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Like this question, but cranked up to 11.

One day I'm going about my business, answering questions on Worldbuilding.StackExchange, when all of a sudden I get sucked into a fantasy world. I meet some people, have all sorts of wacky adventures, help two of my traveling companions hook up (because let's be honest, it's clear as day they like each other and the whole "we're not together!" thing is getting old fast) and together we beat a big doomsday villain. I get to keep a share of the villain's treasury, and with a tearful goodbye I travel home with my prize.

In this case, the prize is 100 gold bars. They are stamped to mark them in a way not used anywhere on Earth, yet somehow they are the standard 400 troy ounce Good Delivery size and shape we use on Earth with a same amount of purity. The gold is identical to Earth gold as well: if you were to run tests on it you'd find the gold to be identical to what we on Earth mine.

But here's the problem: you cannot just sell gold bars on the open market without drawing unwanted attention from the authorities. 100 bars is the equivalent to 1240kg of gold, so I cannot easily haul it around either. The markings on the bars would draw attention as well, but those could be erased (though unmarked gold could draw even more attention). I don't want the bars to sit around collecting dust, I want to be able to make money off of them and spend it. So how would I go about liquidating all this gold without getting into trouble with the law?

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closed as off-topic by sumelic, HDE 226868, Monica Cellio Feb 4 at 2:58

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – sumelic, HDE 226868, Monica Cellio
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

15  
Is this actually word-building? It seems more like a specific situation. Sorry, don't mean to be a wet blanket, but the Help Center says not to ask about "actions of individual characters, rather than elements of the world they inhabit," so I'm a little confused about why this question is being asked here. – sumelic Feb 1 at 17:50
    
Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Feb 4 at 2:56
    

15 Answers 15

up vote 67 down vote accepted

Melt down small amounts and use it to manufacture gold plated "ultra fidelity lossless" audio/video/network/iphone charger cables that you sell at \$100 - $500 a piece to pretentious fools. This actually gets you more than the market price for your gold!

You may not have 45 million dollars at once, but you'll have a steady income for many years, and as a bonus, you'll have 99 bars of gold left in case of apocalypse or something.

Alternatively, restamp some of the bars with a Swastika, hide them in some cave in Germany and then "find them". If you get a 1% finder's fee, you're still rich.

Edit: This answer has drawn a lot more attention than expected, so I will try to improve the quality some.

The original question outlines the problem with authorities taking a dim view of anyone trying to sell a huge amount of gold from an unknown source.

Unloading the gold in bulk to any shady people carries a serious risk too: They may well decide to betray you, lock you up and torture the location and source of your gold out of you.

Assuming you don't already know how to speak "Billionaire", you would look out of place and suspicious trying to pass yourself off as one or even as a representative for a rich guy trying to liquidate some assets, though that is still a realistic option (see user16295's answer for a better description of that) but there are better options.

Pawn shop road trip

Luckily for you, you live in the age of StackExchange and more importantly, 3D printing with gold. It will take some setup and preparation, but you don't have to try and sell whole bars, you can instead mass-print jewelry and age it a bit (get some small bits of dirt stuck in the recesses).

The second part of the prep is setting yourself up as some kind of travelling salesman or freelancer, plan some trips to distant states/cities and start doing rounds of the local pawn shops and gold buying outfits (don't google them from your own internet connection obviously).

Never sell more than a "grandma's inheritance" at once. Accept cash only, but walk away from too low a price. You're not a thief trying to fence stolen goods after all. It will take a long time, but you can have fun along the way and get see more of the world.

Hook up with someone important

This is a lot more complicated, but you did become a hero in the course of your fantasy world adventure, so maybe your skills are up to it. The goal here is to make someone with the resources to buy your gold believe that you are well-connected, so that they will refrain from taking your gold and life for fear of the consequences.

Your target will be some rich person that can unload the gold again, no questions asked. This means you'll probably end up with some Arab billionaire who's looking to gold-plate his newest yacht or wants to work with foreign businessmen on a prestige project. Getting into the oil and construction industries (as a contractor) will be difficult, but if you can manage it, they are your best options. Alternatively, you cash in some of your gold through the pawn shop route so you can spend enough to pose as an investor in any field currently popular over there.

Your ticket to a deal will be an introduction by someone the target highly regards, so once you have some way in, network like crazy. The best stepping stone is likely a fellow countryman, both because it's easier to connect with them and because your real target will assume you know each other from business or private life "back home". Hang out in the expat favorite bars, find out who's only tech and who's a dealmaker. Get yourself invited to parties and events, etc. Once you have a promising link, investigate their business partners. Select the likeliest prospect and have a good story ready. "I need to sell $45 million in gold" is not a good story in most cases." Investment opportunities work best, so tell your newest BFF about your investment plan while you have some drinks and ask him if he knows about "this guy Aziz" and if they can introduce you.

Make your pitch to the prospect and if he's interested, tell them that you would love to get into more detail and schedule a meeting some weeks ahead. Apologize profusely for the delay and explain you need the time to unwind another deal and free up your money. Pray for the guy to bite and ask about the details, at which point you mention the gold and see what happens.

Note: All this assume you are a) male and b) of an age to pose as a business man. If you are female, all this will not work. If you also happen to be a hot blonde, then you can skip all the socializing and just straight up ask the first crazy-colored supercar driving guy you spot to buy all your gold.

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In the case of an apocalypse you'll hit the trope of gold not having a high calorie content. – Separatrix Feb 1 at 14:16
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True, I was more thinking of a financial meltdown, so apocalypse if the wrong word. – Cyrus Feb 1 at 15:17
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BTW Nazi gold was stamped with Eagle holding Swastika in claws! – user16433 Feb 1 at 19:11
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swapping GOLD for worthless internet money is ... pretty much the dumbest thing i can imagine - and the absolute best thing for the BTC seller. Also : 1% of 45M is only 450k - thats hilarious and not worth the effort. Also : noone will take your "nazi gold" from you but they will ask about its origin and why you're supposed to have it --- and you better answer that question believably or else you'll have a criminal investigation on your hands – specializt Feb 2 at 5:16
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The issue with "gold plated connectors" is that you really use very very little gold to plate a connector. You probably will need less than 10 Kg to build 100.000.000 gold plated headphones, and now your trouble will be finding 100.000.000 idiots who think they can hear the difference. You will be stuck with the gold and having spent your cash building them. So back to square one. – SJuan76 Feb 2 at 23:43

Laws are local with that sort of money

If you want to clear the whole lot out at once, you could to sell to a national government. The advantage of this option is that it's legal. If it's not strictly legal, they'll make it legal.

Sell to an eccentric millionaire, the amount of gold you're moving, while heavy and a lot of money to normal people, isn't a vast amount in the world of the super rich. In fact it's not enough for you to join their ranks, but is a reasonable amount to be paid certain items in their world.

How to actually go about this

Make contact through a respectable legal firm. That's all you need to do. Take the whole deal above board. You're in wholesale now, not retail. If you try this through the back door, if you act suspicious, people will be suspicious. If you go to a city legal firm and suggest that you want to do a deal on this sort of scale, and they'll find you a buyer or suggest someone who can. Don't just walk in through the door of course, make an appointment first.

Things to remember

If you want to handle that sort of money, you need to look like someone who handles that sort of money. Get a properly tailored suit from Savile Row, get a shirt that fits, wear really good shoes, get a shave and a haircut. You can expect to spend easily a couple of thousand on clothes before you start. You're moving millions, dress like someone who moves millions, it'll make your life much easier

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Hello, is this "Rich and Richer Law Company"? Uhm, yes, I would like to make an appointment with mister Rich. About what? Well, um... I need to sell about ton of gold. Hello? Uh, hello?... – Pavel Janicek Feb 1 at 14:05
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@Gianluca it's a problem in the UK, but if you have them in say, the UAE, nobody will look twice. You almost certainly won't need to explain how you have them, if someone had stolen that much everyone would know. – Separatrix Feb 1 at 14:13
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When you sell them, don't go to the legal firm Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe. – XandarTheZenon Feb 1 at 14:40
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@PavelJanicek They won't hang up on you, this is lawyers we're talking about, and you just told them you have 45 million dollars you don't want. – Draco18s Feb 1 at 15:36
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@VilleNiemi, it doesn't have to be your own government, just a government that your government doesn't currently have a trade embargo against. The entirely above board way in the UK would be to declare a treasure find. That's less fun, I should probably edit it in though. – Separatrix Feb 1 at 16:01

In the US, try the following...

Contact Washington and ask for an appointment with the Under-Secretary responsible for International Trade. You won't get a direct meeting, but one of the Under-Secretary's secretaries will happily hear your case. During that meeting, introduce yourself as a representative for (whatever your fantasy friends call their homeland), a newly sovereign nation which is petitioning for favored trading status with the United States of America. Show the Under-Secretary's secretary one of the gold bars and describe it as a goodwill gift for the Under-Secretary.

Wait patiently to meet the Under-Secretary in person. With 30lbs of gold on the line, it shouldn't be a long wait.

Tell the Under-Secretary the whole truth about your fantasy world adventure, except the part where you were sent home to Earth with no means of getting back. Your friends obviously understand inter-planetary or inter-dimensional transport. They really should have left you with a means to return, but since they didn't, you will just have to wing it, and fill in the cracks in your story via the generous application of gold.

In short order, you should find yourself recognized as the U.S. Ambassador for (whatever your fantasy friends call their homeland), conditional upon your building an embassy in Washington, (and anywhere else you want a mansion). You will have tax free status, immunity to most laws and the freedom to spend as much of your money as you like, without anyone caring where it came from.

--- alternative plan if your friends gave you a way to return ---

Really no different from above, except that you become a real Ambassador, arranging trade agreements and issuing visa's to wealthy tourists, anthropologists and CIA operatives. The nice part of this scenario, is that after the original bribes to the Under Secretary, the rest of the expenses will be picked up by your friends back on the fantasy world.

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I like the "balls" this one takes to pull off. I just don't trust my government officials that much, lol – Jim2B Feb 1 at 17:04
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@Jim2B - At this point, you ARE the untrustworthy government official! ;) I love this idea! – Taegost Feb 1 at 19:42
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As pointed out above, it's not really that much money. There are hundreds of thousands of people with that much money, and I'm sure the US government has better things to do than sell ambassadorships to every yahoo with a few mil lying around. – Superbest Feb 2 at 0:18
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@Superbest it's not that they don't have better things to do, but what makes you think that they would actually be doing those better things? – user2813274 Feb 2 at 2:57
    
@Superbest It's not that much money, but it's exactly just that much gold. Imagine someone suddenly appears with more than a ton of gold that's marked. No new mines have opened, nobody has cried of theft nor are there records of somebody selling this ton, as well as nobody knows how that pile of gold got into your country. And the guy owning it tells you this story about a new, wondrous land. – Nikita Akopjans Feb 2 at 8:46

In the UK (I assume elsewhere as well) there are companies that will buy old gold rings, offering the consumer a low price. They then melt them down and sell the gold. These companies tend to pay the consumer for the old rings etc in cash…

A common way to dispose of stolen gold is to create such a company, operate it as normal, but make up a few fake customers. (Think of the car wash in breaking bad.)

Note: Handling stolen property is a crime in the UK, and the police can take the property from you unless you can prove where it comes from. If the police can make a jury think that you are reckless as to where the gold come from, e.g. the jury does not believe what you tell them, so assume it must be stolen => lots of years in jail.

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For a good reference, watch Breaking Bad... to launder money, they buy a car wash... You then see some owner finishes taking money from customer > Actual Customer walks away > Owner says "Oh, you'd like a wax and the super ultimate clean package? That'll be $50 more dollars. Thanks. Come again". Same basic idea. "Funny Money" inserted into a normal business... over a period of time, it's just extra static and extra money. – WernerCD Feb 1 at 19:24
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Why would you use an illegal method, commonly associated with drug dealers and other organized crime, to evade a few fees and taxes on legally obtained assets? – Superbest Feb 2 at 0:06
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@Superbest Income tax in the uk is about 40%, capital gains is 28%. We're not just talking about a "few fees", we're talking about 12 to 18 MILLION in taxes. How much trouble would YOU go to, to make $18000000? – Benubird Feb 2 at 10:01
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@Benubird, because handling stolen property is a crime in the UK, and the police can take the property from you unless you can PROVE where it come from. If the police can make a jury think that you are reckless as to where the gold come from, e.g. the jury does not believe what you tell them, so assume it must be stolen => lots of years in jail. – Ian Ringrose Feb 2 at 10:33
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@Benubird How much taxes would you pay to keep the remaining 20-40 MILLION? Evading taxes puts all of your assets at risk. – Yakk Feb 2 at 14:41

City solution

Make friends with a jeweler. You can melt gold in your microwave and make your own rings but your jeweler buddy can probably make better ones. Make him a full partner in the sale of the rings but don't tell him how much gold you have. Together you make a paper trail for a portion of the rings by setting yourself up as a buyer of gold at estate sales.

Country solution

Buy a defunct gold mine pretend to rework tailings add your gold in a little at a time over the space of years.


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The problem with the "country solution" is that - at least in my home country - you only rent the mining rights of your goldmine from the state, and you have to pay a huge portion of your gold for mining it from the empty mine, so you would end up losing a huge amount of your money. – mg30rg Feb 1 at 15:38
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When you launder money this low efficiency should be expected. The answer of course, could be, buy a gold mine in a country with low extraction tax or enforcement. – King-Ink Feb 1 at 15:41
    
I was aware of that, but - since there is no criminal activity related to the gold - money laundering can only be a far parallel here. I mean this is no drug-money or ransom or something. – mg30rg Feb 1 at 16:00
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You may lose a large chunk, but if you pick a country with relatively low tax rates, you'll still end up with plenty left when you start off with \$45 million worth of gold. If you hand me \$45 million then immediately take back \$22.5 million, I'm still not gonna be too upset about my day. – Jon Story Feb 1 at 16:28
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@mg30rg You launder money/assets to give it a legitimate paper-trail. Currently, you have large amounts of assets without a legitimate paper-trail. This gold is only marginally more legitimate than gold from a bank robbery, in that nobody is currently looking for that gold. It is arguably less legitimate than cash gotten from criminal activities, in that cash is extremely fungible and usually has no paper trail by default. With enough of any asset, possession is no longer 9/10 of the law. – Yakk Feb 2 at 14:44

Melt one of the bars in small pieces and sell them to a lot of small "I Buy Gold" shops and another lot of Loan houses. This will not get you the right value, but it is just 1 bar. Or half a bar.

Then start buying gold yourself, or even create your own Loan house (a TV show is a plus).

Now that you have a stable income of gold (and a stable outcome of money) you can easily justify selling gold on market price to a Bank or national Treasury. Or even "on the wild" to jewelery makers or gold-recyclers. In the view of any inspector, you sell gold to have an income of money to compensate the outcome and have a small profit margin.

After that point, just sell all the gold as melted items. You have not only made cash from it but also created a stable bussiness that you can use to justify everything afterwards.

Make sure to destroy all documents older that 5 years (or whichever is the expiry time in your jurisdiction) and nobody will ever be able to investigate your first years, but you'll still be on the legal side for the last 5 years.

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So your solution starts with "first, dispose of a half-million dollars worth of gold by going to pawn shops/gold buying shops". Or maybe a quarter-million. You go on, but you are already behind bars at this point in your story. – Yakk Feb 2 at 14:45
    
@Yakk, you could fire up the first three months of the business and storefront on credit cards, and keep it under $10k. This answer is most do-able I think. – vulpineblazeyt Feb 3 at 19:00

Start a small jewelry shop and try to stay under the radar, at least at the beginning. Try to have customers that give you their jewelry to be transformed in some other jewelry (i.e. make a ring from some earrings) and start making your own.

Then with this type of business, you can start to make some jewelry with your own gold. If someone asks where you find the gold, you can provide the ticket for your customer's gold. For the (small) amount of the additional gold, you can just say you have found at an antiques fair or the gold comes from some of your family jewelry and you transformed it other jewelry.

It is a slow method but as long as you don't do anything too strange to point at your direction, you should probably stay out of the government attention.

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That'll take an awful lot of time for a thousand and a quarter kilograms of gold. – cst1992 Feb 2 at 9:46
    
I know, but since you cannot sell all the gold bars in a relatively short period without drawing unwanted attention (from authorities and probably organized crime), the only option is to work on a longer period. – Gianluca Feb 2 at 10:15

Trade them for cocaine! There is a huge and thriving market for cocaine which can be sold in small quantities. As long as you stay out of the ghetto and peddle your drugs to the middle - or even better upper - class of society the chance of being caught is minimal (and since you are not selling crack a tearfull eye will make the judge take pity on you if you are caught).

The trick of course will be how to execute that big initial trade. Sorry I cant be of too much help with that, but if you place a question like "how to trade gold for coke" here in the forum I am sure there will be plenty of creative and valuable suggestions.

Good luck.

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There might be some people, who would take issue with you stepping on their turf, and who have less-than-pleasant ways to deal with competition... So quite a risky proposition. – hyde Feb 2 at 13:20

1) Spend a little time learning how to convert your bars into a believable facsimile of naturally-occurring gold dust.

2) Buy some equipment and set yourself up as a gold miner in Alaska.

3) By adding your fake gold dust to the pot, you will become known as a phenomenally successful miner.

4) Get a borderline-dysfunctional crew, and you can get your own reality TV show, along the lines of "Gold Rush".

5) With decent ratings based on contrived crises, not only will you make excellent money selling your gold, you will get paid by the show. The two top earners on "Gold Rush" are estimated to be paid $500,000 per year.

True, you'll have to spend your summers hauling dirt in the boonies of Alaska, but you'll have about 8 months a year to enjoy yourself in luxury.

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Then sell the "fake gold mine! – Ian Ringrose Feb 1 at 23:28
    
Thing is, converting gold bars into "naturally-occurring gold dust" is not that easy, and trained experts can and will catch you. Alluvial gold is different from other form factors of gold. And the Bre-X scandal broke when due-diligence geological coring by independent parties failed to find significant gold (post facto it was found that Bre-X had spiked the surface of its cores with gold ground off from jewelry, amongst others). – Iwillnotexist Idonotexist Feb 2 at 2:57
    
You won't have to spend your summers in the Alaskan boonies if you hire an actor to pretend to be you... they'll do a better job of being on TV too. – gbjbaanb Feb 2 at 9:44
    
@gbjbaanb - True enough, but then you have to worry about the actor blackmailing you. – WhatRoughBeast Feb 2 at 13:33
    
@IwillnotexistIdonotexist - The Bre-x fraud was uncovered when the mine output did not match expectations, causing a close examination of saved lab samples. In this case, all output would be immediately melted down for purification, and no evidence would be saved. The mine output is concentrated product, not in situ samples. Furthermore, there is no due diligence effort applicable to someone who is just selling his "mined" gold. Part of learning how to fake it would be identifying trace impurities which need to be added to the fakes so the raw dust is not too pure. – WhatRoughBeast Feb 2 at 13:42

Take your gold bars on a cross-country trip. Bury each bar in a different location--shallow, only enough to keep them from being seen. Pick locations of no interest to anybody--here in the US at least you'll find plenty of suitable locations in western part of the country. (The Rockies, the desert--anyplace not practical to develop.)

Record the GPS coordinates, put a marker on top of the burial spot and take a bunch of pictures, then remove the marker.

Now go to something like the Silk Road (I haven't paid attention but I'm sure there's some replacement for it out there by now) and sell them. Buyer gets the coordinates and the photos. (Give them a very general area before they bid so they can buy a bar that's near them.) For validation purposes you might want to set up a long range solar powered camera pointed at the spot in case they try to claim nothing was there.

If the authorities do start sniffing around they can't get any farther than your bitcoin address if you were careful in doing this.

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Hey! Guess what? I just did it. Since you gave me the idea, I offer you the incredible offer of 1 kg gold bar for just 10.000€. Just send me a bank check for 10.000 € and I will tell you the coordinates were you can find your gold bar! What could go wrong? – SJuan76 Feb 2 at 23:49

Pretty much all the answers so far require you to invest time money or possible jail time. If i had just happen to have received 100 gold bards I'd go in one of two ways, which are a bit illegal but not as much as trading for coke or resource consuming as melting or buying old gold mine (even though they would still require some action on your behalf):

  1. Claim that you have found the gold, like they recently did in Poland with the Nazi Gold Train. Claim that you were just going around your back yard with your trusted metal detector and the gold just happen to be there. It's not stolen, there aren't any missing 100 bars anywhere, nor the markings will give anyone any clue where the gold came from, its just old, long lost gold you found.

  2. Slightly less preferable as it would require more preparation on your side like taking care of a will, and will executor, etc. is you inherited it from your recently deceased uncle, who's had it who knows from where ...

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I don't know about the laws everywhere but be careful with treasure trove laws in 1 and inheritance tax in 2. Also, in both cases, I think people will look very closely at where you got the money from – Alchymist Feb 3 at 12:56

Assuming that you're in the United States, you absolutely can sell gold bars on the open market without drawing attention from the authorities if you turn the bars over to the authorities and tell them that you found them, for example, when you were digging in your backyard. In most jurisdictions in the United States, the bars will be considered "abandoned" by the theoretical original owner, and you will be deemed the owner. You will have to pay taxes on the proceeds from the sale of the gold bars, but no one will raise an eyebrow when you go to sell them.

If you say that you found the bars digging on U.S. public property (e.g., you find them while hiking in a national park), you should again turn the bars over to the authorities. In most states, the law requires that the authorities post a notice of the find, and allow the public some designated period of time to come forward and claim ownership. (To claim ownership, a person would have to provide details regarding where that person buried the gold bars that you "found," which of course no one would be able to do.) Once that claim period expires, most jurisdictions' laws are pretty much akin to "finders-keepers;" the gold bars will be given back to you, and again, you can do with them what you like and with no interference from the authorities as long as they ultimately get their share in the form of sales and/or capital gains taxes.

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Note that last time I read a law like this, the time period was some 10 years before you get it back. So while it's legal, it may not be fast. I'm not able to find any good info on normal time periods right now though, or even confirm the case of 10 years. – MichaelS Feb 4 at 7:06

If you have the ability to remove the stamp, you must have the ability to re-stamp it. In which case, soon after in the news...

Local man discovers 60 year old unclaimed Nazi treasure

After claiming a sizable reward for the funds it was donated to insert real-organisation for repatriating Nazi gold...

Sure you won't clear 100% of it, maybe you can negotiate 20-50% but that's still better than 0 and the authorities won't be on your tail because its untraceable prior to 1945.

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"I don't want the bars to sit around collecting dust, I want to be able to make money off of them"

  1. to make (even) "more money" out of them should not be a priority, right? I mean, why should it? Is it really such a difference to have e.g. 40Mio (in gold) or 60mio (cash&dividends)?
  2. so, if it is not about "making more money", why not keep the gold you don't need to be liquidated for spending? The gold will be there tomorrow, even when it collected dust. Nobody knows about tomorrows "value" of the nominal cash from a one time sale you would received.
  3. to liquidate just the amount you need for your day to day spending on your consumption, sell some flakes of a bar to your local Cash4Gold shop. If it is bigger, go to Switzerland to a refinery.
  4. Government will be interested anyway, regardless if it is gold or cash. So with keeping the gold, you might be better off, than with having the cash in a checking account instead (remember wealth tax?).
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  1. Write a book about your story

  2. Get a gold bar authenticated as real gold

  3. Become a paid speaker at conferences or book signings or whatever, using your gold bar as a prop to bolster credibility. You could even give moral lectures about the evils of greed and how you won't sell the gold because money isn't important (you just insist on a $100,000 speakers fee because, you know, expenses)

  4. Eventually, you might actually sell one as a collector's item, but your main money could come from the book/speaking circuit.

Just trying to think outside the box a little :)

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