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Coat Full of Contraband

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Salesrobot: Psst! Buddy, wanna' buy a watch?
The Watches: (whispering) Don't buy us! We're fakes!

A character is walking down a seedy alley, and is accosted by a man in a trenchcoat. He opens the coat to show a display of fake watches and asks the character, "You wanna buy a watch?"

This is a visual way of establishing a place or person as being shady. Often will be parodied by replacing the watches with whatever item is likely to make the people around him go Squee! and have a Nerdgasm. Another common variant is for the seller to be wearing numerous wristwatches on the same arm, pushing up his sleeve to display them. Regardless of circumstance, there's also about a 50% chance of the person being mistaken for a flasher, either by the characters or the audience.

The merchandise may have fallen off the back of a truck. The shady seller may be Honest John.

When adding examples, please remember that the trope is the visual of having the goods inside the coat or otherwise hidden from view.


Sister trope of Trench Coat Warfare where the coat is a coat of arms.


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    Fan Works 
  • Rocketship Voyager. When the crew go on space station leave, they're approached the moment they exit the elevator from the landing dome by various shady characters selling drugs, religion or fake jewelry—the latter being taken from the stereotypical coat.
    An extraterran of the same species as Nee'Lix sidled up to them. He wore a plaid jacket in loud colors from which he fetched a pawful of sparkling gemstones. "Now these are the genuine article! Lobi crystals, plundered by the K'Zon-Nistrim from the Crown Prince of Luria himself!"

    Films — Animation 
  • From Hercules: "Hey! Wanna buy a sundial?"
    • Also bonus points for both Phil's reaction and the way the guy is introduced to first seem like a flasher.
  • Robots played with this, where a shady robot asks Rodney if he wants to buy a watch. The watches then say "don't buy us, we're fakes!"
  • Olive, the Other Reindeer: The shady penguin Martini tries to sell Olive wristwatches from such an alley. He also has stationery and pens that he stole from the zoo when he escaped. More than one of these turns out to be a hilarious Chekhov's Gun.
  • Recess: School's Out had Hustler Kid (see the Recess example below) ask Spinelli, "Wanna buy a Winger Dinger?" (Before you start giggling, a Winger Dinger is some sort of candy bar in the show)
  • In The Man Called Flintstone, Fred, getting desperate to buy Wilma a present, purchases a bootleg necklace from one such man for a quarter. Said necklace comes in handy later when Fred uses it as bait to lure the Green Goose into his missile, trapping the Green Goose and his henchmen in it as it launches into space.
  • Implied in Oliver & Company. Whenever Fagin checks the time, he's revealed to be wearing a line of watches down his arm.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • There's an illegal tomato dealer in Return of the Killer Tomatoes! who pulls his wares out of the lining of his trenchcoat in this manner.
  • Happens in Jumper, somewhat ludicrously. The main character walks down a New York street particularly noted for these sort of dealers in search of a fake driver's license, and he's offered everything, from watches to children, but it turns out at least some or most are meant to ambush and rob the buyer.
  • In the film version of Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession (a.k.a. Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future) there's a guy selling electronic parts that way, coat and all. Which is totally justified. In USSR, electronic parts were not outlawed, but private trade was. And the only reason Shurik even buys from the guy is because it's lunchtime, and all the electronic stores in the neighborhood are closed.
  • Coming to America plays it fairly straight for a comedy when Akeem and Semi are confronted with a man selling them some of the stuff stolen from them earlier in the film.
  • After the club scene in The Great Muppet Caper, Kermit is sitting out on a park bench when this shifty-looking guy comes up, sees that the frog is having troubles, and paints out what he thinks is the scenario- and gets everything wrong. After Kermit kindly brushes him off, the guy opens his trenchcoat and asks, "You wanna buy a watch?"
  • In Into the Woods, the Wolf opens his coat to show a display of candy when he is trying to lure Little Red Riding Hood off the path.
  • Easy Andy in Taxi Driver sells his wares (in this case handguns) from a couple of suitcases. He also claims he can get the protagonist anything from illegal drugs to a brand new Cadillac.
  • The Brave One plays it for realism. Jodie Foster's character goes to buy a gun, but is told there's a thirty day waiting limit after getting a license. A customer notices her look of desperation and approaches her outside the store, offering a pistol for a thousand dollars. Rather than carry an illegal handgun in New York City, he takes her to a back alley and has her wait while he fetches the handgun, throwing in a box of ammunition and impromptu instruction on how to use it. Unlike the Easy Andy scene mentioned above, there's a noticeable lack of Gun Porn.
  • Le Bal: In 1946 Paris (a time of shortages and rationing after the war), a guy with a coat full of contraband is selling stuff in a fancy nightclub. He sells cartons of cigarettes to the washroom attendant.


  • Cut-me-own-Throat Dibbler is most noted for selling nearly inedible food, but Guards! Guards! notes that he is also a "purveyor of absolutely anything that could be sold hurriedly from an open suitcase in a busy street and was guaranteed to have fallen off the back of an oxcart."
  • The S. Alan Fox short story "Technology Bites" has a "seedy-looking man" offering to sell the protagonist an awesome, next-generation computer (which fits neatly inside a raincoat). Unfortunately, it's just bait.
  • The cover of the December 1994 issue of Spy Magazine featured a Photoshopped image of then-President Bill Clinton selling a watch, Spam, a Cadillac hood ornament, a drink from Subway, and other items from inside his trench coat. Writers for the magazine pretended to represent Clinton, and called various companies stating that the President wanted to do product endorsements. They strung along the companies that said yes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Sesame Street, a green Anything Muppet guy (sometimes identified as Lefty) keeps approaching Ernie with offers to sell him letters of the alphabet, among other things. The most famous short is called "Would You Like to Buy an 'O'?"
  • Lost has Sawyer doing stuff like this (with necklaces).
  • The Goodies:
    • Parodied in the episode "Hype Pressure". Experiencing a 1950s revival, Tim turns into a quick-talking, quick-walking, shady spiv. "Wanna buy a nice pair of fluorescent socks?"
    • In another episode, Bill is approached by a stereotypical trenchcoat-wearing flasher. After whipping open his coat to apparently flash Bill, he turns out to be an example of this trope when Bill buys something off him.
  • An episode of The Nanny played with the trope. Fran and Val are sitting on a park bench and a man with a long trenchcoat approaches them and holds it open. The audience only see him from the back, and the dialog at first implies he's flashing them, thanks to many innuendos until we finally see the watches. Later in the same episode, Fran sees the man and tries to summon him over to buy a watch, but he holds open his coat and flashes them instead.
  • In the Small Wonder episode "The Hustle", a street vendor calling himself Discount Eddie tricks Jamie into buying a portable TV set that doesn't work properly. Later, Ted confronts Eddie and is sold what appears to be a fur stole.
  • In an episode of Parker Lewis Can't Lose, a guy presents a selection of portable video games to Jerry Steiner.
  • In an episode of The Odd Couple, when Oscar is on a senior citizens' cruise for his ulcer, a guy has a trenchcoat full of junk food for sale.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • A first-season episode has Hawkeye and Trapper dealing with black-marketeers for some stolen medicine. When one of them is questioned by Frank Burns, he hikes up a pant leg to show a dozen watches arrayed on his shin and offers to sell him one.
    • A Korean peddler played by Richard Lee-Sung appears in several episodes, selling dubious products like watches that run backwards and Hitler's pencil case.
  • A comedy stint on Spanish TV once had a trenchcoated shady salesman selling a video full of "men in leather... goats... and little girls dressed as nuns!" To the avid buyer's dismay, it turned out to be The Sound of Music.
  • In Harry the Hat's first appearance in the Cheers episode "Sam at Eleven", Sam orders Harry to leave the bar, giving him ten seconds - and realising as he looks as his empty wrist that Harry has stolen his watch. Harry returns the purloined timepiece, but opens his coat to reveal numerous watches and asks if Sam wants to upgrade - which just gets him a more forceful order to leave the bar.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series. Although Cyrano Jones is not breaking the law (as he takes pains to point out) we see him take gems, bottles of perfume and of course tribbles from his coat of many pockets.

  • "Life Is a Carnival" by The Band. "Hey buddy, would you like to buy a watch real cheap?"
  • In one of Cheech and Chong's "Pedro & the Man" skits, the duo are approached in their stalled car by a Harlem youth offering them a watch, a transistor radio and a diamond ring.
    Youth: Check it out, only real diamonds can cut glass!
    Pedro: Hey, look what you did to my windshield, man!
  • Dan The Automator's mixtape Wanna Buy A Monkey? (named after the David Letterman line from Cabin Boy).
  • The video for "Weird Al" Yankovic's White and Nerdy had him buying The Star Wars Holiday Special from such a vendor.
  • Joe Jackson is depicted wearing such a coat on the cover of his album I'm the Man.
  • In Styx's video for "Too Much Time On My Hands", Chuck Panozzo has one. He tries selling to Dennis De Young, who shows he has the "multiple watches on the arm" variation.

    Comic Strips 
  • Clyde, the closest thing that Candorville has to a stereotypical black male, is often found selling these. On one occasion he used a similar approach to sell something highly secret—the main character thought it was drugs, but it turned out to be videos that were Guilty Pleasures.
  • The Far Side:
    • "Hey, buddy.... You wanna buy a hoofed mammal?" Word of God says it was originally going to be "wanna buy an ungulate?" but he erred on the side of Viewers Are Morons.
    • Another one had a caveman in an overcoat, showing another caveman a campfire.
  • A Running Gag in The Wizard of Id's early days had one of these guys scamming Sir Rodney with items that were always exactly what he'd said they were, but naturally, never what he'd implied ("racy French postcards" that turned out to be of the Tour De France, for example).
  • Garfield:
    • The title character once (May 9, 1980) declared his intention to go into the business of "black-market kittens", complete with a trenchcoat with Nermal hanging inside. Never you mind where he got it.
    • Jon buys a bad suit from one of these dealers in the February 13, 1997 strip.
    • In a variant, the July 12, 2000 strip has Garfield ask Jon "Wanna buy a watch?" But instead of in a coat, they're around Odie's tongue.

    Print Media 
  • The Polish computer magazine Bajtek had a regular section devoted to prices of used electronics at the bargain market. It was accompanied by a drawing of a shady trenchcoated guy with keyboards, motherboards etc. inside his coat.


    Tabletop Games 

  • In Guys and Dolls, a shady watch seller distracts the Times Square crowd in the Opening Ballet. This also appears in the 1955 film adaptation.

    Video Games 
  • Ray in the Freddi Fish games, who's pretty much Honest John's Dealership without the dealership, sells these most of the time. Since this is a kids' series, it's never explained what's so dodgy about his merchandise.
  • DragonFable's weapon vendor.
  • The merchant from Resident Evil 4 very much gives off this vibe (and Talks Like a Pirate for some reason). He even peels back his trenchcoat in the standard manner when approached.
    "Whad' a' ya' buyin'?"
  • The Sleazy Guy in Discworld sells hourglasses. When Rincewind asks where he got them from, he replies "fell off the back of a donkey cart".
  • The "Melee Island citizen" in The Secret of Monkey Island sells maps in this manner.
  • The Spiv in MediEvil 2 sells you ammunition and other resources. When you interact with him, the camera zooms in so the store menu appears to be inside his coat.
  • In Ratchet & Clank (2002), the RYNO Salesman apparently kept the RYNO in there, although we don't actually see it there. He only tells Ratchet it was there after he buys it.
    Ratchet: Urgh, this thing is heavy!
    RYNO Salesman: Yeah, try carrying it around in your trenchcoat for 2 months.
  • One of the generic henchmen in Where In The USA Is Carmen Sandiego was a very sneaky, sleazy-looking guy who opened his trenchcoat to reveal sparkling, gleaming watches.
  • In the Vegas Strip in Fallout: New Vegas there's a shady-looking guy with a long coat hanging out near one of the casinos. If you approach him, he reveals that he's selling concealable weapons like knives and pistols for people who want to avoid having to go into the casinos completely unarmed, presumably carrying them under his coat.

    Web Animation 
  • SMG4's Mario Bloopers: Parodied in "Desert Head". A Bandit and his 3 other friends tricked Mario into getting attacked, and then they later throw him into the pyramid where he met Oscarm and John Gayham (who hosts a strange game called Pyramid Puzzle), respectively. The lead Bandit acts shady as first, but then he demands money when Mario comes to him.
    Bandit: Hey buddy over here!
    Mario: Ohh a drug dealer! Sure I'll come! (cut to another shot with himself, Bandit and 3 other Bandits) So what you got? Weed? Cocaine? Some sort of thing you found off the ground? I'll sell you this Chinese fish behind me for all you got!
    Bandit: No! We just want to you have any money?
    Mario: Well look in the top right corner idiot! Do I have any?
    Bandit 2: Wow!! Look he has 972 coins!!!
    Bandit 1: Shh I know what to do... ATTTACK!!!
  • Homestar Runner: The Strong Bad Email "licensed" has Strong Bad explaining how he and The Cheat have lent their likenesses to "officially licensed unlicensed merchandise" that is required to be sold out of a trench-coat or off a blanket. Bubs, an unlicensed unlicensed seller, is selling this way ("I'm a public flasher!" "Yeah, right, you ain't got no nudity under there!"), but his goods are actually of a higher quality than what he sells at the concession stand.
    Strong Bad: So wait a minute...your shady bootleg operation peddles quality goods, while your legal storefront sells dangerous crap?!
    Bubs: Exactly! I got a rep-uh-tation to uphold!

    Web Comics 
  • Kevin & Kell:
    • A band of roving milk pirates causes a shortage, with milk only available on the "white market":
      Shady cat in trenchcoat: Psst! Whole milk.
      Aby: Get out.
      Cat #1: But Aby...
      Aby: Forget it. You wouldn't want what he was selling.
      Cat #1: You mean it's—?
      Aby: Skim.
      Cat #2:I once got ground-up chalk.
    • Kevin's criminal dad was first introduced as selling fake Rolexes, as part of an extended Alice Allusion (he's the white rabbit with a watch in his pocket).
  • A Shortpacked! strip featured a Muppet version of Ethan being accosted by Lefty from Sesame Street (see above), with an unlicenced Transformers toy in his coat, and telling Ethan they can be bought in another room. The final panel has the real Ethan explaining that this is what Botcon is like now that the dealer's room has banned this stuff.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • On Futurama, a shady salesman tries to sell Fry some "bootlegged" alien organs. The salesman tries to sell him some gills, but says they won't come until next week. Meanwhile, he'll take the lungs, since Fry obviously won't need them (and Fry agrees). Leela has to rescue him from the operating table.
  • A Cogsworth-lookalike seen in the House of Mouse short "Babysitters".
  • In the Ned's Newt episode "Newt York, Newt York", Newton turns into a few characters to try and "blend in with the locals" when visiting New York City. He turns into a shady watch dealer while in the New York Subway.
    Newton: Hey buddy, I've got a watch here that's you! Heck, I've even got one that was yours!
  • One Where's Waldo? illustration in a train station or airport shows (among many other things) a group of smugglers arrested, one carrying watches in his coat.
  • Oggy and the Cockroaches:
    • Joey, Dee Dee and Marky spoof this trope in "Black and White" when they find paint after the house has been stripped of its color. Here they wear trenchcoats and have their chests painted to trick Oggy into using the paint.
    • Jack pulls his coat in a similar manner in "Oggy's Night Out", revealing he has a bunch of combs. He uses one and combs his head fur with it.
  • On a Valentine's Day episode of The Simpsons, Otto is portrayed in one story as a shady chocolate salesman who sells Lisa some candy bars. Milhouse then offers to pay for her candy, only to find that he is really an undercover officer for the British police.
  • The Hustler Kid from Recess normally has a coat full of toys, junk food and other contraband he tries to unload on the other kids.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In "Diaz Family Vacation", a seedy guy in a trench-coat approaches Mr. and Mrs. Diaz and opens his coat in front of them. He turns out to be a street peddler selling watches, souvenirs, and other tchotchkes, and Mrs. Diaz buys a set of wind chimes from him.

    Real Life 
  • There are lots of places to buy unlicensed knock offs and outright stolen merchandise in big cities, but the shadiest of shady vendors need to be able to deny what they're doing and walk off at at a moment's notice. Hence having lots of watches on your wrist, or in your pockets, or on the inside of your coat.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Wanna Buy A Watch, You Wanna Buy A Watch, Trenchcoat Storefront


Psst! Buddy Wanna Buy A Watch?

A shady robot tries to sell Rodney some ''watches''. The ''watches'' then tell Rodney not to buy them by revealing that they are fakes.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / CoatFullOfContraband

Media sources:

Main / CoatFullOfContraband