Money Box Scheme
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Basic Information

Count Victor Lustig sold the "money-printing machine" which he claimed could copy $100 bills, but was actually just a clockwork prop for a Confidence Game. He would demonstrate the capability of the small box to clients, all the while lamenting that it took the device six hours to copy a $100 bill. The client, sensing huge profits, would buy the machines for a high price (usually over $30,000). Over the next twelve hours, the machine would produce just two more $100 bills, but after that it produced only blank paper, as its supply of hidden $100 bills would have become exhausted.

While Lustig pioneered this scheme, it's not like he had a patent on it, and other con artists may well have done the same thing since.


Game and Story Use

  • In a setting with a great deal of magic, a wand or purse that produces a 100 GP gem every six hours is certainly a possibility. Is the one being offered genuine, or a scam put on by the thieve's-guild?
    • A traditional device in some folklore is "fairy gold", illusory coins which transform back into pebbles and leaves after a day or two or when touched by iron or a holy object. Of course, the mark who tests the coin with his dagger is not going to expect more mundane trickery.
  • In a more modern setting, if the money box were real, it (and it's maker) would certainly be pursued by the Treasury Department (or its equivalent).
    • The Treasury service might just assume it were a fraud, and ignore it, or forward any leads to whatever other government agency investigates fraud in that country.
    • These days it's likely to be passed off as a high spec printer capable of forging magnetic strips and watermarks … but you might want to be extremely careful who you sold it to.
  • If a money box is genuine, spies might use it to destabilize a the economy of an enemy nation. One box producing a few hundred dollars a day wouldn't be enough, but if it were faster, or there were more boxes…
  • Victor Lustig himself would make an interesting NPC in a game set in the early 1900s. In addition to the moneybox scheme, he also "sold" the Eiffel tower to various marks, and even cheated Al Capone out of $5,000.
    • Cheating Al Capone would seem to be an excellent example of not being careful who you rob. Could be an interesting motivator for someone turning State's Evidence… but possibly an easy witness to undermine for the defence (being both a professional liar and partie pris).
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