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If a thief steals an item to make money from it, which percent of the legal market value the thief typically gets?

For instance, if the thief steals a bike that costs $1000 new in the shop, how much money that thief typically makes from this operation?

Most likely it should be much less than $1000, because why someone would buy a used item from the questionable sources for the same price. Also, if a thief would use some black market handler, that handler also needs to earn.

If this differs a lot for different goods, please address the differences.

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  • $\begingroup$ A thief once took the time and effort to remove the brake from my locked bike - that was about 1% of the value of the bike. I do not think that there is a real border, more like a value/effort function that only approaches zero, but never gets there... $\endgroup$ – loonquawl Aug 22 '18 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ For the simplicity let's assume that the item is expected to be sold as a whole and not for parts. Each part is reusable as a part so the question would not make sense in such a context. $\endgroup$ – h22 Aug 22 '18 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ If I steal a bike that costs $ 1000 new in the shop, I cannot expect to sell a used stolen bike for the same price. If I bring it to some black handler of the stolen goods, probably the handler will pay significantly less. If now some part is missing that costs on the market above that the handler wold pay for the complete bike, makes no economical sense to steal it, unless for parts but the value "in parts" may be much less as only "generic enough" parts can be easily sold. Model specific parts, or parts that normally last the life of the bike, may not find buyers. $\endgroup$ – h22 Aug 23 '18 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ Why is it that you assume the 'handler' would only be able to acquire a stolen A, and not also a stolen B (both for, say, 10% their market value)? ---- also, why is having a 2500 dollar bike for the price of [stealing + 600 dollar] considered a zero-sum by you? $\endgroup$ – loonquawl Aug 23 '18 at 7:07
  • $\begingroup$ I see does not look clear enough. I rewrote the question now. $\endgroup$ – h22 Aug 23 '18 at 7:56
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I would even say, you might be able to make more profit on the black market, and sell it for more than the market price. the fact that you do not pay any taxes on the black market gives you the opportunity to make profit in the range of what the tax would be.

Surely there are cases where that might differ. Depending on supply and demand. Still i think it is not far fetched to assume, you can sometimes make a lot more money by selling something on the black market. Whether it is stolen or not.


Most likely it should be much less than $1000, because why someone would buy a used item from the questionable sources for the same price.

That would then depend on the "kind" of black market. Surely there are black markets considered "safe" und "trustworthy" in the eyes of some dealers and thieves.


Also, if a thief would use some black market handler, that handler also needs to earn.

Here you could split the profit made due to a lack of taxes and national regulations between all the people involved in that trading process.

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  • $\begingroup$ The fact that taxes aren't paid will rather lower the price than rise the profits. $\endgroup$ – Luís Henrique Aug 24 '18 at 21:52
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The answer is impossible as it is, because, as you suspect, this differs a lot for different goods.

Some goods can be reduced to their substance. If I steal the Jules Rimet Cup, I can melt it down, and sell the gold. I will waste the artistic labour that was imparted on it, but basically I will be able to sell its remains for the market price of gold. Being gold a very valuable material, this probably means most of the market price it would sell for in an auction. If it was made of tin, however, even though I could still melt it, it wouldn't be a good deal, because the market price of tin is quite low. In this case, the artistic labour would be worth much more than the tin, so melting it would destroy most of the value. In such a case, the cost of the theft might be more than the perspective price of the stolen item.

In such cases - which is the case of most works of art -, the piece would have to be sold as it is, and then the problem would be finding prospective buyers. Who would buy a decorative item that cannot be displayed publicly? There certain are a few collectionists out there that would pay for that, but they are very few, and contacting them would probably be very difficult, at least for your average thief. And so, such thefts are most probably done at the instigation of the 'buyer', who would probably be more accurately described as an employer. In this case, the price will resemble more a (very high) wage. A given price is fixed by the instigator, and thieves will accept it, or not, according to some cost/benefit analysis.

In still other cases, such as old but not remarkable automobiles, the reducing of the stolen part to its constitutive parts might actually add value. Possibly the start motor of a 1970 VW beetle is more valuable as a separate item than as part of the original car - especially when those items are no longer made by the original manufacturer, and yet there is still demand for them. In that case, the disassembler will be able to sell the piece at, or near at, its market value, making him able to pay the thief a considerable part of such value. But what part, this is difficult to assert, except perhaps by studying police records of solved car thefts.

Yet other goods considerably lose value if they are broken down. A gem's value, for instance, grows exponentially with its size; cutting a diamond into two smaller ones results in two gems that are each worth much less than the original diamond. So there is a trade-off here, between the remarkability of the diamond and its sellability. If the stolen gem is huge, and consequently remarkable, it probably can only be sold in the same conditions as a work of art: very few buyers, who will rather instigate the theft than wait for an occasional thief to steal the item. Otherwise it has to be cut into pieces, greatly reducing its value; so the cutter will be only able to make a small fraction of the price of the original gem, and consequently the thief will be very underpaid (moreso considering that the cutter, in such a case, will have to work quite a lot). If the gem is small and unremarkable, it might be sold as a whole, at near its market price (or perhaps even taken to the pawn shop).

So, sorry if this is a quite incomplete answer, but I hope I have at least helped clarify why it varies a lot, and explain a few variables for such variation.

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