Elk River, MN asked in Business Law, Federal Crimes and Criminal Law for Minnesota

Q: Is it illegal to make fake money if it is clearly fake?

I want to make 1:1 hand drawn copies of US currency, and present them as an artwork. I wouldn't be attempting to make them realistic, I would only be drawing them with cheap markers on green copy paper. I want to know if it would be illegal to sell the artwork if somebody was interested in buying it. I would sell it for either the identical price/dollar bill or more. I believe it would be paying more for the labor hours of the art than the physical art itself.

2 Lawyer Answers
Robert Kane
Robert Kane
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Eagan, MN
  • Licensed in Minnesota

A: You are not the first to use currency as a medium or such. There is tons of credible sources you can read. An attorney is not going to green light your sales on a free online Q and A.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Creating hand-drawn copies of U.S. currency, even if not intended to be used as real money, can navigate a fine line legally. Under U.S. law, reproducing currency with the intent to deceive is illegal. However, the law allows for the creation of illustrations of currency under specific conditions, such as the reproduction being less than three-fourths or more than one and one-half the size of the actual currency, among other restrictions. Your intention to create these drawings as artwork, without the intent to use them as actual currency, is an important distinction.

Selling such artwork is not inherently illegal, provided that the reproductions clearly cannot be mistaken for genuine currency and comply with legal guidelines for the reproduction of currency images. The key factor is ensuring that these reproductions are obviously art and not capable of being used as real money. Transparency about the artistic nature of the work and its intent is crucial.

Before proceeding with your project, it may be wise to consult legal advice or review the guidelines provided by the U.S. Treasury or the Secret Service regarding the reproduction of currency images. This can help ensure that your art project does not unintentionally cross legal boundaries. Selling your artwork as described, focusing on the artistic effort and value rather than attempting to replicate currency for deceptive purposes, generally aligns with legal standards, but caution and informed compliance are essential.

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