‘Disney Dollars’ To Be Discontinued This Week, Rise Of Gift Cards To Blame

Disney announced today that it will discontinue Disney Dollars and cease all sale of the bills on Saturday, May 14, 2016. Existing bills will continue to be accepted at Disney locations and have no set expiration date.

Disney Dollars, the name for Disney’s paper notes that resemble real money, have been an accepted form of currency at Disney Parks and the Disney Store since they were first introduced in 1987. One of the most recognizable examples of a modern-day “corporate scrip,” Disney Dollars were touted as the “official currency” of Walt Disney Resorts and were redeemable for goods and services at any Disney location in the United States or Puerto Rico.

Printed as part of a brilliant marketing strategy, the notes were conceived as part gift certificate and part souvenir, and they featured portraits of beloved classic Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Dumbo, and Tinkerbell on the front. Now, the rise of gift cards and the general unpopularity of paper money in the digital age has de-facto made Disney Dollars obsolete.

WDW News Today, which reports on Disney park news and broke the story, says that Disney plans to increase sales of its distinctive gift cards and digital currency to make up for the loss of Disney Dollars and hints that the bills may become a “valuable collector’s item” in the near future. The resale market for Disney items that are no longer available is known to be quite lucrative.

According to Gizmodo, Disney staff were informed of the decision only a few hours ago, and the company has yet to make an official announcement. Matt Novak, the author if the piece, shares his fond memories of the notes, calling it “truly the end of an era for Disney nerds.”

“Taking home a Disney Dollar note not only gave kids something cool to hold on to, it gave them an incentive to bug their parents about visiting a Disney park again. My mom recently found a $5 Disney note in my little velcro childhood wallet while she was digging through the basement. It’s too bad that I didn’t ask that my allowance be paid exclusively in Disney Dollars.”

Disney Dollars were once so popular that they actually underwent similar anti-counterfeiting measures as regular American currency. Some examples of this include “microprinting, intaglio ink printing, serial numbering, and special material imprinting,” according to DisneyDollars.net, an online resource for the scrip. The bills also have a small amount of glitter on each one and even feature unique serial numbers. The currency is known for using intaglio steel engraving for high-quality printing and the use of 100 percent cotton paper to look and feel like real money.

In 1992, the Disney store started carrying the bills. In a similar vein, when Universal Orlando Resort opened the Diagon Alley portion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in June 2014, they premiered Gringotts bank notes, supposedly issued by Gringotts Wizarding Bank from the Harry Potter series. Notes were only valid within the Orlando Resort, unlike Disney Dollars, which were accepted in all Disney locations in the U.S., including resorts, parks, cruise lines, the Disney Store, and even certain parts of Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas.

The idea for Disney Dollars was first conceived by Harry Brice, a silhouette cutter on Main Street in Disneyland.

Brice was quoted as saying, “I couldn’t believe that people were paying, money for — anything with Disney on it,” according to DisneyDollars.net. “So I began to wonder, ‘why couldn’t Disney make something just for the collector?’ So I came up with the idea to make a souvenir item, which would be sold in the park, that looked like money.'”

According to the site, new Disney Dollars have been produced every year since their introduction, except 1992, 2004, and 2010. It is expected Disney will make an official announcement regarding their cancellation soon.

[Photo by Mark Ashman/Disney Parks via Getty Images]