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Time is money.

Therefore, if you control time, you control money.

The easiest and most popular way of using Time Travel for mercantile purposes is the Compound Interest Time Travel Gambit, but there are a lot of other ways.

  • You can make a time tour agency.
  • You can trade through time.
  • You can use your knowledge of the future to make money in the past. Example: go to the future and find out what horse is going to win, stock is going to rise, lottery number is going to be picked, etc. Note that you just must have the information, you don't have to actually time-travel.

Beware of Time Police, though. And note that the Butterfly of Doom and the Timeline-Altering MacGuffin both existed because of this trope. This implies the existence of Casual Time Travel.

Examples of Time Travel for Fun and Profit include:


Comics

  • The basic premise of Booster Gold in which a man from the future uses his knowledge of the past to become a superhero and make money through endorsements (and other less ethical means).


Film

 Number 2 : We could make trillions.

Dr. Evil : Why make trillions when you can make... Billions?

  • Back to the Future II brings us the infamous Gray's Sports Almanac.
  • A Sound of Thunder has something similar to a tour agency.
  • In the first scene of Time Cop, criminals make money by going back to the 19th century and robbing a carriage full of gold... with laser-aimed machine guns.
    • And the baddies' second scheme is to coerce someone into going back to the Great Depression and buy stock.
  • The primary purpose of time travel in the film Thrill Seekers was disaster tourism.
  • Primer. Abe and Aaron never got around to publicizing their time machine, because they were too busy using hourly time travel to make money day-trading stocks.
  • Hot Tub Time Machine Lou and Nick aim to do this but run into some problems. By the end of the film, however, Lou has successfully joined Motley Cru and taken over Google Lougle.
  • Groundhog Day: Phil uses his knowledge gained from the Groundhog Day Loop to just walk up to an armored car and steal a bag of money at the exact moment neither guard will be looking. This is done more for the thrill of it than anything else, because he won't have time to spend much of the money before the next iteration of the loop.
  • In Paycheck, Michael uses his machine to see the next day's winning lottery numbers, giving him and the girl a Happily Ever After


Literature

  • Spider Robinson's Callahans Crosstime Saloon story "Have You Heard The One...?" A time traveler from the future arrives, offering to sell miraculous devices for all the pennies in the bar. He plans to bury the pennies in the present and dig them up again in his own time, where copper is extremely valuable due to resource depletion. He does it this way so the Time Cops don't realize he arranged for their finding through time travel (which is illegal in the future).
  • In Johnny And The Bomb, when Kirsty thinks that she and Johnny have traveled to the future, the first thing she wants to do is to find out what horses have won so she and Johnny can become rich.
    • Later, after Wobbler has been trapped in the 1940's, he uses his knowledge of upcoming trends in the fast food industry to open his own chain of hamburger restaurants and become a millionaire.
  • In the science fiction novella The Plagiarist, a time-traveller supports herself by passing off science fiction stories from other authors (stories that wouldn't be published in the original timeline for decades) as her own writing.
  • The Thursday Next series, where Time Travel is an integral and recurring aspect of the story's universe, has time tourists, and at one point we even see a group capturing footage of the actual Battle of Waterloo for a historical documentary.
  • The entire point of The Company Novels is to find ways to make time travel profitable, such as salvaging artifacts at that particular time period and having them be rediscovered in the 24th century.
  • H. L. Gold's story "The Old Die Rich" is built around the Compound Interest Time Travel Gambit, but with an unpleasant twist for the travellers.
  • In the novel Replay by Ken Grimwood, the protagonist has a heart attack at 43, and wakes up in the body of his 18-year-old self. He uses his knowledge of the future to get rich, but gets bored with it.
  • In the novel The Man Who Folded Himself, the protagonist uses his time-travel belt to get rich, but gets bored with money and decides to mostly use time-travel for site seeing and screwing himself.
  • Many people try this in Time Scout. Usually they try to smuggle artwork to the present, or gamble downtime. And time tourism is booming.
  • In Up the Line, by Robert Silverberg, most of the major characters work for the Time Service. The protagonist and several other characters are Couriers, who take parties of tourists to sightsee historical events. One use for the hefty fees charged to the tourists is financing scholarly research via time travel.


Live Action TV

  • It's implied the Doctor did this with a lottery ticket which he gave to Donna in The End of Time. For an added dose of heartwarming, he got the coin to buy the ticket from the bride's dead father in the past, so that he could get her a wedding present.
    • A similar trick was apparently done[1] in School Reunion.
    • It also happened in City of Death, when the Monster of the Week was splintered throughout time. His 17th Century persona made Da Vinci whip up 6 more copies of the Mona Lisa with the intent of having his 20th century persona steal the one in the Louvre and then sell off all seven and make a huge profit.
    • Gets lampshaded in The Unicorn And The Wasp, when Donna accidentally mentions Miss Marple and Murder on the Orient Express to Agatha Christie years before she wrote them, and then adds, "Tell you what, copyright, Donna Noble, okay?"
    • The Eleventh Doctor increasingly likes to get rid of minor interfering characters by arranging for them to win the lottery, even on planets where there is no lottery.
  • Attempted in the early seasons of Goodnight Sweetheart but due to Status Quo Is God it doesn't work. A later attempt is more successful.
  • Attempted in the series Crime Traveller where it is foiled by the Timey-Wimey Ball.
  • An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation concerns a traveller from the 25th century who came back to see what the 24th century was like...except he was really from the 22nd century and had stolen the Time Machine he was using, so he could steal futuristic technology and bring it to the past (his present) where he would "invent" it.

 17822 was a very interesting year on Ferenginar. In that year alone, over twenty thousand Grand Nagi held office; the Ferengi Financial Exchange crashed 3152 times, while setting 12322 record highs; there were 41098 civil wars; an unknown number of Ferengi-incited interstellar wars (estimates are in the millions); and the Ferengi sun went nova at least one a week.

In other words, 17822 was the year Ferenginar discovered time travel.

    • Eventually a Ferengi named Twim decides to put a stop to the lunacy, does... something... with a time machine; and when the dust cleared, Twim was Grand Nagus and the penalty for Time Travel was death.
  • Lampshaded/subverted on Lost, in which Hurley goes back to the '70s and attempts to rewrite (or rather, write in the first place) Return of the Jedi when he goes back in time -- not to make money, but to improve it, because "Ewoks sucked, dude." He apparently has every intention of sending it to George Lucas.
  • In Early Edition, Gary supports himself by using tomorrow's newspaper to bet on the ponies.
  • Blackadder Back & Forth involves an unscrupulous man with a time machine. By the end he's King, his buddy is PM, he's married to the hottest woman in history, he has 98% approval, and had disbanded parliament.
  • In Life On Mars, Sam participates in sweepstakes for the 1973 Grand National. He uses his knowledge to make sure he can profit from Red Rum's win.
  • In the Stargate Atlantis episode "The Last Man", Sheppard tries to do this; while he's temporarily in the future, he asks hologram-Rodney if he remembers any Super Bowl winners from the 25 years after Sheppard left and before Rodney made the hologram. Unfortunately for him, Rodney "never was much of a sports fan"...
  • On Eureka, the Season 1 finale involves a time-travel paradox that, when resolved, leaves Carter and Henry the only people who remember it. In the second season premire, Carter points to out Henry that they now know all the sports results for the next four years, as well as what movie wil be good.
  • In Family Matters, Carl gives his past self information on the stock market and in the present day becomes fabulously wealthy. However in this time he and his wife never had kids, Carl has been just money hungry, and just before they go back to fix it his wife wanted a divorce.
  • Subverted in an early episode of Seven days. Frank attempts to use his knowledge of the future by betting on a basketball game he knew the outcome to only for the game to turn out differently than before. It turns out the very act of traveling back into the past creates a butterfly effect that causes a bunch of minor changes in the timeline, thus making any attempts to invoke this trope highly unreliable.
  • An episode of The Twilight Zone involved a camera that could take pictures of the future (you take a picture, but when it develops it shows the subject five minutes in the future). The people in the episode go to the racetrack and take pictures of the tote board, which would show the winners and who they should bet on.
    • Subverted in another episode. An aging tycoon makes a deal with the Devil to go back to when he was younger so he could use his knowledge of the future to gain his fortune sooner and greater than the first time around. Unfortunately he screws it all up and looses his wealth and he condemns himself to a life as a lowly janitor working for a tycoon who was the janitor he'd got his jollies abusing in the original time line.

Newspaper Comics

  • Calvin and Hobbes: The second time Calvin uses his time machine, he goes to the Jurassic to take pictures of real dinosaurs and sell them in the present.


Video Games

  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has an interesting take on this. You can "fix" the lottery by simply doing the exact same thing as before. This works because the Random Number Gods only wake up when you do something different, so you can buy a lotto ticket on the first day, >> to the last day to find the number, then go back in time. Once you've gone back in time, you can buy the next/last (see time paradox for explanation of that comment) winning number, >> to the third day, and by golly, you have the winning number. Rinse and Repeat until you max out the money.


Web Comics

  • Dave Strider of Homestuck uses his time travel powers to create several copies of himself from the future. They get dressed in various disguises and cooperate in a stock exchange, thus allowing Dave to make a killing.
    • There is one downside, though: Dave always has to make sure he's going to be his future selves, or else he will spawn an alternate timeline, and one of the rules of time travel in Homestuck is that if an alternate timeline self ever crosses into the alpha timeline, they're doomed to die.
  • In the "Instant Replay" arc of Schlock Mercenary Kevyn uses stock market information from the future to get several million credits and hire the mercenary company that was going to kill captain Tagon.
    • Similarly, his future self buys a lottery ticket once he's done saving the galaxy, and cheats on some races which gets the mob angry at him.
  • Doctor Cook from SSDD got on the Maytec board of directors after finding a PDA with stock quotes that fell through a time portal.
  • This is how Cassie Wells of Times Like This funds many of her time travels, and her time machine in the first place.
  • Jin of Wapsi Square uses her memory of previous times through a Groundhog Day Loop to make a killing in stocks.


Western Animation

  • On American Dad, Stan goes back in time to the 70s and drops a "Best of the 1970s" cassette there. The Roger of the past finds it and becomes a wealthy songwriter by "writing" the songs on the tape.
  • In one episode of The Tick, people from the far future have set up a hotel in prehistoric times, using Australopithecus as staff.
  • David Xanatos of Gargoyles made his fortune in this fashion with a Stable Time Loop. It's one of the reasons Xanatos Gambit is named after him.


Unsorted

  • In The Green Futures of Tycho, Tycho becomes hugely rich by paradoxically selling off future copies of his own time machine.
  • Conrad's Time Machine by Leo Frankowski uses this in multiple forms. First of all, the characters start out planning to use their new scientific discoveries for things like railroad tunnelling rather than time travel; and they do have many non-time-travel uses for the technology that is also useful for making a time machine. At one point, during the process of figuring out how to invent a really workable means of time travel, they seriously consider using time travel to steal from a bank vault, and get as far as figuring out the plan for how to do this. Fortunately, Jim Hasenpfeffer points out that it would make more sense just to use stock tips from future newspapers, and the characters get the money they need that way. And then, about halfway through the book, the characters are whisked away to a fabulously wealthy Mary Suetopia island paradise which was built by their own future selves, in which all of this wealth was generated by the practical applications of time travel.

Notes

  1. It was just plain weird how the school teacher the Doctor replaced won the lottery, she didn't even play. The winning ticket was pushed under her door at midnight
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