January 29, 2023 | Jess Silverberg

Parents Share The Genius Black Market Schemes Their Children Ran At School

Kids will be kids, which means they can't help but let their imaginations run wild. This is especially true when they figure out they can make a quick and easy buck, apparently. In this article, parents share stories about their kids who turned their school into an underground black market for all sorts of goods. Some of them actually made quite a bit of money.

While kids selling stuff to other kids (and even teachers in some cases) may not exactly have been allowed, the intelligence it takes to keep the schemes going is enough to make any parent proud. Understanding the ins and outs of economics at such a young age, as many of these kids seemed to, is a real skill. And the truth is, little rulebreakers, especially the ones turning a profit from it, can easily be the ones who end up the most successful in life.


Don't forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!

#1 Whiteboard Markers Were Hard To Come By

My kid used to sell whiteboard markers to teachers in high school. One teacher had a tendency to hoard them, leaving none for other teachers. He would take markers from him and provide them to other teachers in need. While there was no formal payment, he was given a little bit more leniency at times (e.g. requests to leave the classroom for a moment, etc.).

Once their markers would start squealing on the whiteboard because it was almost empty, teachers would give him a nod as if to say, "You got the goods?" He'd then supply them with the marker color of their choosing (usually black). It was actually a lot of fun for him, and he said he never heard teachers talk about his systems or chastise him for taking markers.


#2 This Fake Pog That Was Better Than The Real Thing

My kid was in elementary school when pogs were big. Everyone had cool slammers and stuff, but we didn't have money for good ones. His dad made one out of half-inch mild steel for him and used an engraving pen to make a simple pattern. Everyone was asking him where he got them from. He didn't wanna lose his unfair edge, but he also knew he could make money. His dad had a big sheet of this half-inch steel, so my kid told them he was the only one who they could get them from. He sold them for $15 a pop. His dad kept $10 and he got $5.


#3 He Had All Their Tie And Belt Needs To Be Covered

My son went to a private high school with a strict dress code: ties, belt, grey pants, you name it. Many times, kids would forget a part of their uniform, so he bought a bunch of ties and belts from a thrift store and ran a lucrative rental business out of his locker. He actually made a decent amount of money from it too, because it turns out, lots of kids were terrible at following the dress code at his school.


#4 Kids Don't Know Fake Watches From Real Ones

We have family in New York and we would go visit a couple of times a year, back when my son was in high school. Every once in a while, we'd visit Chinatown in NYC and he'd end up buying hundreds of dollars worth of fake watches (Rolex, Tag, Gucci, etc.) He would then return to school and sell them for double what he paid for them.


#5 The Underground Candy Store

At my daughter's school, they took all the sweets out of the vending machines and replaced them with healthy snacks. In the local town, there was a sweet shop where you could buy a kilo of mixed sweets for $5, so every week she would go there and buy $1 of small paper bags and spend the Sunday night before school repackaging them for the week ahead. Come Monday, she would go into school and load her bag up every day, selling the bags.


#6 One-Upping The School Cafeteria

My son would sell Cuban sandwiches straight out a duffle bag before school. They were amazing, cheap, and way better than the lunch in the cafeteria. I would know because I would make them for him. I guess I'm the reason he got into that business in the first place. Still, the kids loved them and my son felt like some sort of local hero.


#7 His Very Own Blockbuster Business

Our family was the only one in the school who had proper TV channels, so my son used to tape wrestling events and rent them out. He'd ask his dad to buy him a bunch of cassette tapes so he could record every fight that was aired on TV. He made lots of money because he said a lot of the kids at this school weren't even allowed to watch wrestling in the first place. His tapes were very much in demand.


#8 Trading iTunes For Fruit Snacks

They had Apple laptops in middle school. Some had iTunes while others didn't, and the kids wanted it. She was the only one who knew how to transfer the installer with her USB. She put it on everyone's laptop in return for gifts, favors, etc. Gifts were typical middle schooler stuff: Yu-Gi-Oh cards, fruit snacks, etc. She became popular after that.


#9 Counterfeit Game Coupons

There were these little game coupons that my son's teacher gave out for winning class quiz games. Right when people were starting to get scanners and printers in their own homes, my kid made identical copies of the game coupons and sold them to other students. The coupons could be traded for a piece of candy or a pencil with some fun print on it.


#10 A Hall Pass Is A Hot Commodity

My daughter had the principal's secretary's handwriting down. She used to sell hall passes for $1 each and made a lot of money. I never really know how much she made, but it was in the realm of $5 dollars a day. Sometimes, she went dry because she needed the actual pass paper, but she finally figured out how to get into the supply closet. She only took a few pads at a time so they wouldn't get suspicious.


#11 Mix CDs Were All The Rage

MP3s and CD-Rs were just becoming available. My son made tons of money on mix CDs. Every week, he circulated forms to fill out, where the kids selected the songs they wanted on the CD. The newest hits were on the top and they changed weekly. He'd deliver the discs the following week. He seriously made a lot of money for a couple of years until everybody started getting their own songs from Limewire.


#12 Taking Advantage Of Those Poor Freshmen

When my son was a sophomore in high school, freshmen weren’t allowed to go off campus but everyone else was. So he’d take orders, go to the local fast food shops, and get the goods. He’d up the price by about two bucks and ended up making about two hundred a month. He basically took advantage of his classmates' laziness.


#13 They Were All About The Banana Chips

Banana chips were 25¢ in the vending machine in middle school. I always went to school early, so I always ended up buying all of them and selling them for 50¢ a bag. You'd be surprised how many people actually loved banana chips at my school. It was a real hot commodity and I'm really glad I realized that early on.


#14 She Undercut The Swim Team And Left Them High And Dry

The swim team was selling these fundraiser lollipops and they were insanely popular. My daughter found the website on the wrapper and discovered she could buy her own for way cheaper. She would also buy only the most popular flavors. She quickly became a top seller and made a lot of money until the copycats started popping up.


#15 The Rich Kids Have Money To Burn

My daughter's school was an extremely conservative Christian boarding school. Things that were forbidden were: jeans, shorts, candy, cell phones, gaming systems, TVs, movies, clothes made by popular brands, etc. Naturally, there were a few students who started selling food, candy, and Hollister clothes. They made huge amounts of money. A lot of the kids at that school were rich doctor's kids, so there was plenty of money to go around. One kid sold a box of Altoids for $15.

#16 Buy Low, Sell High

Our high school had “homework passes” that were redeemable across all classes. You could use them as either one free pass for a homework assignment or for a one-day delay on a large report. They even had a “void” message if copied. The teachers got them from the principal at the beginning of each quarter and they passed them out to anyone showing interest in the class.

The market was flooded. My son would buy them from kids for $2 each. Then he’d wait. At the end of the quarter, larger reports would be due. Rich kids would buy them back from him for $25 each. He once made $370 in the last five days of the quarter. Whatever he earned, he'd typically only use a total of $20 to buy the next wave of homework passes. The rest was his to keep. It all started with a single $0.75 investment, and that was the only bit of money he ever paid from his own pocket to keep it going.

#17 Not One Snitch

He spent his lunch money on really sour lollipops each day and sold them for twice as much. They were all gone within 10 minutes of him arriving at school. The head teacher was looking for the perpetrator, but out of 200+ students, not one student snitched. He doubled his money every day for half the school year.


#18 The Pencil Supply Was Necessary, But Not For What You Might Think

My kid sold pencils for pencil fighting. The way it worked was one person would hold their pencil out, grabbing both ends, and then the other person would see if they could break the pencil with theirs by holding one end and then pulling the other end back, snapping it down on the other pencil.


#19 The Marble Mafia

Marbles were big at his primary school. Really big. It got to the stage where they were only allowed for three months a year as the kids would no longer discuss anything but the game. At the time, they could buy a big bag of cats eyes from the supermarket but it wouldn't get them far. To play the high stakes games, they needed a speckled egg, a glitter bomb, a tidal wave, or something exotic, but those suckers were pricy.

The poor kids couldn't afford those things, so they secretly gambled their marbles throughout the year. When marble season opened, they had amassed enough marbles to really be ahead of the game. Being caught with marbles outside of marble season was bad. Really bad. One kid got five strokes of the cane. This being so, it was a big risk to hide in the shadows of the trees and sling those little glass balls about.

Not only did it hone their skills for the season-opening, but they got good at taking the shot and then acting nonchalant. Marbles were a currency. They could trade lunches with them or buy time on playground equipment. There was a good reason they banned marbles at the school. They turned it into some sort of mafia.

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#20 They'll Always Find Another Way And Some Will Profit From It

They took out the pop machines in her high school, so my daughter started selling pop out of her backpack for $1 a can.

#21 When Your Mom Wins A Year's Supply Of Oreos, You Make It Count

I won a year's supply of Double-Stuffed Oreos. My daughter sold them in Ziploc bags while in 4th grade to everyone she could, even teachers. At the time, I thought her friends were eating them all. Little did I know, she was making bank. Turns out, you can really win people over with Oreos. They're a hot seller.


#22 Hiding In Plain Sight Under Their Good Grades

My daughter and her best friend sold packs of gum in middle school. They'd make around $30 a day and the teachers were going crazy trying to find where all the gum was coming from. As model students, they never suspected them. They kept this up until they graduated and only then did they reveal themselves to the teachers.


#23 Kids Will Do Anything To Miss A Test

Some kid sold his pink eye for $5. In middle school, they could go to school with pink eye and make a lot of money off of kids who wanted to miss a test. A kid would just stick his finger in his own eye, and then in yours. The scheme turned sour really quickly, though. Because it was such a health hazard, they punished the kids who were involved.


#24 The Beef Jerky Everyone In Town Talked About

There’s a town butcher who has the BEST beef jerky I’ve ever tasted. His son would bring packs of it in his bag in high school and sell them to other kids. The dad was so proud of his son that he gave him 50% of the profits. His business also started to boom because kids would bring his beef jerky home and their parents would discover about his shop.


#25 Mexican Snacks For Everyone

The Hispanic kids in his school brought a bunch of Mexican snacks to class and sold them for cheap. Those mango lollipops with the chili powder on them (or whatever it is) were very sought after.

#26 Unpopular Until She Had The Goods

During elementary school in the '80s, many candies weren't individually wrapped for resale in stores. Think warheads, etc. My daughter bought bulk packs of candy, individually packed them, and sold them at school. Being around adults a little devoid of scruples, she was able to get everything in bulk from a local head shop called "High on the Hill."

She was the only supplier for a year solid in fourth grade, and she made so much money for a 10-year-old, it was insane. She would make $100 a week just off of Atomic Fireballs. The bulk jugs were about $5 or $6 each wholesale, and at a quarter each, it worked out to about $60 a jug profit, if I recall.

It was turbulent as she never really had a group of friends as a kid, but in the fourth grade, she was the queen. Even at that time, she was able to realize what was going on. Their smiles were all fake since their interest was not in her, but rather in what was in her bag on any given day. Girls were not saying hello because they were being polite, they were just waiting their turn for their fix!

That denim bag got more attention than she ever dreamed of, and she was just along for the ride. She had laid the groundwork and provided the blueprint. When the fifth grade started, there was competition, but they were weak. They would always sell out, or only buy enough to make a few bucks here and there, largely selling lollipops or pre-packed stuff. It was amateur hour.

They had made a mockery of something she took seriously, and she closed up shop pretty quickly after the school year began. The fast life and fast money were over. The excitement wasn't there, the smiles weren't as big. Kids came to her as a last resort. They bought the popular kids completely out before looking her way. It was like flipping a switch.

Her first day without the bag, she had a few kids ask if she was holding, but once word got around that she was out of the game, everything went back to normal. No friends, no conversation, no one to sit with at lunch or on the bus. No one was interested, fake or otherwise. It was the first time she had ever really witnessed the dynamic of being disingenuine.


#27 Even The Teacher Wanted In

His grandpa taught him how to crack the protection on DVDs and burn them to blanks. So he would buy the 100 packs of blanks for like, $20 to $30 and sell the movies for $5 each. He thought it was gonna come to an end when someone brought it up in front of a teacher, but it turned out the teacher wanted movies too.


#28 Who Needs Las Vegas Anyway?

They had a full-blown casino on the senior deck. The staff tried to outlaw it so instead they just "played for fun" with fake money, and it was always someone's job to keep track of who owed whom. They'd settle up later.

#29 What People Will Pay For Bacon

We got him one of those microwave bacon racks for Christmas. He would bring bacon, cook it in the drama room microwave, and then sell them for a dollar a strip.

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#30 Simple Rocks Are Worth A Lot To Little Kids

The kids created an entire black market based on rocks. My son used to manage one of three "mining" operations that were running concurrently on the elementary school playground, back in the mid to late '90s. This school was located in a small town in southeast Tennessee, which was rural and bordered by the Cherokee National Forest.

The shinier or smoother the rock, the more valuable it could be. Rocks were traded between kids and their peers for snacks, drinks, homework bribes, even "protection" from bullies. Whoever controlled the rocks controlled the playground. My son's operation had the largest kids. They used the biggest boulders that were chipped into rounded points to break up the largest rocks down to manageable size for a bunch of little kids.

At the end of a day of "work," they would place a huge rock on top of their mining hole—too big for most anyone to lift except for a select few guys that all worked for him. Of course, I'm sure any of the 4th, 5th or 6th graders could have, at the time, had they cared too. Two other operations existed. One that was made up of all girls, though their rock output was shabby, at best. And another group that did their work inside of the dome-shaped jungle gym, providing the most protection from intruders and thieves, while also providing a line-of-site obstruction to the teachers.

As a manager, my son would walk the edge of the playground looking for strong sticks and perfect digging rocks, because the durability of sticks and pieces of chipped rock required a pretty steady supply of unbroken tools to work with. On the occasion that the classes had recess at different times, a lot of thievery and sabotage would happen.

Rocks would get stolen and mining holes would get filled with trash and debris. He recently visited the old school, which was closed in the mid-2000s and is now abandoned and has fallen into disrepair. The hole though? He said it's still there. All this time still hasn't fixed the impact my class and others had on that old playground.


#31 The Perks Of Having Your Mom As A Teacher At Your School

I was a teacher at the school my son went to. I used to confiscate finger skateboards and finger bikes that the kids used to play with and trade. After school, my son would take them from my desk and sell them back to the kids.


#32 If You're Good At Writing, Might As Well Make Money From It

She would write essays for her friends for $25 each.


#33 Who Knew Salt Could Be So Sought After?

Salt. My daughter was one of the few kids who brought her own lunch to school because we couldn't afford to pay for school lunches. Given the state of cafeteria food, I don't think she really minded too much. One time,  she brought some hard boiled eggs to school, probably right after Easter. Of course, she brought salt to put on them, but she brought way too much.

A couple of her friends asked for some of her salt because the soup from the cafeteria was so bland, so she gave them some. That brought down the wrath of the teachers upon our heads because we were destroying the delicate nutritional balance of their bland soup. Salt was eventually banned from the cafeteria, but since she was bringing her own lunches, she found ways to sneak salt in, and eventually, she had a whole black market for salt like it was freaking first-century Rome or something. Salt packets from fast food places were especially convenient, though she had to hide the evidence.


#34 A Short But Sweet Stint With Beads

She sold a few things in school. One of the best was mardi gras necklaces in 10th grade. She found a box of them in a closet at home and brought them to school. She sold each for $0.50 to $1.00 and made like, $130 over the course of two weeks before she ran out. Everyone at her school was wearing them at one point and the school debated banning them because they were so distracting.


#35 The Little Artist Entrepreneurs

My daughter used to draw characters on erasers and she sold them for $5 each. She and her friend were gaining traction and they started a catalog full of characters to choose from. They made a little over $100 until they finally got busted. This was when she was in 5th grade. Now, she's in college and she's studying fine arts.


#36 This Is What You Call Taking Advantage Of Office Duty In High School

My son was assigned to office duty. Students paid him $5 to remove an absence and $20 or higher to change a grade. He made huge profits until a girl tattled on him when he wouldn’t help her. The school wanted to expel him, but it was worked out that he would instead be heavily monitored in the library for special tutoring sessions for the last two months before graduation. He didn’t seem to care.


#37 A Small Price To Pay For Origami Ninja Stars

My son sold origami for $0.25 a piece in elementary school. He made ninja stars, cranes, flowers, etc. One person tried to make origami claws to put him out of business, but he learned how to make them even better and sold them so much, he ran out of business. It was quite fun, actually. Not a bad business for a 10-year-old.


#38 Piercings In The Girl's Locker Room

My daughter actually ran a body piercing business during PE class. She would mainly pierce girls belly buttons for $50 in the school locker room. Yes, it was dangerous. She went to a very strict private school and my husband and I would NEVER let her get piercings. I guess she did it as a form of rebellion. Everyone was a couple of years or more from being the legal age to go to a professional, so she was pretty popular.  She used 18-g needles from my medical office. I can't believe no one ever got an infection and she never got caught. She eventually told me about it years later.


#39 The Sly Instant Noodle Dealer

My daughter used to be an instant noodle dealer in the 5th grade. Her school would charge unbelievable amounts for their snacks and people got hungry on really late days. She would buy 40-packs of instant noodle cups for $18 and sell them for $1 each. The school had a cafeteria with water boilers, so you had everything you needed to make some.

Now, why didn’t others go and buy where she bought them? Well, because the amount of homework they had was outrageous; about two paperwork’s each week and an assignment of some sort, every darn week. But to the unlucky kids who didn’t have so much cash to constantly buy noodles, they instead did parts of my daughter's homework.

The school caught on pretty fast and put up posters that if anyone could catch the noodle dealer they would be rewarded. She thought it was because all the paper trash from her wrappers sometimes ended up on the floor instead of in a trash can. Knowing this, her clever young self carved out a couple of books. She would hide the pack in there, and pass it saying, “Have you read past chapter five yet?"

The teachers thought she had a massive book pile at home and brought books for people to read, so she was among a favorite in some classes. After they had eaten the pack, the next day they’d put a one dollar bill in the book and hand it back. She made such a profit from this so it was okay if someone never paid. She'd just freeze them out.


#40 Pokémon Cards Had Real Value For Awhile

My son was a Pokémon card smuggler. In sixth grade, his friend's dad overheard he and his friend talking about how much their Pokémon cards were worth. He was shocked to learn some were worth $10 to 20 a piece. He commented: “Shame they won’t be worth that much when you go to sell them.” That stuck with my son, and a few days later he started selling his cards at school.

He made a list of everything he had with prices next to them. He’d pass the list around during class and kids would meet up with him between classes to buy what they wanted. He was making crazy amounts of money for a middle schooler and before long, parents were complaining that their kids were skipping lunch because they were spending their lunch money on Pokémon cards.

The school eventually banned them, but he still had a good bit of inventory to move. He did all kinds of things to avoid getting caught. He hid cards in a box of crayons, he put a few sheets of sleeves in the middle of a binder full of legit notes, and he even hollowed out an old textbook to hide all his cards. Despite getting searched three to five times over the next few weeks, his cards were never found and he was able to sell all of them before Christmas break.

He ended up making close to $800 and was able to buy his entire family Christmas gifts with his own money for the first time. Once all the other kids learned how much money he had made, they were blown away and suddenly everyone was selling their cards. Problem was, by that time, no one was buying them anymore.


#41 A Full-Time Book Smuggler

For a few years in elementary school, books got banned in my son's school. Not "blacklisted" books, but literally books in general. They were far too "distracting," even though most kids would read them when they finished their work. My son started smuggling books to school and peddling them out to kids. It started out innocently—he had loads of "Hank the Cowdog" books that he was super into, and he hid them in his desk.

He loaned them to close friends when asked, but soon, the entire class knew, and then it spread to the entire school. He became a full-time book smuggler, but he had to be careful since the teachers were on high alert. If he got caught, he would have been going directly against the school's rules. He enforced a two-week borrowing limit, kept a log of everything, and essentially ran a teensy little library from his desk. He also made sure those kids were treating the books fairly. If anything came back damaged, they were banned from borrowing. He kept this up until middle school.


#42 Photoshopping For Money

In middle school, my daughter ran a Photoshop business where she’d charge people $25 to “fix” her classmates' photos. She’d remove pimples, reshape faces, whiten teeth, brighten eyes, hair color, you name it. She’d act like it would take a ton of work when it would really only take about 15 minutes per photo. At the age when everyone’s self-conscious and puberty is on a rampage, money was good for her.

#43 You Can Turn Anything Into A Currency

When my kid was in eighth grade, some kids decided, “Hey, ya know what would be cool? Let’s use the plastic cafeteria spoons as a makeshift currency!” And so they did. They used them to buy fries, homework answers, and tons of other stupid middle school stuff. This idea spread through the school like a wildfire. It got so bad that the school permanently removed spoons from the cafeteria as an attempt to end the chaos.

It was too late though, as so many spoons were already in circulation. All they did was boost their worth. Eventually, kids were getting detention and even suspension for being caught with spoons in their bags. Some kids thought they were clever and bought plastic spoons outside of school, but got caught quick by the others because they weren’t the same brand that the school bought. The market was thriving still when he left for high school.


#44 When Krispy Kreme Donuts Were Hard To Come By

Krispy Kreme donuts. The nearest Krispy Kreme was like, forty minutes away and most of the kids had never had them before. My kid started making the drive out there at like, 4 a.m. and brought back dozens of them, selling them out of his car for $1 each. It went on for weeks before the school shut him down. They said they were worried everyone was going to get fat.


#45 The In-School Hair Salon Was A Hit

My kid started selling haircuts at lunch. I don't know how much he was charging but apparently, he had a pretty decent setup and cut students hair in one of the bathrooms.



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