Victor Lustig – The man who sold the Eiffel Tower



The man who sold the Eiffel Tower. Lustig started out his career as a conman by convincing people to buy a machine that would produce $100 bills – the only catch was that it only produced one bill every six hours. Stocking the machines with two genuine bills and selling them for $30,000 a-piece, Lustig would abscond with the money and be long gone before his clients realized there was anything amiss with their bill-printing machine. How many machines he sold, and how people would fall for it remains a mystery to this day.

His most audacious scheme, however, came in 1925 when he capitalized upon the frailty of the post-war French economy. By persuading French scrap metal companies that the government could no longer afford the upkeep on the iconic structure, he sold off pieces of the Tower that of course did not belong to him. Whilst the idea today seems incredible, back then the Tower had only been proposed as a temporary tourist attraction and Lustig ran his scheme just 18 years after the initial proposed date for its dismantling, making it seem less fantastic back then. Lustig was eventually betrayed by a jealous lover and sentenced to 20 years in Alcatraz. He died 12 years into the sentence of pneumonia.