • When John Colton is promoted and ordered back to Washington in "A State of Crisis", General Wheeler takes his place with orders to break up a nation-wide counterfeiting gang that is based in New Orleans.


  • The B-52s' "Legal Tender", a song about counterfeiting.
  • The R&B song "You're Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash" by The Clovers (later covered by Steve Miller), describes the problems a holder of counterfeit currency has in trying pass his bills off as the real thing.
  • Grupa Operacyjna: "Prezes" shows the eponymous character printing a pile of 10-zloty bills with Mieszko's face.
  • In one Ray Stevens music video, "Obama Budget Plan", Ray and his family decide to end their financial problems by printing up all the money they could ever need. The music video ends with them getting sent to jail.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin tries to counterfeit money, but being six years old, his art skills leave something to be desired.
    Hobbes: Ol' George has the gout, I see.
  • That Phony Nickel: The whole point of the strip was that different people somehow ended up with a phony nickel and tried to pass it on to someone else in turn, with varying degrees of success. For instance, a 1931 strip involves a big, burly man chasing down a vendor who'd given it to the man's son in change.
  • During one arc in Thimble Theater, Popeye and King Blozo discover a counterfeiter and have him arrested. However, because Blozo's country is in a financial crisis, the king decides to make the fake money legal tender. Popeye points out that it's still worthless because there's nothing backing it.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Occasionally, John "Bradshaw" Layfield made it rain $100 bills with his face on them during his entrance.
  • D'Angelo Dinero used to regularly make it rain $100 bills with his face on them during his entrance.
  • Kazuchika Okada often makes it rain "Rainmaker dollars" during his entrance.

  • The Adventures in Odyssey episodes that made up "The Green Ring Conspiracy" series (the first major story arc since the 2010 ReTool involves a massive counterfeiting ring involving a Secret Service agent who turned on fellow agent (and main character John Avery Whitaker's grandson) Monty Whitaker; an art professor named Dr. Timothy Trask; junkyard owner Archie Hagglernote  along with art student and unwitting pawn Penny Wisenote  and Detective Don Polehaus.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Cash 'n Guns More Cash 'n More Guns expansion has some of this to shuffle in with the loot cards. The only time it bears any cash value during the game is whether the "godfather" of the final round decides it after it ends.
  • Dragon Magazine #48 included the "Doctor Yes: The Floating Island Mission" for Top Secret in which the PCs need to infiltrate an underwater base and stop a counterfeiting plot. Promptly averted when they learn that someone dropped the plates, leaving an obvious crack across them and making them useless. (That someone is being tortured to death in the airlock when the PCs arrive.)
  • In Exalted, counterfeiting is less common in the Realm than simply keeping and trading in unmarked blocks of jade, since the penalty is much less harsh (five years in prison against death).

    Video Games 
  • In Ace Attorney Investigations, the crime ring Edgeworth exposed was dabbling in counterfeiting Zheng Fa bills. This is why Interpol Agent Shi-Long Lang is persistent, as he's from Zheng Fa and the fake money is ruining his homeland's economy due to the difficulty of distinguishing between the real and fakes.
  • A Hat in Time: The Empress of Nyakuza Metro has a printing press in the back of her jewelry store that's been spewing out a lot of money into a giant pile. Of course, being put into a giant pile appears to be their sole purpose, since the metro cats take Pons just like the rest of the planet, and the "money" Hat Kid acquires is used to make another money-pile under the Nyakuza telescope in the ship, presumably making the Empress' bills just as fake as the page image.
  • Anti-Idle: The Game has the Printer, which prints "illegal" Coins. Subverted, in that these Coins are functionally the same as "honest" Coins.
  • A potential quest in Fallout: New Vegas involves being hired by the Crimson Caravan Company to shut down a counterfeit bottle cap press (old Nuka-Cola and Sunset Sarsaparilla caps are legal tender in the western wasteland, backed by water merchants). If you find any counterfeit caps, they have a value of 0, suggesting that the Courier is savvy enough to identify them as fakes. Despite this, at least one mod exists that allows you to lie about destroying the press and use it to make your own counterfeit currency.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Tommy Vercetti finds himself owning a printer's shop in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. For a career criminal building an empire, it was NOT his idea to start. Doesn't mean it stops him from going along with it. Or trying to pay off his former boss with fake bills.
    • One storyline mission in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas involves The Mafia trying to flood the new Triad casino in Las Venturas with fake casino chips, though the job is amateurish enough that even a layman can spot major flaws. Of course, the dragon on the fake chips has sunglasses and a cane, and the leader of the Triads is blind, so it was probably intended to upset him. It does.
    • An early-game radio news report in Grand Theft Auto IV alludes to an influx of counterfeit money coming into the United States and how it's wreaking havoc on the nation's economy. Later in the story, Niko finds himself escorting a Korean counterfeiter who's bringing a shipment of fake bills into Liberty City via boat.
    • In Grand Theft Auto Online, you can own and operate a counterfeit cash factory as a part of your Motorcycle Club, as well as buy and sell shipments of it for your special cargo and smuggler's run businesses.
  • The second case in Mystery Case Files: Huntsville deals with the dissemination of bogus bills throughout the titular town.
  • The Counterfeit mission in PAYDAY: The Heist has the crew hitting a money printing operation for their own gain. The target is a pair of neighbors who are making a killing through joint use of a counterfeit money printer hidden in an underground room connected to both of their basements. The goal of the mission is to take their money printing plates and scram, though the remake in the sequel allows the crew to use the money printer, and the neighbors' endless supply of printer ink and paper, to make as much fake cash as they'd like.
  • Persona 5: Junya Kaneshiro's Treasure becomes a gold suitcase filled with 30,000,000 yen... in fake children's bank money. However, the suitcase itself is still actual gold that's worth a large amount of money.
  • Implied in the intro to Postal 2: Apocalypse Weekend: "Guess I need to make some money, but my printer's all out of ink."
  • In the world of Shovel Knight, alchemists are treated with suspicion by the populace due to their ability to produce synthetic gold, which is why the merchant Chester will overcharge Plague Knight if he tries to buy something with cash.
  • The Sims 2 University offers a counterfeiting machine as one of the aspiration rewards. If it's used by a sim whose aspiration level is below gold, there's a chance a cop may show up to fine the sim and disable the machine. Also, after about three hours of continuous use, the machine will eventually catch on fire and destroy the counterfeit money, regardless of aspiration level. The money produced by the money trees in both The Sims 2 and The Sims 3 could arguably count as "counterfeit" as well.
  • Dimitri's operation in Sly 2: Band of Thieves, using Clockwerk's tail feathers as printing plates for his counterfeit cash print. Since the tail feathers are made from an indestructible metal, the printing plates will never wear out, ensuring unlimited fake money. Gentleman Thief Sly is shocked that someone could stoop as low as printing their own money.
  • A massive counterfeiting scheme is at the centre of the plot of True Crime: Streets of LA. The notes are of such high duplicity because they're actually printed with the Swiss-made plates used for the real thing and purchased by the North Korean government to supply to Russian gangsters. The North Koreans were hoping to undermine the American economy, but the mobsters just use it to finance their own operations.
  • A major plot point in Yakuza: Like a Dragon concerns a massive counterfeiting operation Yokohama maintained by a trio of gangs (the yakuza, a Chinese triad, and a Korean mafia offshoot) that's been going on since the end of World War II. The Big Bad threatening to reveal this plot threatens the stability of Yokohama's underworld, and it's up to Ichiban and his friends to defeat the outsiders before a full blown gang war springs up.

    Web Animation 

  • Referenced in The Order of the Stick, when the demon roaches complain about the Monster in the Darkness trying to place bets with Monopoly money. The MitD replies "But it's real Monopoly money this time! I've learned my lesson!"

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • In the test log for SCP-261, a vending machine that produces anomalous "snacks" when given money, someone put a counterfeit 500-yen coin into the coin slot. They got a bag of cyanide-laced gummy birds for their troubles.
    • One researcher tried to use SCP-1147, a collection of plum tree seeds that mutate depending on what they're grown in (for example, growing the seeds in a glass sphere results in a colored glass tree), with mixed currency bills as the soil. They end up with a tree that produces bill-like leaves, none of which can pass for real currency.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Adventures of the Gummi Bears, a trio of villainous French chefs create counterfeit coins out of chocolate as part of a scheme to swindle everyone in Dunwyn out of their money on tax day. Unfortunately, their scam is exposed due to it being unexpectantly hot that day, causing the coins to melt.
  • In Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "The Cloning", Shake utilizes Frylock's cloning machine to produce copies of dollar bills to buy himself a Jet Pack. Despite warning Shake that overusing the cloner will cause the fake money to structurally damaged, Frylock immediately uses it to produce wads of cash to build himself a chain of restaurants.
  • A few episodes of Archer Vice revolve around the team getting their hands on a very large amount of counterfeit money. A major plot point is that while the money is fake, it's not worthless; it's good enough to pass muster to most, and even someone who knew the truth might give twenty cents on the dollar for it.
  • An episode of Bananaman had the titular superhero busting a counterfeiting operation. At one point, he examines a counterfeit banknote and marvels that he'd never have been able to tell it was a fake — prompting one of his long-suffering associates to point out that it has a face value of £7.
    • The comics had a similar plot, except the punchline was a £9 note.
  • Meanwhile, one episode of The Batman begins with the Ventriloquist trying to steal printing plates from the Gotham Mint ("You always said we should be making our own money. Now we can make as much as we want!"). Naturally, Batman foils him (er, them), with none other than the iconic giant penny.
  • Beavis And Butthead attempted this once and failed miserably, as they do at everything. They spent 1 real dollar to make 10 photocopies of that dollar. They were black-and-white, one-sided copies on ordinary paper which were cut out extremely poorly. The duo then tried to photocopy coins. When they tried to spend this "money", they got tossed out of the store, then went back to the copy shop and tried to spend the fake money to make even more fake money.
  • In the Big City Greens episode "Desserted", Cricket's plan to get a free dinner at Crispy's was to take the restaurant's Mega Meal Challenge, and to ensure his family takes it without having to pay anything, he replaces Bill's money with "Cricket Bucks", which are worthless. Of course, it goes horribly wrong.
  • One episode of Biker Mice from Mars featured the mice learning that Lawrence Limburger was using counterfeit money. At least until they destroyed his printing facility.
  • Similar to the Scooby-Doo example below, the debut episode of Clue Club dealt with a counterfeiting operation in a disused theater and how a vagrant accordion player fitted in with it.
  • In The Dick Tracy Show episode "Champ Chumps," Joe Jitsu was after a suspected counterfeiting ring run by Stooge Viller and Mumbles. His suspicions were heightened when he knocked on the door and asked for change for a 10-dollar bill ... and got back a $7 bill and a $3 bill.
  • Played straight in the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Laugh Ed Laugh", where Eddy's Sanity Slippage after learning there are no kids for him to scam is cured after he finds a pile of money. His zeal, of course, dissipates when he finds that it's really all fake dollar bills with Ed's face drawn on them.
  • The Fairly Oddparents:
  • Apparently, Lois from Family Guy has been printing counterfeit $20 bills for years.
  • In the Felix the Cat (Joe Oriolo) episode "Instant Money", The Professor creates a formula that allows water to be turned into gold coins. Unfortunately, Rock Bottom blows the scheme by messing around with the water pipes in a way that sends the money to Felix instead. Professor and Rock Bottom resort to breaking into Felix's house to fix their mistake, but Felix finds out about their counterfeiting rig and immediately calls the police on them, getting Professor and Rock Bottom arrested. On top of that, Professor can't repeat it again because Rock Bottom had mistakenly burned the papers with the formula beforehand.
  • The Fillmore! episode "Immune to All But Justice" featured a counterfeit baseball card ring.
  • The Flintstones:
    • In one episode, Barney once played a practical joke on Fred by building a fake counterfeiting press (the bills it "printed" being real money Barney won in a contest). Hilarity Ensues.
    • In another episode, Betty Rubble gets a job as an old lady running errands for a handicapped woman. Betty was given $100 bills to make purchases no more than a loaf of bread. The bills were counterfeit as part of a press set up by the woman for whom Betty is working. When Betty and gang realize what she is being manipulated into doing, they try to trap the counterfeiters by handing over one of the phony bills, but are too dumb to suspect that the crooks are on to them when the woman inexplicably gives Betty a mere $20 bill. That turns out to be legal tender so the police don't believe their story of a counterfeiting operation when they turn it in.
  • In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode, "Say It Isn't Sew", when Bloo finally gets to the funfair after spending so much time at the Sew N' Sew craft store with Madame Foster, the Manager refuses to let him in unless he pays him $10.00 for admission. Bloo goes back to the craft store and makes a $10.00 bill (with his own name and face on it) to give to the Manager. The Manager is not amused, and tells Bloo that he only accepts real money.
  • One episode of Goof Troop had a gang of counterfeiters mistake Goofy for a member of their gang who looked just like him and gave them an enormous amount of fake cash to launder. Since Goofy had no understanding of what was really going on and was starting up a paper-hanging business, he spent it all on wallpaper.
  • Besides the "Stan Bucks" Grunkle Stan of Gravity Falls uses to pay for Summerween decorations, at one point he had Dipper and Mabel attempt to counterfeit real money, with minor success.
    Grunkle Stan: "You call that Ben Franklin? He looks like a woman!" *Police car shows up* "Uh-oh."
  • While the gang on Hey Arnold! investigated a cave on Elk Island, searching for the legend of Wheezing Ed, they stumbled upon two guys who were making counterfeit pennies, by hand. When one suggested counterfeiting nickels, the other acts like he's being a snob and if he wants to do something crazy like making fake dimes. The criminals, however, slowly realized that the copper they had to buy and carve on cost a lot more than what they were trying to counterfeit...
  • One episode of Inch High, Private Eye featured robbers who left counterfeit money, including counterfeit coins, in place of the real money they stole.
  • Dale Gribble from King of the Hill was noted to have started printing his own money; Hank's face appears on the "100-gribble bill".
  • In one Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode, Jumba created a machine to make money in order to help Nani's financial problems. No one pointed out to him that was counterfeiting, but since the machine was destroyed before any money was spent, it didn't really matter.
  • The Little Rascals episode "All the Loot That's Fit to Print" had the Rascals start their own newspaper, using a printing press that they didn't know was already being used by a counterfeiter. When Alfalfa found some of the counterfeit currency, he spent it, assuming that it was genuine. The counterfeiter was a rather stupid crook who put his own face on the money. It was rather easy for the police to pin him to the crime when he was caught.
  • Daffy tried this on The Looney Tunes Show with a poorly drawn $20 bill.
  • Mickey Mouse Works: In one "Von Drake's House of Genius" short, Ludwig Von Drake created a money duplicating machine in order to end poverty. Unfortunately for him, that counted as counterfeiting and he got arrested.
  • One Mister Go short involves the title character printing a fake $100 bill and trying to buy some cakes with it. Before he makes it off with them, the lady selling them catches on and screams, forcing him to run away.
  • In the The New Batman Adventures episode "Joker's Millions", the late gangster King Barlowe apparently leaves his fortune to the Joker. It turns out that most of the inheritance is fake money bearing Barlowe's face... which the Joker only discovers after he's spent all the real money and has the IRS breathing down his neck.
  • In the Popeye 1960 animated short "The Last Resort", the Sea Hag and her henchman were pretty stupid, too, counterfeiting $3 bills. (For any tropers reading this outside the United States, there's no such thing.) The portrait on the front was a crude drawing of Benedict Arnold in the process of being hanged. Popeye and Olive quickly realized the bills were fake; Wimpy, however, fell for it quickly.
  • A non-cash variety appears in a story arc of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Boris and Natasha are mass-producing counterfeit boxtops. The two spend boxtops on goods in every store that can be traded in for boxtops and crippling the economy. This arc had to be Cut Short due to complaints from General Mills, which was sponsoring the show.
  • The villain's plan in the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "The Backstage Rage", in which he printed up counterfeit money underneath a theater and smuggled it in violin cases.
  • A throwaway gag from The Simpsons had Bart complaining that the money Homer gave him wasn't real, but printed "by the Montana Militia!" Homer promptly states that "It'll be real soon enough."
  • Sponge Bob Squarepants:
    • Believe it or not, Mr. Krabs once did this at the end of "The Krabby Kronicle" after the titular newspaper business he had started went bust. Although being Mr. Krabs, he might not plan to spend any of it, as shown in "Money Talks".
      Mr. Krabs: (Holding a sheet of copied and printed bills) Get me some scissors, boyo! Time for me to use my imagination!
    • It is also revealed in the infamous "One Coarse Meal" episode that Mr. Krabs pays his employees in counterfeit money, known as "Mr. Krabs' Wacky Bucks".
  • In one episode of Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, Tennessee and Chumley decided to go into the printing business. Their first customer was gangster Rocky Maninoff who wanted them to print up pictures of "Washington, in green ink."

    Real Life 
  • Governments absolutely despise counterfeit currency for a large number of reasons, but the most common is the fact that counterfeiting is a dangerously inflationary action: with more hard currency in circulation, the "rarity" of said currency is diminished, and prices go up as a result (in other words, $100 is not worth as much when there's a lot of $100 bills available).note  Unchecked, counterfeiting can absolutely devastate a country's economy, both internally as people keep demanding higher and higher prices, and externally, as other countries will view the currency (and the country's economic backing of said currency) as essentially worthless. And even beyond the direct inflationary effect of having more currency in circulation, widespread counterfeiting will undermine the public's trust in the currency, because they'll be less confident that the money they're paid is real and not counterfeit.
  • The primary function of the United States Secret Service is not protecting the President of the United States (that's a secondary function) but investigating cases of counterfeiting and forgery. The presidential protection duty was added in 1901 because the Secret Service was at the time the only federal law enforcement agency with sufficient manpower, and anti-counterfeiting mission has been expanded to cover all manner of financial crimes, but the bulk of their work is still tracking down counterfeiters. The Other Wiki details it here.
  • The Tasty Gold trope of biting into money to check its authenticity is Truth in Television. Back in the days of gold coinage, if the coin wasn't soft enough it had probably been alloyed with some cheaper metal, making the coin harder. On the other hand, if the coin was too soft, then the coin had been alloyed with lead, which actually made the coin softer (but again less valuable).
    • Archimedes' famous discovery happened because of this: the king wanted a way to determine whether his crown was pure gold, or whether its composition had been mixed with other shiny metals—but he didn't want to bite his beautiful crown. What Archimedes realized was that if you mix base metals into the gold, the result will occupy more volume than the same weight in pure gold (since gold is denser than most metals it would be alloyed with). Dip the item in question into water and mark how far the water rises. Dip the same weight of gold into the water. If the item is made of pure gold, the water will rise by the same level. If the item is fake, the water won't rise as far when the pure gold is immersed.
  • There was an infamous counterfeiter who was known as the Omega man. The only flaw in the coins he made was a tiny Greek letter he added to them.
  • Apocryphally a sting operation once used a machine that took in pieces of green paper and spat out perfect $20 bills. The secret, of course, was that the "green pieces of paper" were $20 bills.
    • This has been used as a practical joke and in "hidden camera" shows.
    • Another version of the trick has the crook selling the "money making machine" to a sucker (answering the obvious question by claiming that he needs a lot of money now and the machine is too slow). When the mark realizes he's been had, he's unlikely to report his own attempt to get into the counterfeiting business.
      • In some versions, the mark does report the case... only to get more years than the seller.
  • There have been artists such as J.S.G. Boggs who specialize in drawing the front of a US $100 bill, and then sell it as art for $100 worth of goods & services. Several were investigated for counterfeiting and/or forgery.
    • Günter Hopfinger produced about 300 1.000 DM notes that way.
  • Wesley Weber and his friends made a fortune producing counterfeit $100 bills. They made so many of them, in fact, that many retail outlets in Canada would not accept $100 bills. The Canadian mint actually had to do a major redesign of the bills. As he was busted in 2001 and $100 bills aren't all that common, the style of bills he counterfeited have virtually disappeared from circulation altogether—but not from law enforcement classrooms, as the Weber Bill is still a test case in counterfeit detection.
  • William Chaloner, a seventeenth century coiner and forger, who became the bane of Sir Isaac Newton's existence during the scientist's career as Master of the Mint.
    • Ironically, Newton's Master of the Mint post was, at the time, essentially a sinecure — a form of stipend to give him funding and spare time for more scientific work. Newton, however, took his new responsibilities seriously, and made several important innovations in minting (e.g. the idea to "mill" the edges of coins, making it obvious when someone clipped the edges of precious metal off).
  • In the United Kingdom, approximately 3.04% of £1 coins are counterfeit according to the Royal Mint. It was one of the factors behind the decision to bring in a new coin in 2017.
    • The Swazi lilangeni is an accidental version; despite having a different design, it has exactly the same composition and shape as a pound sterling coin. It only has a face value of around 10p (depending on the rate of exchange) and can be passed off as pound coins to people who aren't paying attention (or machines).
    • Back in the 18th and part of the 19th centuries, "conder tokens" were in just as much use as legitimate coinage if not more so. Simply put, there wasn't enough actual coinage circulating to meet the public's needs, so people began to produce their own coinage. While counterfeit coinage (itself one of the issues that led to conder tokens) had been made illegal, there wasn't a law about producing coins themselves, as long as they didn't intentionally copy existing coinage issued by the Royal Mint. Consequently, it wasn't uncommon for your average British citizen to be using all sorts of weird coins with random imagery on them. This ended after 1817 when Parliament passed a law banning private coinage, by which point the Royal Mint had begun to start making coins en masse as part of a plan to stabilize the British economy.
    • "Blacksmith tokens" were the Canadian equivalent to the Conder tokens, again created because of a lack of legitimate currency in circulation. Some of these coins were also found in border areas with the US, chiefly upstate New York and New England.
  • As mentioned in the Ridiculous Exchange Rates trope, counterfeiting was endemic during the Russian Civil War. The Kerenki Ruble banknotes made by the provisional government were of such laughably poor quality that anyone with a storebought home printing apparatus could make indistinguishable copies. And they did. This devalued the currency so badly that both the counterfeiters and the mints didn't bother to cut them into individual banknotes and released them as 1x1 metre sheets to save time.
  • Releasing counterfeit money into an enemy country to undermine its economy is a popular war tactic.
    • The most infamous example would probably be during The American Civil War, where the Union flooded the south with millions in bogus Confederate cash (while probably deeming real Confederate cash equally bogus). Whether this worked or not is debatable. Most of the fake bills were instantly recognizable because they looked too good, but many retailers still accepted them because the Confederate Dollar was already suffering from Ridiculous Exchange Rates, anyway. Counterfeit Confederate bills are the only counterfeit "American" currency that it's now legal to own in the United States. Because the US dollar is one of the few currencies that has never been redenominated, none of the older banknotes have ever been demonetized. So even though a piece of 19th century counterfeit US currency that still survives would have considerable collector's value in the rest of the world, in the US it's still technically a copy of a legal tender bill and thus illegal to possess. Confederate currency however was printed by a self-declared nation that no longer exists and thus is not "real money" under US law, meaning that the counterfeit bills are both legal and highly collectible. In fact, counterfeit Confederate bills are often more valuable than the real thing. This has resulted in modern copies of the counterfeits being made. While technically this isn't counterfeiting, since what's being copied isn't considered money, it is still fraud to sell a modern copy at a higher price by falsely claiming it's either a real Confederate bill or an 1860s counterfeit thereof.
    • During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese undermined the government of Chiang Kai-shek with counterfeit money, while the Allies in turn counterfeited the money issued by Japanese occupation forces during World War 2.
    • Operation Bernhard was a secret Nazi plan during World War II intended to destabilize the British and American economies by flooding them with forged notes. The plan was never fully realized and most of the forgeries were dumped in a lake. However some of the notes were used to make pay for such things as secret imports from neutral countries and payments to secret agents operating in Allied countries. Originally, the plan called for the disruption of the British economy by having the commanding officer recruit engravers and other artisans from concentration camps make fraudulent bank notes. Once the mission was accomplished the head of the project was going to be reassigned to a combat position, and the prisoners returned to the camps, when he had the bright idea to sabotage the U.S. economy with fake dollar bills. However, once the Allied victory neared, the project was abandoned, the currencies sunk into a lake, and when the question as to what to do with the artisans, a subordinate brought up the idea to exterminate them, lest they tells the Allies what they were assigned to do, but the commanding officer denied that request, stating that the Western Allies and the Soviets were too close to their position, killing the artisans would result in a summary execution.
  • Counterfeit Money is a frequent problem in China. However, only higher-value notes tend to be counterfeited. This results with an odd situation where the jiao (RMB equivalent of cents) notes are much lower in quality than the yuan notes, their texture almost resembling counterfeited money. The idea is that the jiao are worth so little that nobody would bother counterfeiting them anyway.
  • An interesting variation occurred when a woman tried to pass off a novelty $1 million bill at a Walmart in Georgia. She claims that she thought the bill was real, which if true means that she deserved what she got. Not exactly counterfeiting in the traditional sense, but it's noteworthy that the novelty bills in question got pulled from stores immediately thereafter. Unintentional counterfeiting?
    • This confusion is why some countries like the United Kingdom do not allow novelty bills, especially the ones that replace the monarch with a celebrity.
  • In an interesting inversion, a Swedish artist coined nine 10 SEK (a bit more than 1 USD) coins, that are normally made from a gold-colored alloy, of pure gold, marked them with an almost invisible mark, and put them into circulation.
  • Emerich Juettner got away with counterfeiting for a decade (from 1937 to 1947) despite the poor quality of his fakes (printed on ordinary paper, with badly reproduced graphics and Washington's name misspelled) because he printed only modest amounts of fake money, because he never used the fakes at the same place twice (out of an odd personal sense of honor), and because people rarely pay much attention to one-dollar bills. (Even when people did notice, they often preferred to keep the bogus bill as a souvenir rather than report it.) His odd pattern of passing bills (much different from the M.O. of most counterfeiters) baffled the U.S. Secret Service for years. He finally got caught when there was a fire in his apartment and his equipment got tossed into the street by the firemen; he was sentenced to a year and a day of jail (of which he served four months) and, ironically, was fined $1.
  • Possibly an urban legend, but according to several sources, back before the fall of the Shah of Iran, the US was helping the country modernize their currency system, supplying intaglio presses, the fancy paper with red and blue threads in, and even sample $20 plates to show how the serial numbers worked. Then came the Iranian revolution. Some large proportion of $20s were said to be these indistinguishable "Superdollars", but supposedly changing things would have been too difficult until the redesign in 1998.
  • There's another urban legend floating around about someone who successfully passed a $200 bill with George W. Bush's face on it. (Bush does not appear on any currency—living persons are forbidden from appearing on US currency—and the US Treasury Department does not print a $200 bill).
  • There have been reports that stores have refused to accept $2 bills (a valid but not commonly used bill) simply because the clerk didn't know that they were real.
  • Similarly to the $2 bill example, Scottish pound notes (which are technically not legal tender, even in Scotlandnote , but have a 1 to 1 exchange rate with English pounds) are allegedly sometimes rejected because they're mistaken for forgeries (or conversely - since Scotland still has paper £1 notes - they hand one over and get change for a fiver), although it's just as often because a lack of familiarity makes it harder to spot forgeries (the further south you go, the less likely Scottish currency is to be accepted). The latter is also true of £50 notes of either denomination (which normally only crop up in birthday cards or suspiciously large cash payouts).
  • In a case that combined this with criminal carelessness (carelessness by criminals as well as carelessness that is criminal), Italian police seized 125 billion in counterfeit $500 million and $1 billion U.S. bearer bonds. No U.S. bearer bonds have been issued over $10,000.
  • The adage "Don't take any wooden nickels!" dates from The Great Depression, when counterfeiters would cut out little nickel-sized discs of wood and paint them so that they resembled a nickel if you didn't look too closely. One way to tell the difference was to bite on the coin; the 75% copper 25% nickel alloy of an actual five-cent piece is pretty hard against the teeth, but wood has some give to it and will allow you to leave tooth marks in it.
    • Or the alternative explanation: Shops would occasionally distribute promotional wooden tokens worth "five cents in trade at X's store". The catch being that if the shop went out of business (a common occurance during the Depression), the tokens would become worthless.
  • There were multiple cases in the 19th Century of people gilding nickels, tricking people into believing that they were five dollar coins. The person to try this actually got away with it, because 1: There was no law against gilding currency at the time (This was quickly corrected), and 2: He only bought 5 cent items with his gilded nickels, thus if the store clerk gave him $4.95 change, it was arguably an error on the part of the clerk.
  • The Zero Rupee Note is a rare case of fake money being worth face value: Zip. It's used to "bribe" government officials in order to shame them for their greed and corruption. It's also printed in such a way to make it clear it's not really money (the reverse has information on the organization that produces them and looks nothing like currency).
  • Joshua Norton, after he went insane from losing all his money in a scheme to corner the rice market, reinvented himself as "Norton the First, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico". He produced his own currency, for just enough to eat and live, and the people of San Francisco were kind enough to appreciate his weirdness and take the money.
  • As an aside: US currency is among the most difficult to counterfeit in the world. The exact security methods are both well-known and secret: there's a watermark in every bill; there are "miscolored" threads in each bill; a plastic strip is embedded in the "paper"; the "paper" is made from a proprietary mix of linen and cotton. And that's just in the paper itself: the ink is a whole other story. The official estimate of counterfeit bills to actual bills is 1 in every 10,000. Counterfeits do exist, however. The US Treasury calls them "Superbills", as they are almost completely indistinguishable from real bills. Most counterfeit cash comes out of North Korea, which managed to get a set of legitimate US current printing plates several decades ago.
    • Which compares well with current Australian currency, which is printed on clear plastic and deliberately leaves a small area clear but impressed with the denomination so that copying onto paper will be easily detectednote . And the serial numbers are overprinted with a dye which is only visible under UV light, and the denomination is repeat printed over a background area in UV dye. And the ink is printed thickly enough to make the currency uniquely tactile. And the denomination of the bill is printed in practically microscopic characters as part of the background. And that's only the security devices they've told the general public about. The general idea is to make printing perfect copies too expensive on a small scale.
  • The USD $2 bill is in a league of its own. Perfectly legal, still printed, legal tender. However, the rarity of its usage garners attention. Odds are just shy of even that trying to use them to pay for something will get the holder questioned, if not denied service. Vending machines aren't even programmed to take them. The upshot being great for collectors as the bills often show very little wear for their age.
    • One urban legend tells of a person trying to pay for goods at a shopping mall using several $2 bills only to have security called on them and being accused of outright counterfeiting. The security guard, being a gentleman slightly older than the shopkeepers, is dumbfounded at the stupidity of the situation.
    • Another joke, told by a comedian, suggests trying to pay for an Extra Value Meal with a fist full of $2 bills if one would like to see a whole McDonald's franchise grind to a halt and possibly have the police involved.
    • The one place where $2 bills show up with any frequency is in, to put things bluntly, strip clubs. The type of gentleman who frequents this type of establishment generally likes to display wealth by throwing large amounts of paper currency around, and a large stack of deuces is worth twice what a same-size stack of singles is. Giving out change in $2 bills whenever possible can actually increase the house take by 15-20%.
    • While most US paper currency was significantly redesigned to further impede counterfeiting in the 1990s and 2000s (sometimes more than once, with the 2nd major redesigns for the $50 and $100 making them multicolored rather than just green), the $1 and $2 bills were not. The $1 has been effectively unchanged since 1963, and the $2 since 1976. This is because their value is considered too low to be worth counterfeiting and thus it's not worth the expense of redesigning them.
  • When Wesley Snipes got in trouble for tax evasion, he tried to get out of it by giving fake money. This of course didn't work, and he was arrested.
  • Slugs are used to make illegal purchases from coin-op devices such as payphones and transit fareboxes, can come in many forms such as coins of other countries and metal washers, and are designed to fool a coin-op into thinking it's a real coin. It leads to lost revenue for the vendor and even honest customers are cheated when the change returned is a slug. Though a crime, prosecution is rare given the theft's low value and difficulty identifying the offender. While older coin-ops are still prone to this fraud, newer machines have measures that can identify which coin being inserted is the real deal. Casinos are also more active at enforcement as they frequently monitor anyone who tries to con them, especially at the "one-armed bandits."
    • The usage of slugs at the New York City Subway was a frequent nuisance. It became a major problem when similar-shaped tokens used at the Connecticut Turnpike were being used to pay the fare in the 1980s, but that died out when toll collection was ended in 1985. The MTA finally replaced the tokens with MetroCards in 2003, but the MetroCard itself is being replaced with a contactless fare payment system called OMNY in 2023.
  • In a strange example, an ATM in Canada once dispensed Canadian Tire money along with actual Canadian currency.note 


Video Example(s):


Pines Family Bonding

When Grunkle Stan declares the Pines would be having a bonding activity, Dipper and Mabel recall what happened during the LAST Pines Family Bonding Day.

How well does it match the trope?

4.67 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / AwkwardFatherSonBondingActivity

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