A particularly well-known form of The Tale
for rather stupid marks
The con artist pretends he has the ownership rights to a particular public building (the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Opera House are good ones) and sells the building to the mark, who will then show up with bulldozers or whatever. In America, the Brooklyn Bridge is a common target.
So well-known that it's also common for people to express incredulity with some variation of "And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you..."
Truth in Television
in the early 20th century. Yes, there were actually people who were stupid enough
See Also: Rushmore Refacement
- Walt Disney provides at least three examples:
- In one JosÚ Carioca story, JosÚ gets out of an American jail by paying his bail with Sugarloaf Mountain in Brazil. Later he gets himself a disguise by trading a random key, which he claims is for the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car, for a random person's clothes.
- In a Mickey Mouse story, Goofy gets conned into "buying" the Eiffel Tower during a vacation with Mickey in France, prompting Mickey to look for the con man and bring him to justice. At the end of the story when everything is resolved, Goofy announces to Mickey that he bought Notre Dame, causing Mickey to faint... but Goofy takes out a scale model of the cathedral from his bag.
- And Scrooge McDuck once buys the actual deed for the Castle Sforzesco in Milan from a thief who happened to pick it up. The purchase isn't remotely legitimate, of course, but because the story needs an Idiot Plot to lead to a faux-medieval battle over the castle, the offended officials of the city basically recognise his claim because he shoots at them with a cannon when they try to disagree.
- Goes awry in at least one Superman comic—an alien buys (the Metropolis equivalent of) the Brooklyn Bridge, then miniaturizes it and carries it off.
- The Discworld Companion notes that Ankh-Morporkians provide essential services for the rural people of the Sto Plains "such as selling them the Brass Bridge at a cut-down price".
- The final season of The Beverly Hillbillies featured a storyline where the Clampetts go to Washington and Jed is conned into buying the White House, the Capitol Building and other landmarks.
- In another (earlier) episode, a con man attempts to sell Hong Kong to Jeb. Jethro believes that it is a giant ape, but the con man explains that Hong Kong is on the coast of China. Jeb turns him down, explaining that he has no need for a Chinese ape.
- In Chuck, Sarah's father tries to pull off this con.
- Mentioned as part of the back story for intergalactic con man Garron in the Doctor Who serial "The Ribos Operation". Originally from Earth, one of his early cons involved selling Sydney Harbour.
- Mickey Bricks sold someone the Sydney Opera House during his time in Australia before Season 5 of Hustle. In fact, it was mentioned as the reason for his absence from Season 4, during which the rest of the crew sold someone the Hollywood sign.
- The London Eye was also up for sale at the end of Series 1. Inspector Japp fell for it.
- They also pull an interesting variation in which they sell various London landmarks under the story that the crown is selling those artifacts due to the budget difficulties.
- In the Leverage episode "The Three Strikes Job", Nate poses as a real estate developer planning to build a baseball stadium to con a corrupt mayor. This requires him to make it look like an actual team was planning to move to the stadium.
- In "The (Very) Big Bird" episode, the team sells the original Spruce Goose to a corrupt airline owner and Howard Hughes enthusiast.
- Inverted in George Strait's "Ocean Front Property," where he claims a number of negative feelings for his lover, then adds
...and if you'll buy that
I've got some ocean front property in Arizona
From my front porch you can see the sea
I've got some ocean front property in Arizona
And if you'll buy that
I'll throw the Golden Gate in free.
- Victor Lustig and George C. Parker are the most well known perpetrators of this scheme in real life. Arthur Furguson is another famous example though his existence might or might not be a hoax.
- And, in a subversion, a gentleman from Arizona bought London Bridge and the city of London duly dismantled it and shipped it out to Arizona. (They built another one in its place, and it is by far the ugliest bridge in the city.) Rumor has it that the purchaser was dismayed because he thought he was buying the much more iconic Tower Bridge, though the Other Wiki insists that this has been Jossed.
- When the Dutch bought the Manhattan peninsula from local natives, the people they negotiated with and who got the money were not actual owners of the land. But when the Dutch made an offer to buy the land, they gladly took the money.
- Those "name your own star" things you see on late-night TV (or in magazine adverts).
- In Baldur's Gate 2 when a giant interdimensional starship appears in the slums district, one of the citizens will try and sell it to you. He also has one sales pitch to every NPC you can bring with you, all of whom know better than to accept. If you have Valygar with you he'll chase the conman off, seeing how it's technically "his" sphere since his ancestor built the thing. Strangely if you're a mage, you actually can get control of the thing yourself as your wizard's tower.
- Edwin also references the trope at one point by claiming that if you really believe the Cowled Wizards are good for their word, he has a bridge in Thesk to sell you.
- Moraff's Revenge, an old CGA-DOS game, lets you purchase the city for 1 million gold. If you accept, the store owner mentions wanting to sell a bridge as well.
- Referenced in World of Warcraft, where one goblin says something along the lines of, "If you're stupid enough to believe stuff like that, I've got a statue in Stranglethorn Vale to sell you!"
- There's also the rare drop item [Deed to Thandol Span]. Thandol Span is a massive bridge, making the item basically a World of Warcraft equivalent of a deed to the Golden Gate Bridge. The deed itself is classified as junk and as such has absolutely no use, but it fetches a high price from the vendors, and occasionally even from players who will buy it for its novelty value.