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.

Sources

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.
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