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You have the power to create anything you know how it works or how it is physically is structured. So you can create a PS4 if you know exactly how it works or if you know exactly how it looks. Or a better way to put it. You can create a book and put any words in that book, but if you want to make a specific book you have to know exactly what it says or create an exact copy of what you can see, even if you don't understand what it says.

You don't want to reveal this power to anyone, but you want to use it for getting whatever you want as easily as you can.

At first, I was thinking that creating gold and jewels would be the best way to do things, but that would get suspicious awfully quick. And then there is the IRS would probably ask how you came across so much gold and jewels or money. Also, would you want to do this since you'd be dropping a lot of gold and jewels on the market which would mess with the economy.

So how would you use this power to become fabulously wealthy, but keep it secret?

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  • $\begingroup$ How well do you have to know how a PS4. works to make one? Is it enough to have a general idea, or do you have to know the exact position of every wire? Do you need any materials to create stuff? Can you create it instantly? $\endgroup$ – Ovi Oct 17 '16 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ You need to know every wire and the material they used, but not the exact mixture of elements... but this is also dependent on the item. Electronics you would need to know that because it's important to them working but a book you wouldn't have to know that because it's not. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Oct 17 '16 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know why but this sort of reminds me of Coral Castle (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral_Castle). $\endgroup$ – Charles Burge Oct 18 '16 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ If you can have everything you want without paying money wouldn't that already make you fabulously wealthy? I mean imagine the asset you would have vs ZERO liquidity... $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 18 '16 at 2:20
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    $\begingroup$ This isn't about worldbuilding, it is about plot-building. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Oct 19 '16 at 5:39

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There are a few ways to become fabulously wealthy. Let's figure some criteria first. You can be wealthy by not spending (make things instead of buying them), by something you know (knowledge of things most people can't/don't know), or having something you can sell or provide to others for money. In this question you want "fabulously" wealthy so the first doesn't seem like it will help. You don't have magical knowledge so the second doesn't either.

Let's exclude a few saleable items. Things where the serial number or origins are likely to be checked at some point leading to problems. Example - second hand jet engines in good condition are very valuable but you'd have to show a source, chain of custody and service record. Things that are regulated -money for example - are more likely to receive questions as well. Things that need a big infrastructure you don't have, will be hard to explain as well.

I can think of a few things that might be valuable, but they all follow a similar pattern. Pick an industry where the output could be very valuable, but also very variable and unpredictable. Use your power to improve the odds. You'll have too run a business but unlike most, you'll know it will succeed. Two examples:

  • Buy some land that could have diamond or rare gemstones or similar. Run a legitimate mining business. Use your power to ensure it's remarkably successful - legitimately. Eventually sell the company. Repeat. Why gemstones? Because they are individual finds, so the ability to seed a metal ore isn't needed.

    (If your power allows it, you could also create a rare metal ore in some worthless land. Then legitimately mine it.)

  • Set up a computer recycling business. But use your power to sell a far higher proportion of high spec CPUs and computer cards instead of the usual dross you actually get in your purchases. If investigated you can prove you really do buy end-of-life computers and parts from businesses, and 'through being canny' you just pick ones with valuable parts worth thousands each, which you resold.

The odds are good nobody will investigate. If they do, its much easier to hide - you run a mine or recycling business which will fully sustain examination and is just very successful. For computer parts, few people buying recycled ex-warranty parts which work, will ever check the serial number even if one exists.

The advantages are that the business is legitimate, and the product unpredictable and down to skill and luck. You can sustain investigation and keep your power hidden.

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  • $\begingroup$ people will notice the raw gemstones all look the same, or too many are similar. computer parts have serial numbers, in fact your windows installation is tied to some secret number on your motherboard $\endgroup$ – user3201068 Oct 18 '16 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ That's not what the question suggests. If you can make any book (or object) provided you know what it should say, then you can certainly make diamonds or gems of the same material and just different shapes, or identical chips with a different serial number. The chips don't have to be CPUs either, so if you can't do CPUs with different serial numbers, do a type of item that gets recycled and is valuable whose serial doesn't matter. The principle is sound, pick a product you like. $\endgroup$ – Stilez Oct 19 '16 at 5:25
  • $\begingroup$ I love this because I also thought first of needing to start some sort of legitimate business to hide your powers. I personally think being an Elon Musk inspired entrepreneur would be the most valuable, unless you can only create things that have already been created and cannot use that to build something new. $\endgroup$ – EmRoBeau Oct 19 '16 at 19:27
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You want to know how to launder goods?

That's easy.

Since you aren't stealing anything, people won't be paying as much attention, and as long as you aren't selling drugs, people won't notice either.

A pawn shop would be a good way to start, you can duplicate common but expensive items. Keep in mind in accounting, you need to have a debit and a credit, so it must balance out (you must have bought a good from someone to be able to sell it to someone else).

Then you can work your way up to more expensive goods, maybe an import-export business.

On a note the most valuable substances in the world are saffron, platinum, and gold. Of course it sound like you can forge stock certificates and bonds, but people might be paying attention to invalid serial numbers or duplicates.

Maybe go to your local law library and look up cases about pawn shops, fencing in stolen goods, and money laundering?

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    $\begingroup$ Oh a pawn shop! That's a great idea. This would guarantee that you also don't get bored of making the same things over and over again. $\endgroup$ – EmRoBeau Oct 19 '16 at 19:29
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Create money, then go to the horse track. If you go about as frequently as other gambling addicts, and put down sums comparable to them, people will assume you are just ruining your life like they are without asking questions, if they notice at all (changing venues is a good idea, too). Also buy some lotto tickets. Create any everyday item you need, like toothbrushes, food, etc., stuff no one will notice.

There's also the question of how carefully you need to study an item to copy it. If you can go into a hardware store and look at the equipment for a while, but can't pull it apart, can you copy it?

There's also the question of how quickly you can copy things, and how easily you can remember them to copy them. If you can copy them quickly enough, you could eat at all the best restaurants in the city, then open your own where you sell amazing food at low prices, doing very little work (if you can just zap out the dishes). Fast service and low prices would be strange, but the only reason someone would check was if they were very carefully looking for super powered people.

On that note, things change if someone is looking for super powered people.

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  • $\begingroup$ Gambling businesses are very keen to look for unusually lucky winners ans consistent winners. I don't think this will work at the racetrack. Also since your power is creating and not knowledge you're as likely to lose as win, or more likely to, like most people. Fabulous wealth? To win billions by gambling without special knowledge, you'd have to create/start with billions in the first place, as well as being good at it. $\endgroup$ – Stilez Oct 19 '16 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Stilez Yeah, the point was never to win more than the others. You simply can't lose, as you can make more money, so you keep gambling until you do eventually win big. Then, you'll launder all the money you won, you can justify it as being earnings from gambling. $\endgroup$ – J. Doe Oct 19 '16 at 11:50
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Jewels would be notable, but industrial grade diamond products sold from a location where they can be mined while limiting yourself to a share of the total annual world production could work.

Another thing you could do is create something very simple (hail) to destroy enough crops to influence the commodities markets after having shorted the crop in question and having hired an analyst to provide plausible unrelated reasons for the crops to be expected to fail - perhaps a climate scientist convinced that global warming will create more hail storms.

Another option would be to run a cover story shop which supposedly machines premium price spare parts from scratch at great expense, when you do the same thing but much cheaper.

Or set yourself up as a generic drug maker for very hard to synthesize drugs and then make them much cheaper.

It is not terribly hard to become wealthy while keeping it secret (set up a Cayman Island's bank account owned by a Cayman's island corporation or trust and make lots of deposits and don't spend the money), but it isn't much fun. Declaring the income and paying tax on it and then being able to flaunt the money you made with your "business genius" would afford you a much more comfortable life style.

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    $\begingroup$ The being wealthy isn't the thing you gotta keep secret, it's the power part. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Oct 18 '16 at 1:30
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First, don't pay attention to anyone who advises using your power to create advanced technology. Modern computers are so complex that it is impossible to know all the details of its functionality. You can know what every part does, and how every part does it, but the circuit diagrams for the CPU alone would fill the entire library of congress. There are literally (I'm using the word 'literally' correctly here) billions of different wires, connections, transistors, and other components. Nowadays, computers chips are only partially designed by people; most of the heavy lifting is done by computers themselves. Unless you also have the ability to duplicate objects, this isn't the way to go.

The best approach initially is starting a high-end pawn shop. Pay your taxes, and the IRS shouldn't bother you. Some of the stuff you sell can come from real customers, but you can just create most of the jewelry. This should provide enough funds to start the mining operation discussed in other answers. Alternatively, you could get a job at the mint (to gain a complete knowledge of the processes involved in making money), quit after a while, and then just start producing near-perfect counterfeits of american currency whenever you need to. In the ideal case, it'll be indistinguishable from regular dollars, and even if it isn't and someone investigates, you can just claim you didn't know the money was counterfeit. After all, there would be no evidence you made it — no fancy equipment, no shipments of the raw materials, etc. Claim you received a large unexpected inheritance from [insert most recently deceased relative]. Pay taxes on the inheritance, and then counterfeit bills to your heart's content.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm willing to hand-wave away creation of chemical substances, chemical compounds, crystals, etc because those things aren't complex. They're highly regular in structure, and while we don't understand all the parts we know on a basic level what all the parts are and where they go. It's easy to imagine poof-ing into existence a pure block of platinum because it's very simple to describe. $\endgroup$ – J. Antonio Perez Oct 19 '16 at 5:52
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    $\begingroup$ In terms of information theory, to describe the block of platinum, you need only to know it's chemical makeup (platinum), crystal structure (likely hexagonal), orientation in space (easy to visualize), and physical dimensions (also easy to visualize). A computer chip, on the other hand, is highly complex by comparison. There's the crystal structure of silicon, but also the layout of all the wires, transistors, and other components etched into the surface of the block. $\endgroup$ – J. Antonio Perez Oct 19 '16 at 5:52
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    $\begingroup$ Also, from a narrative standpoint, if you can hand-wave away creating computer with this power, there needs to be a really good reason you can't use this power to create bacterium and viruses, simple animals, humans, or even super-human beings. After all, if you allow the person to create something as complex as a computer chip, that means that all you need to do is visualize the outcome and it's properties; you don't have to concern yourself with the details. $\endgroup$ – J. Antonio Perez Oct 19 '16 at 5:55
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    $\begingroup$ Computer parts and their wiring are dwarfed into nothingness by a few complex proteins (and their folding), a neurone or two, and the few quadrillion synaptic and other connections in mammalian brains. I think we have to assume the limits given - if physically seen it can be copied, and otherwise needs an understanding of its design. That suggests that something complex could have superficial matters changed. A person physically seen, but change the tattoo as that's simple. A computer chip if seen + new serial number if understood where its kept. A car if seen + change the paint colour. $\endgroup$ – Stilez Oct 19 '16 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ From an information-theoretic perspective, the design of a computer chip is significantly more complex than the design of even the most complex protein. Figuring out the folding of a protein is a very hard problem, but it takes less than a gigabyte of data to store the actual folded shape for all proteins we know of. An entire cell would probably be a few tens of times more complex than a computer chip, though. The reason it wouldn't be thousands of times more complex is because storing the genetic code of the cell takes only a few gigabytes. $\endgroup$ – J. Antonio Perez Oct 19 '16 at 14:17
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When it comes to business, its really hard to hide augment materials without someone noticing (assuming a legit business, not criminal in nature). While its difficult to fake materials, it would be less difficult to fake the other primary resource in manufacturing (time). However, you need to keep the operation small enough that the others involved are less likely to notice any time discrepancies (1-man shop is ideal). With a small operation, it would be difficult to scale it up to the wealth that you are asking for unless you focus on high end products.

Assuming the character has the personality and skills to match, the person could either operate as an inventor or as an artist.

As an inventor, you could create high end products through trial and error, and not really prove HOW the product was created until you already have a working prototype. You would need to consume materials, but they don't have to match up with the exact element. For example, inventing a new cell phone radio technology could be well within the skills of the individual if they have training as an electrical engineer... or a new type of car brakes for a mechanic/mechanical engineer. For an inventor, its less about the product and more about the idea... which could then be funded by an investor and net you tons of cash. The idea is that you keep the operation small and legit by purchasing materials expected of an inventor of the similar type... and other machinery required to create the prototypes (even though you don't need them, you WILL need to use them to demonstrate how the product would be manufactured). In fact, while the power is ABLE to create materials out of thin air, it might require less effort to reform existing materials into the form and function your invention requires. Again, keeping the operation small, the ideal situation would be a private lair (think Tony Stark) with custom security devices that he could invent.

As an artist (painter), the situation is a little different but still similar in concept. He might start out small as an art dealer to get introductions to the high society people (such as a collection of his "grandfathers" art created over 30+ years), and then later start promoting his own creations. This type of character has a reason to hang around rich folk and it would be an enjoyable way to spend your free time (time that other artists would require to paint). While the temptation to forge art would be very strong, there would be a great deal of risk.

An alternative approach:

A person with this ability would also be very good as a spy/thief. The ability to synthesis C4 and acid on demand (even if requiring holding a small amount), render any electronic or mechanical device useless with a touch (rearrange into non-functioning form) and able to duplicate anything would lend to lots of stories and possibilities. Why remove a 3000 year old vase from its perch when you can just duplicate it?

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  • $\begingroup$ Now those are some imaginative ways to use such a power. Nice thinking. $\endgroup$ – Stilez Oct 27 '16 at 22:34
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Here are some ideas:

  • Some simple products to be sold locally as bottled water, fruits, eggs, fish, glass and stone bricks are unlikely to be deeply investigated if you legitimately own the facilities to produce them and just oversell your production.

  • You may produce one of the most profitable existent products: oil. Own a petroleum extraction facility, even an old one will do, and you magically injects a lot of extra oil in some pipes.

  • You can produce something useful that you don't sell, but use for indirect profit. For example, let's say that you own a factory that needs a lot of copper wires and water to produce something. The factory is real and legitimate and also has a contract to legitimate copper wire and water providers that regularly delivers their goods. When/where nobody is watching, you just create extra copper and water out of nothing.

  • You might run a metal recycling facility. Contact some very poor people who scavenges those in thrash to deliver you metal goods for recycling, like metal cans, and pay'em for that. Secretly, you just produce some extra recycled high-quality metal. Also, dump at least part of the unrecycled metal along with some of your newly created-one in the city junkyard to ensure that your scavengers have work to do and are able to profit, ensuring that whoever comes to investigate will be easily convinced that everything is normal. This works as long as nobody catch you dumping metal back in the junkyard, so you will need to produce something to cover that.

  • You might really like to work as a criminal and produce drugs, counterfeit money or illegal firearms and sell those with the best prices available. As long as you are able to avoid the police and other criminals likely to be unhappy with your competition, you will be fine (bribery is a great way to achieve that). As long as you aren't captured by the police or by some rival gang, nobody will make you questions, because since you are a criminal, you are likely to need to kill whoever knows too much.

  • You might produce trees and sell the lumber. Own some large rural land in a some remote and isolated area that is sparsely inhabitated (so people would be unlikely to notice something unusual), but still connected by regular roads to nearby towns. Fill the area with trees from some species that can be regularly and legally cultivated for their wood and have all the legal stuff alright for your business. Magically "plant" adult trees just to have them chopped out a few weeks later. Also, you might add magically-produced already chopped out trees just waiting to be loaded in the trucks.

  • Have a farm somewhere, clone your cows and sell them. Kudos for milk.

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You can become a bonafide treasure hunter. The bottoms of oceans have potentially unlimited wealth from shipwrecks if one knows just where to look. In your case, you can create precious metals and antiques pretty much wherever you want. So, you just pretend to retrace the routes of historical shipwrecks and create precious items somewhere on your way. To avoid suspicion, you can even create the stuff right on the seabed and let your divers go get it it. On the front you can be a history scholar (or archeologist or something) turned treasure hunter.

If you can create objects at a location without having to be present there, then you don't even have to go on the expeditions. You just create objects at specific latitudes and longitudes, fund the expeditions and give them a roundabout route that'll eventually look for the shipwreck where you placed the objects.

You can do basically the same thing with antiques lost over land as well. You can "find" lost paintings, antiques, jewelry or whatever else of value but this may raise more suspicion than finding them in the sea because it'd be more difficult to obfuscate the source but it can be an easy way initially to create seed money.

PS: I'm not entirely sure of the international laws but my understanding is whatever you find at the bottom of the sea is yours.

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Software development/music production is probably the best way to go. This would be because it wouldn't disrupt the economy because it's all digital.

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  • $\begingroup$ The question asks about creating physical things. $\endgroup$ – Azuaron Oct 19 '16 at 0:04
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You might use your hability to duplicate people.

Run a human cloning facility with fake labs doing all of the sorts fake biologic research and activities. There, you duplicate people.

Other people and governments will probably not like your idea of having a functional human cloning facility. But, since you can duplicate people, you will be able to duplicate yourself in order to create an army to counter any opposition. Since your copies would also be duplicators, your army will be likely to grow exponentially and, by organized effort, be quickly able to reach everywhere in the world.

Give a step further and use your army of duplicators to quickly produce trucks, cars, tanks, airplanes, bombs, weapons, missiles, computers, radios, robots, chemicals, drones, radar systems, warboats, submarines, power plants and whatever else needed to fight against that coallition of nations that won't so easily accept that you are their new ruler now.

In order to ensure that your secret do not leak to other people, run some other fake cloning facilities and a lot of fake factories for all that stuff that you and your copies will create. All of those facilities are operated exclusively by your fellow copies, so its entirely trustworthy. Kill whoever is stupid enough to think about to come closer to check what is going on. Also, each copy of yourself will be able to individually and independently learn whatever is needed to build, so you don't need to do it all yourself. You are literally multiplying your brainpower.

Do not show mercy, and execute whoever thinks about stopping you. Also, kill whoever is thinking about spying your facilities and do not tolerate intruders. Use your power to quickly defeat your enemies. Resistance is futile.

In just a few days, you will be able to take over the world and enslave all the former humanity on your command. Or perhaps, just dispose them if that is easier. You'll become the supreme dictator. After that, you and your copies would be able to colonize other planets. Space travel will finally become easy and cheap! Eventually, you will rule the galaxy.

You might think that this is a bit of overstretch. However, people will think that you have the technology needed to quickly clone people instead of magically duplicate stuff. So your true power will stay secure.

Also, ageing could be an issue, since you and your copies would still be ageing. The solution for that is to cryogenically freeze your copies and duplicate your frozen copies. When you and your first generation of copies get too old to continue the business, thaw some of your criogenically frozen copies, teach them what the old generation learnt and let the second generation assume the command of things. Go on and on forever, with every thawed copy being in pristine conditions just as the first generation were, as long as the previous generation teach them. Also, you and your copies would fature more than enough time and resources to do the biologically, medical and genetic research needed to maximize your life spans.

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    $\begingroup$ Creating duplicates, not robots or androids.... nothing in the question suggests if you copied a person, you'd get anything that would do what you said, or anything other than a faithful copy of that person including their brain/mind - complete with their existing beliefs, views, agenda, loyalties etc. If you could make them do as you wanted, you could have them give you the information you need to become wealthy (bank logins and vault access, company secrets and financially sensitive info, then invest?). You'd have to create them mid ocean and then kill them or something each time. $\endgroup$ – Stilez Oct 19 '16 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Stillez You don't create copies or random people to do what you want. They won't do, since they are not loyal to you - they will be faithful copies or their originals including existing beliefs, views, agenda, etc, which are things likely to be incompatible to your purposes. You do create a few copies of random people just to cover up your true power in the beginning. What you really do is to create copies of yourself, and your copies would be loyal exactly because they have a perfect copy of your mind, beliefs and views. $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa Oct 19 '16 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ And that might have the added advantage of making a hive mind! $\endgroup$ – Mathmagician Aug 26 '17 at 3:07
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The Power to create and/or reorganize matter

The details of this power will partly determine just how easy or difficult it is to hide. I will base my answer of what has been given in the question so far, which is not a lot of details, so the answer will also be somewhat vague. There are no mass, size, or material limits indicated. There are also no time, duration, range, area of effect, or fatigue limits indicated either.

For plot purposes, having such limits makes things more interesting, especially when the character is able to discover clever ways of working with or around the limitations. It can also provide dramatic tension when those limits are close to being reached, and the available options for the player become restricted - putting them (or others) at risk.

Unsafe usages of such a power

Given that the person must either comprehend the complete structure of a given target, or have a completed target item at hand, so to speak, this is already a limit of sorts on what can be safely made without revealing the power.

Items that are unique in nature, that have traceable features, or are otherwise marked in some fashion should all be avoided. Items where uniformity in construction and/or composition would be suspicious should also be avoided.

For example, given the currently worded original question, plus comments by the OP, the character in question could theoretically duplicate the planet they are standing on, which may or may not include every living thing on it due to the 'sensor' effect, and the lack of defining if the power can produce living things or not. If it is a 'creation' effect (energy to matter or nothing to matter), then this could actually occur - and would probably promptly cause an apocalypse as the two planets collided and merged. If it is a reorganization effect, then instead, the planet would effectively move - possibly quite suddenly. This might cause issues with tides and any moon(s) the planet may have.

Safe usages of such a power

Building up slowly and cautiously would be a key factor of keeping such a power hidden. A lot will depend on the nature of the character possessing this power, and what options they have available to them.

For example, if the character had access to a mine, and could 'sensor' a rich mineral vein, then they could use the power to seed additional locations with the same vein, increasing the output of the mining operation. However, they would have to be careful to disguise the vein by overlapping placement, as current mining techniques can map materials in the rock with surprising accuracy.

A more risky possibility is to duplicate money one bill at a time, and slowly build up a stockpile with which to eventually open an account in an offshore operation, or similar operation that is more open to a no-questions-asked policy. Risky in that if their system shows that they have any of the same bills (by serial number) currently in storage, it might flag your deposit.

Obtaining a license for prospecting (gold handling license, for example) and camping out in some remote area might work for small amounts of various minerals or ore. Enough to build up a stake, and then invest in or startup a company which would allow one to use it as a front for more scaled-up usage of said power. Obtaining or duplicating gems (preferably in the rough) and then cracking them inexpertly would help disguise the fact that they are duplicates.

Bulk items or resources: pure water, pure salt, and crude oil are all possible resources that could be profitably duplicated in bulk, but one would need a desalination plant and/or an oil field (even an old expired one might work). Pure elements might also work, if you have a chemical company as a front. You would still need to have appropriate paper trails and properties so this would be more of a middle-game option. If you could get hidden access to an aquifer, you could refill it - handy for drought stricken areas, but don't get caught because they will wonder where the extra all came from. Increasing the snowpack in mountains or arctic regions might work better, assuming you can avoid leaving too many tracks and/or traces.

If the power can reproduce living things, rare and endangered species are a likely target, but genetic testing will reveal something is up. Coveted derivatives, such as ivory and feathers might also be possible, but again, close testing will start turning up suspicious results.

Obtaining an industrial 3D printer and/or a rapid prototype development machine would go a long way towards disguising your power. The more the better.

One would also need someone(s) with a lot of business acumen and financial knowledge to completely pull it off any sort of end-game scenario.

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Your premise, that some things you can create only if you can see them, and other things you can create without seeing them seems inconsistent to me. No one knows "exactly" how a CD is constructed, nor how it "exactly" works, there is some level of abstraction involved in any knowledge. I know if I asked you to give me an example of some object you "understand" that I could ask you hundreds of questions about it which you would be unable to answer. The only way to "secretly" become "fabulously wealthy" is to set up a large number of fronts (eg shell corporations). Samsung in S Korea is an example. The problem with this is that if they did/sold the same thing, flags would be raised. So, they'd need to do different things. In other words there is no one answer for how to transition from wealthy to very wealthy to fabulously wealthy. Off the top of my head, if I were going to do this, I'd hire an actor (actually, a series of short term actors) to do the leg work. A kilogram of Platinum is worth ~$30,000. So, getting seed money isn't really an issue. Once you have the seed money, you could invest it in a variety of high risk, high return ventures. A less legitimate, but you'd need to hire a lawyer, way would be to offer your services to clone something (or someone?). How much would someone pay for an "exact" copy of the Mona Lisa? or the Enola Gay? There are, of course, laws about precious metals, as well as copyright laws. But I know of no restriction for creating a copy of something for which all copyrights and patents have expired as long as you don't represent it as the original. It also seems to me that there are a LOT of companies which manufacture high value-added goods which would be willing to pay, say 50% of their cost for an exact finished copy. Or consider this: you contact a famous painter or sculptor and offer a service (via your front man) to duplicate one of his/her works in progress. S/he then puts the finishing touches on them and sells them as a series. This could save him/her weeks, months or years and should be worth quite a lot.

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Art

In any case, the thing about making matter into exactly what you want, is that you can make really good art out of it - you can shape matter as you please, thus, sculpture. Or a painting. You can take raw materials, and come out with a project that's a lot more valuable than you started with (as art does),and if in your case, the original materials weren't needed, who is actually gonna know?

You can make originals, easy, just by making something out of your head, tweaking to your own tastes, and selling as part of a series or as reproductions. You can make reproductions - note that forgery will get you in trouble, but openly labeling your products as reproductions (and possibly adding or altering some detail, so it is obviously not forgery) will let you escape a lot of trouble - and people are willing to pay a lot, especially since you can go from "simple replica" to "museum-quality" reproductions, with accompanying price ranges, pretty easily. You can get your hands on reproductions by purchasing them, or visit museums and libraries for access to originals (once you've built up a reputation, you may be able to arrange for closer visits as an expert).

You should think about your medium - wood sculpture, you can buy a few cords of wood and have a bonfire every day, and no one knows your stash of wood carvings didn't come from that wood. Paint and canvases are also pretty cheap, you can easily find something to do with them (even if it is raw material for your talent, even if it is a side hobby, even if it is hide or discard them somehow). It would be wise to pick up, as a hobby, whatever "art" you choose to sell (or information on the historical techniques replicated, whatever), since people may be asking about technique... on the other hand, artists are supposed to be eccentric, so you just need to have something to say, or never talk to people about art, or claim your best work comes in trances or something.

Jewelry

Along the same lines, you might take up jewelry making. Even working with basic materials, copper or aluminum wires or something like that, the ability to shape precisely will let you form salable pieces - and since the value is the effort (or supposed effort, though having secret matter-bending talent isn't exactly less effort than making art the usual way), it won't matter that your original materials are inexpensive, or that your tools are basic. You can work you way up to grander, more expensive works - and higher prices - without anyone questioning where the pieces are coming from.

Buy raw materials, use some of them to transmute with, use some to just play with, give some away, have a workshop or three stuffed with odd bits and pieces, claim you often trade raw materials for finished products and that's why you rarely are seen purchasing, whatever. The thing is, there's no cheat - because the stuff is real, the delicate shaping is what people pay for, so there's no real incentive for people to fake it.


Someone else has already mentioned pawn shops and antiques. Just, it's a really good cover for all sorts of knickknacks and oddball items, especially if you use your ability to copy, or repair, or supplement genuine finds.

Also, for seed money - you can probably create a hefty chunk of cash with a one-time creation of precious metal jewelry - plain chains or bracelets or earrings in gold and silver, maybe different thickness and styles. A one time sale, or actually selling one or two at a time from an obviously limited stock, can be explained away as an inheritance, or gifts, or whatnot - especially since you'll only need seed money for raw materials at this point, so you can keep the amount low and make your major money in art, and build back up to precious metal when you have the cash flow to cover the difference in your raw materials and outputs.

Also, as a side note, I'm assuming that the power isn't to create matter from nothing (that seems a bit too universe breaking, not to mention dangerous), but rather to transmute one kind of matter into another - so it is possible to take up a block of wood, and shape it to a sculpture (or at least it's easier than trying to form it from nothing, which might take mass from air, or extra-extra energy, or something). Picking up a stone, and changing it to gold, or a book, or some bread, is quite universe-breaking enough. So I am assuming most of the raw materials are used up as, well, raw materials.

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Start an investment company that sells short term bonds in exchange for precious metals or cash. People send you money to invest and expect 130% back. You duplicate the money and gold they send (thus having twice as much). You than pay out 30% of what you duplicated to your investors, and keep the other 70%. Most bonds don't earn anywhere near 30% short term, so you will naturally attract a lot of investors.

The investors themselves will unwittingly launder all the money for you as they ship the bills and gold back and forth.

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