BTTF II: 2015 Future Money: a Revelation and a Disappointment


I love (good) design, I love technology, and I love it when they can all combine together in a functional and beautiful whole. In this case: paper money (but for how long will we still be saying that?). And futuristic money movie props combine so many things into a perfect storm of my interests that I will turn the internet upside down and shake it looking for them.

As a minor point of trivia, (higher denomination) US paper money combines four different types of printing: intaglio (most art, engravings), offset lithography (background tints, patterns, colors) letterpress printing (serial numbers and seals), and screen printing (color-changing inks). Additionally, it contains multiple advanced security features (IR & UV inks, magnetic inks, security threads, lenticular threads, etc).

When BTTF II was filmed in 1988-89, copiers and color copiers were beginning to have a significant impact on counterfeiting. Only in 1990-92 were the first of the modern security features implemented: microprinting and the security threads. However, a 1985 study recommended a security thread, and holograms (if feasible in the near future). Someone on the BTTF II crew did their homework (or maybe they just went to DC, or a Federal Reserve Bank), and the original concept art for the dollars of 2015 shows many advanced features and serious design changes that A) were being contemplated that that time, B) make sense, and C) would even be adopted well before 2015.

The Good Stuff:

Concept art & props (images obviously not mine):

I particularly like the final image of the concept art, with it’s suggestive title of “Version 2.” What was Version 1? Was there a Version 3? Who was the artist? So many questions! Let’s analyze the features we can see, and compare the ‘guessed’ features versus the real currency of 2015:

A) Security threads? – Yes, 1990-92.

B) Off-center, enlarged portraits? – Yes, 1995-96.

C) Enlarged numerals? – Yes, 95-96.

D) Barcodes? Not by 2015. The Dutch added serial number barcodes to their banknotes in 1989. The Canadians added simplified barcodes to their notes in 1986, but these only encoded the denomination, not the serial number.

E) Braille? Not by 2015.

F) Hologram strip? Partial credit – Motion strip, 100’s only, 2013.

G) MICR / OCR serial numbers? Not by 2015.

Ironically, the technology used in the current $100’s (Motion) is almost exactly the same thing used then in the pink hoverboard’s background (lenticular plastic + printed pattern = 3D effect).

So, they had to use one of these awesome bills, the product of so much research and design effort, right?

The Bad News:

No, they didn’t:



As far as I can tell, that’s an absolutely normal 1988 $50 bill.

Zemeckis, you are killing me. Why, why, why?