We tend to think of the black market as a dangerous place, full of dangerous people, selling dangerous things: drugs, guns, human beings, and rip-off designer handbags. It’s scary, and not to be entered into lightly. Once you go black market, it’s hard to ever get fully out again.
Or so we are told. If you’ve ever purchased “real fake” designer clothes or bags (most likely from a back alley vendor somewhere in Asia), then you’ve already made use of the black market. It’s not so horrible after all. Sure, there might be some questionable labeling involved (I once purchased a pack of Galvin Kleen boxers in Beijing), but the price is right and, for the most part, they look like the real deal… at least from a distance. You get a “quality” product for a decent price. Everyone wins. Everyone’s happy.
Well, everyone except Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren, and Louis Vuitton, and Chanel, and Gucci, and anyone else who has their brand, logo, style, or products ripped off. They’re decidedly unhappy.
So, there’s the dark black market (drugs, guns, people, organs) and the light grey market (fake t-shirts, underwear, jeans, and purses). Stay away from the former, and “stay away” from the latter (I am legally obligated to say that).
But what else is out there, ready to be purchased if you have the cold, hard cash? Everything and anything. Literally – and not just in the accepted modern sense of the word. If there’s demand for something either illegal, difficult to procure, or even just popular, then there’s likely a black market operating already.
Check out these wildly weird and wonderful black market trends around the world.
1. Organic Food
You wouldn’t think it, but organic and/or raw (as in unpasteurized) food products are a burgeoning black market in North America. There are a lot of people that only want natural, pesticide and chemical-free products to grace their plates and glasses. Fair enough. The problem, though, is that regulating government bodies (like the FDA) are often either slow to approve said products or decide to ban them completely for safety reasons. What’s a granola-munching hipster to do? Turn to the organic black market, of course.
Unpasteurized milk (many believe it’s better for us), free range and organic chickens that are slaughtered the traditional way, raw almonds (the FDA requires almonds be pasteurized and chemically treated to prevent salmonella), and more are out there for the taking. You just have to know where to look. Plenty of organic farmers are willing to bend – if not outright break – the laws surrounding their products. They want to sell. You want to buy. Healthy and safety be damned! Truthfully, many of the bans and requirements are a bit silly.
2. Maple Syrup
Fine Dining Lovers
Only in Canada, you might say. That may be true, but maple syrup is big, big business. Canada produces roughly 93% of the world’s maple syrup, according to a Érablière du Lac Galette report, and 85% of that comes from the province of Quebec alone (contributing $750 million annually to the economy there). Canadian syrup is the Dom Pérignon of the maple crowd, and it attracts a premium price.
Where there is value and demand, there will be a black market. Even for maple syrup – that sweet, sticky, delicious confection of the gods. Just how much is it worth? Plenty. And it’s a high-stakes game that everyone takes very seriously.
The Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve facility in Quebec (yes, that’s an actual place) has tall fences, high-tech alarms and video surveillance, and over 18 million (and sometimes as much as 33 million) kilograms of the sticky stuff stored in nearly 64,000 barrels. That’s a tempting target when you consider that oil currently sells for about $50 per barrel while maple syrup can go for $1,800. Do the math. Big, big bucks.
In fact, four men and a woman managed to steal almost 10,000 barrels in 2012, with a “street” value of over $18 million. To date, only about 70% of it has been recovered.
Laugh all you want, but the maple syrup black market is thriving.
3. Sperm, Eggs, and Breast Milk
This one is admittedly kind of gross. The black market for both human and animal sperm and eggs, as well as human breast milk, is huge.
Its value is hard to estimate, but some sources claim a single woman pumping and selling her breast milk can easily make $20,000. That’s not enough to retire on, but it’s a nice little bonus, no? Unfortunately for new mothers with a little extra to spare, it’s a grey area that often requires going the black market route. But who is buying? New parents that either can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, adults who believe it helps with their immune system, and quite possibly fetishists. The regulations are vague at best, and it’s definitely a buyer beware situation if you’re not going through a “milk bank” (although even those can be a bit shifty). Selling it for profit (prices can range from $1/oz. to 10 or 20 times that) does carry a bit of a stigma, though.
Human sperm and eggs are illegal commodities in many places like Canada. You can donate, but you can’t sell. There’s always demand for high-quality sperm and eggs, so that of course means a black market exists. Vendors seek out highly attractive and/or successful donors, promise them a huge payday, and then broker the deal with someone looking to buy. But it’s not limited to humans. Nope. There is a large black market that deals in animal sperm (primarily prize bulls) and eggs (proprietary beef cattle, among other species).
So, if you’re in the market for the sperm of a blonde, blue-eyed poet, lacrosse player, and successful business owner, you can probably find it.
4. Official Uniforms
Everyone loves a man or a woman in uniform. It just looks great, and it’s a popular theme in sexual roleplaying fantasies: police, military, flight attendant, nurse, firefighter, you name it. You could go online and find a party shop or something similar that will sell you a glorified Halloween costume, but that’s not what many people want. They want real. They want official. A costume looks like a costume, and that kills the fantasy for some. But if you’re not an actual police officer, nurse, or flight attendant, just where do you turn for an official uniform?
Say it with me: black market. Yes, there is a uniform black market out there to satisfy your every sexual whim. The uniforms are often stolen, marked for destruction but “saved” or sold by actual professionals in that industry. Again, where there’s demand, it’s possible. When Japan Airlines filed for bankruptcy, it found its flight attendant uniforms showing up on the black market, apparently selling for up to $16,000. Another Japanese airline, All Nippon Airways, even went so far as to sew GPS trackers in their attendant uniforms to fight the trend. Japanese men, it would seem, really love flight attendants. Hey… no judgment.
If you want an authentic doctor’s uniform to impress your girlfriend, it can happen. You just need the cash.
There’s a black market for teeth whiteners (the US and Canada place limits on the amount of peroxide that other countries don’t have), human hair (human hair extensions can sell for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars), baby formula, exotic animals, and even Twinkies (when Hostess announced it was folding, concerned aficionados were paying up to $10,000 for a box of the things). Cigarettes can be sold for much cheaper when done under the table, as the vendor doesn’t have to tack on the astronomical state or provincial taxes. Hell, even LEGO bricks can and do sell behind closed doors and in dark alleys. Collector sets are worth big money, according to Inquisitr. Or how about the illegal but highly prized Casu Marza? It’s a cheese made from sheep’s milk… and live maggots.
Humans, it would seem, will buy virtually anything. And if that item isn’t legal or allowed, we’ll still find a way. Some estimate the black market to account for $10 trillion each year, making it the second largest market in the world. That’s a lot of uniforms and sperm.
Some see black markets as providing a service; others consider it ethically and morally wrong, if not outright illegal. It does depend on the product or item, of course. One thing everyone can agree on, though, is that black markets aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Have you ever purchased something on the black market? Where and what did you buy? Leave your answers in the comments section below!