Six Questions about Stage Money


18 Jun 2018

Six Questions about Stage Money


A recent court case about stage money has sparked discussion in society about reproduction of Hong Kong currency notes.  I will address some questions about reproduction of currency notes in this article. 


Some people did not know that application has to be made to the HKMA for production of stage money until recently when the court handed down a sentence in a case about stage money. Why is it necessary to obtain consent from the HKMA for production of stage money?


  • First of all, let’s look at the background of this court case as revealed by newspapers reporting on the case. While investigating a commercial crime in 2016, the Police found some 10,000 pieces of stage money in a car boot. It then traced the source to a props company where some 230,000 pieces of stage money replicating different currencies were found. Therefore, the case was exposed as a result of a criminal investigation by the Police, but not because of stage money being used in film production.
  • Section 103 of Part XI of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200 of the Laws of Hong Kong)1 provides the legal basis for the HKMA to approve reproduction of Hong Kong currency notes. Provisions in Part XI of the Ordinance target counterfeiting and kindred offences (including reproduction of Hong Kong currency notes), with an aim to protecting the public. Indeed, some citizens had suffered monetary losses in the past as a result of receiving counterfeit notes, so these legal provisions have their practical relevance.
  • Having said that, there may be a need for the public to reproduce or print images of currency notes from time to time under some special circumstances, such as for production of films or educational materials. Therefore, the Ordinance provides a mechanism for the public to apply to the HKMA for lawful reproduction of currency notes for such specific purposes. The applicants however must comply with certain conditions so as to prevent the replica notes from falling into the wrong hands who might use them to deceive the public.


Is it too stringent for Hong Kong to require prior approval for reproduction of currency notes?


  • Similar to Hong Kong, other parts of the world also have stringent controls on reproduction of currency notes, although the specific requirements may vary. In jurisdictions like the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and Singapore, only one-sided reproduction of currency notes is allowed. In Hong Kong and the EU, two-sided reproduction is permitted. For Hong Kong, the replica notes must be at least 20% larger or smaller than the actual size of the notes. That means the length and width of the replicas can be only 10% longer or shorter than the genuine notes. In the EU, on the other hand, the length and width of the replicas must be at least 200% greater or 50% less than the actual notes. In some jurisdictions, as long as certain criteria are met (e.g. one-sided reproduction), application for approval can be exempted.


Some members of the film industry indicated that currently there are no clear guidelines and application procedures for production of stage money. They are clueless about how to make an application even if they intend to do so.


  • The HKMA does receive enquiries about reproduction of Hong Kong currency notes from time to time, and we have been providing application guidelines to the enquirers. Upon receiving an application, the HKMA will review the application in collaboration with the Police, and it takes about two weeks to complete the process. In the past ten years (from January 2008 to early June 2018), the HKMA has received nearly 690 applications and given written consent to 587 applications. 13 of these applications involved stage money, of which five cases were approved, five withdrawn by the applicants and one being processed. The remaining two cases were rejected because the applicants did not provide sample stage money that met the size requirements, or failed to propose a proper way for disposing the stage money after shooting.
  • We noted the views of the industry and the public, and have uploaded the general guidelines and conditions for the making of stage money to the HKMA’s website for easy reference by potential applicants.


A film industry practitioner indicated that an enquiry was made to the HKMA last year about application for production of stage money, but was told that “applications were not accepted” in an email reply. Why was that so?


  • In the second half of 2017, the HKMA received four enquiries about applications for production of stage money. Since the investigation of a criminal case involving stage money was underway, our staff handling the applications considered it more prudent to temporarily suspend processing of applications of this kind, so a reply of “applications were not accepted” was given to the enquirers.
  • Our reply did not indicate clearly that applications were not accepted only “temporarily”. With the benefit of hindsight, we acknowledge that the matter could have been better handled, and thus the HKMA has expressed apologies to the public and the four concerned enquirers.
  • We resumed handling of applications in January 2018 and have since given consent to applications for making stage money.


Is approval by the HKMA also required for "electronic reproduction" of currency notes?


  • Unless the electronic images of currency notes are to be reproduced into a physical form, approval by the HKMA is not required for the filming of currency notes for viewing on mobile phones and electronic screens, as such electronic images cannot be passed as currency notes. Nor is approval required for making of electronic or print images of currency notes by the media for news reporting purposes.


What are the follow-up actions of the HKMA?


  • As arranged by the Film Services Office, the HKMA and the Police have met with representatives of the film industry in the past few weeks to listen to their views. Together with the Police, we will meet with the film and TV industries tomorrow (19 June) to discuss some possible measures for streamlining the application procedures and requirements, e.g. providing some stage money samples and relevant information in the form of frequently asked questions and answers, to facilitate the operation of the film industry.


Howard Lee
Deputy Chief Executive
Hong Kong Monetary Authority

18 June 2018

1Under Section 103 of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200 of the Laws of Hong Kong), a person who wants to reproduce on whatsoever substance the whole or any part of any Hong Kong currency note, whether or not to the correct scale, must in advance obtain the consent in writing of the Monetary Authority, without which that person will have committed an offence under the law.

Latest inSight
Last revision date : 18 June 2018