The First Historical Example Of A Pyramid Scheme…

Was a scam carried out by the government of France? Oops!

The first famous pyramid scheme occurred in the early eighteenth century in France. What you’re about to read goes down as one of the greatest deceptions in history.


Near the end of King Louis’ XIV reign (1643 to 1715) the economy of France was on a steep  decline. The country was 3 billion livres in debt. Officials debated whether the government should just declare bankruptcy and start from scratch, but the politicians of the time feared revolution and looked instead for a more expedient solution.

Their first attempt to remedy the problem was to devalue the currency through
recoinage (the making of new coins). New gold and silver coins were issued
weighing 20% less than coins already in circulation but with the same face
value, and the public was ordered by law to make the exchange. The government
planned to use the extra gold and silver they saved from the new coins to pay
off the nation’s debt.


But the people of France weren’t to be fooled by devalued coins. They refused to exchange their gold and silver for currency that was intrinsically less valuable. This foiled scheme greatly discredited the government of France and worsened the economic depression.

After King Louis’ XIV death, the Regent Duc d’Orleans appointed Scottish economist John Law as Controller General of France.. (A Regent is someone who rules a country temporarily due to the absence of a Monarch.) Together the Regent and Law formulated a brilliant scheme to pay off the national debt.


First, the Regent of France authorized Law to establish a central bank under the name of Law and Company. (A central bank is a nation’s principal monetary authority: in the United States it’s known as the Federal Reserve, while in the United Kingdom it’s called the Bank of England.)

Second, the Regent authorized Law’s bank to issue bank notes (paper money)
INSTEAD of real gold and silver coins and decreed that the paper money would
be accepted for the payment of taxes. This gave Law and his bank notes a measure
of credibility.

Third, Law knew he had to gain public confidence in his bank notes for the
entire scheme to work. He immediately announced that all notes from his bank
were payable in coin, meaning that his bank notes could be exchanged for their
face value in gold or silver. This gave the appearance that the paper money was the same value of the gold coin! This was perhaps the greatest deception of the 18th century.

of the discomfort of carrying coins around in their pocket, people preferred
to carry the paper currency. Therefore, the public would deposit their gold
and silver into the bank in exchange for a piece of paper. This practice is
just as common today – people put their coins in a jar because the coins are
too heavy to carry around. Once the jar gets full, they take it to the bank
(or even the local grocery store) and cash in their coins for paper money.

The entire scheme required people to believe in the credibility of Law’s bank
and his ability to redeem his notes in coins. Once that belief was established,
the paper money was literally “as good as gold.”

As more and more people cashed in their gold in exchange for paper, the bank’s
vault filled with gold.

Now I need to explain how banking began in order to complete this explanation.

In the early days, there was no such thing as credit. If you wanted to buy
something, you carried your gold or silver coins to the store and paid in coin.
People didn’t want to have their coins in their home or on their person when
traveling for fear of being robbed, so they would keep their coins in a bank’s
vault. As more and more people put their coins in banks, the bank’s vault would
fill up.

Banks recognized that at no time did EVERYONE pull ALL their gold out of the
bank simultaneously, so they loaned out depositors’ gold for short periods
of time. This was the birth of “credit & loans.”

John Law learned of “credit & loans” working in his father’s bank. Now,
for the first time we have “credit” as
a financial tool.

This is where the pyramid concept comes into play. Because of my divergence
into banking and credit, let me recap to ensure you’re still following all
of this…

The country of France wanted to pay its debt through recoinage, which failed.
Economist John Law, a man with extensive banking experience, encouraged citizens
to deposit their gold and silver in his bank in exchange for paper money. The
government added credibility to the paper money by declaring Law’s bank a central
bank and accepting the paper money as payment for tax debts..

The scheme worked… for a while.

The Law and Company’s bank received enormous sums of gold to store in its
vault. With all that gold in the vault the bank could issue loans…but the
loans would be made in paper money rather than in coin. This was the
magician’s act.
real product, gold and silver, vanished and the fake product, paper money,
was now in the spotlight. This seems a lot like current times, doesn’t it?


Regent made Law’s bank a publicly-traded company and declared it the Royal
Bank of France. Now people could buy stock in the government’s bank as well
as receive credit in the form of bank loans. Over the course of a few years,
the bank issued over one billion livres in paper currency to the public.

Keep in mind that all of these paper loans and paper stocks were based on
the real product of gold and silver coins in the vault. You see, once the magician
got you to believe that the paper was as good as gold, he didn’t need to show
you the gold any more.

Businesses rushed to the Royal Bank of France to secure loans, with which
they expanded commerce both at home and abroad. Foreign countries could not
cash the paper money from France, so they required payment in gold and silver.
Slowly but surely, the gold and silver that backed the paper-money loans began
to drain out of France and into other countries. With the bank issuing so many
loans, the people of France began to suspect that the gold and silver backing
their paper money was disappearing. Depositors quietly began converting their
paper money to coins and transporting the coins to foreign banks.

By 1720 the scarcity of coin began to increase. The vaults, once filled with
gold and silver, were becoming empty, but the paper money was still being loaned
out. In an effort to stop people from converting their paper money
into gold and silver coins
the government depreciated the coin’s value to 10% below the paper, and the
bank continued to limit the amount of coins any one person could receive. The
limit was 100 livres in gold and 10 livres in silver. The government was now
claiming that gold and silver was worth less than the paper!

In February of 1720 John Law made a fatal error. At his suggestion to the
Regent, a decree was issued forbidding anyone to hold more than 500 livres
in coin and prohibiting people from buying up precious stones, jewelry, silver
settings, and so forth. The penalty was a heavy fine and confiscation of the
holdings. The government was desperate to hold onto the gold and silver that
backed the currency loaned out and sold as stock. This enraged the public.

In May of 1720 the bank was out of gold and silver in the vaults and was forced
to stop making payments in coin. The bubble burst and the pyramid collapsed.

John Law, once a national hero, became the scapegoat for the entire crisis.
The government of France blamed him for the whole debacle and he was nearly
murdered by angry crowds.

To prevent another such crisis, most countries adopted the gold standard and
required that banks have sufficient gold to back the paper currency they lent

However, today no well-established currencies (US Dollar, Pound, Yen,
etc.) are backed by gold or any other real product.
worth is based on “belief.” The governments can – and do – create money out
of thin air by simply printing more. The governments can – and do – devalue
their currency at will. This is no different then the famous financial scam
you’ve just read about.


What’s the point is sharing this with you?

I want to show you that pyramid
schemes have nothing to do with MLM.

A scam is a scam because the person perpetrating it is trying to trick someone.
In what you just read, the government was trying to trick the people into believing
that paper money was the same as gold. The government’s intention was to create
money with no production or product.

The basis of legitimate business is products consumed by customers that make
their lives better. If you understand this at its fundamental level, you will
never fall victim to a pyramid scheme because you can recognize it for what
it is.

Tim Sales built an MLM business with an income of over $150,000 per month with 2,400+ new distributors joining per month. He now creates MLM training tools and sales aids for everyone in network marketing. To discover Tims' proven network marketing ideas and strategies that will grow your MLM business faster, visit

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  1. Jennifer Valencia (December 28th, 2007 at 7:05 am)

    I like this article! Never knew this before…pretty interesting to read.

  2. Patti Roney (December 28th, 2007 at 10:28 am)

    It’s about time we understand this article and learn the value of true MLM without the pyramid concern! Of course, it is good to be knowledgable and watchful, but learn the obvious differences! Thank you!

  3. Lesa in Wisconsin (December 28th, 2007 at 4:13 pm)

    This is a very interesting article,another sad point made, the working class people have always and always will be, the scapegoats of the politicians.

  4. Juan Alvaro Cepeda (December 29th, 2007 at 5:18 am)

    If you like this article , you may want to read the book “The Creature from Jekyll Island” A Second Look at the Federal Reserve, written by G. Edward Griffin.

  5. Gerda van der Elst (December 29th, 2007 at 6:25 am)

    Thank you for this article. I allways knew that the pyramide sceem was something bad, but no one could ever explain me, WHY!. Now I understand.

  6. Gerda van der Elst (December 29th, 2007 at 6:28 am)

    Thank you for this article. I allways knew that the pyramide sceem was bad, but no one could ever explain me,WHY!. Now I do understand.

  7. Joe Kresser (December 29th, 2007 at 10:45 am)

    Good history lesson. As we all know history repeats it’s self. With education from sites like this people may find a way to gain enough knowledge to at leat have the ability to protect themselves. Joe K

  8. Steve Stearns (December 29th, 2007 at 11:27 am)

    The Government part is always a bit scary. Thanks for helping folks see the difference between a scam and a real business.

  9. Mary Jo Leonard (December 29th, 2007 at 3:05 pm)

    Thank you, Tim,
    You are the voice of reason in a storm of mis-information. I can see a lot of value in the new web site. I am sure I will be sending people here for solid, substantiated information.

  10. Carol Smith (December 29th, 2007 at 8:55 pm)

    Very interesting background. Its nice to see the air cleared, even if only briefly, with facts and solid information.

  11. Kon Hofstetter, Sydney (December 30th, 2007 at 2:14 pm)

    How interesting! A government as the instigator of the first pyramid scam…

  12. Valencia Burton (January 2nd, 2008 at 6:26 pm)

    Well, now we know!
    Thank you Tim!

  13. Gavin Chapman (January 3rd, 2008 at 5:50 am)

    Fascinating! Illuminatingly so.

  14. Shirley K., California (January 3rd, 2008 at 7:22 pm)

    Verrrry interesting stuff. I appreciate your historical look at financial “goings on”.

  15. Andreas Bodin (January 3rd, 2008 at 11:57 pm)

    Thank you Tim for sharing this information in a very “simple” way so it is clear to understand.

  16. Cass Osborn (January 4th, 2008 at 1:01 pm)

    We will be sending eveybody to this website for information and education. We have already linked it to our website so it can be accesed at a click. Thank you for a great service to the industry!

  17. Ulf Paxby. Sweden (January 6th, 2008 at 1:20 am)

    I will be sending eveybody to this website for information and education. I have already linked it to my website. Thank you for a great service to netmarketing!

  18. Patty Jones (January 7th, 2008 at 8:30 am)

    Thank you Tim.

  19. Kit G (January 8th, 2008 at 5:13 am)

    Great history lesson, Tim. Just proves that a scam is a scam whether it is instigated by a government, by a company, or an individual. We all need to be aware and business savvy enough to avoid any project, investment, or
    company that uses deception in their marketing. MLM industry
    is grateful for your contributions.

  20. Hamid Mat Sain (January 15th, 2008 at 10:10 pm)

    Excellent research into history and world of business

  21. Chuck P., Florida (January 16th, 2008 at 10:32 am)

    Governments seem to be exempt from the golden rule.

  22. Rolf Hefti (January 20th, 2008 at 11:10 pm)

    Kind of ironic how lots of people look at MLM like it’s per se an illegal operation when probably most of those people either engage in lotteries and gambling (which are true scams!), and/or believe in social security (another scam) and the current money system (yet another scam) “approved” by the US government.

  23. George (January 26th, 2008 at 9:18 am)

    The Bank of France reminds me of the US Federal Reserve. However, many people may not know that the Reserve is a private entity that is not connected per se with the Federal government and that it’s function is to help maintain the stability, value and ‘belief’ in the greenback.

    I thouroughly enjoyed the history lesson. I am a new member and believe this is the start of a beautiful friendship. Thanks

  24. Patrick Hilliard (April 1st, 2008 at 1:48 pm)

    Very informative article. The more things change the more they stay the same!

  25. Patrick Hilliard (April 1st, 2008 at 1:53 pm)

    Very informative article. This provides relevance to the saying, “The more things change the more they stay the same!” Thanks for all you do.

  26. rose hantos (April 10th, 2008 at 4:12 am)

    Oh Tim Sales you are exquisite and eloquent in your communication skills. Thank you

  27. willie shonga (June 1st, 2008 at 5:02 pm)

    remember every organisation or company is led by one or more individual who are trusted to bring success.lets look at some of the sports clubs they are owned by individuals who control them for life,but the same people use different people if not players every season by inticing them in signing contracts based on perfomance,but the bottom line is they are promised huge sums of money thats even before walking into the field of play as well,so that means they have to get into the JUNGLE first.

  28. Karen Harris (July 4th, 2008 at 6:46 pm)

    Another great explanation, as usual, Tim!
    And your discussion of modern currency systems is a frightening, but powerful example of the power of “belief”.

  29. Linda (July 7th, 2008 at 7:48 am)

    We do have a fiat monetary system. This article helped to have pieces of my in debt study of the banking system of the world fall more fully into place. Also, to see more clearly what America fell prey to from the beginning of her existence.

    This article helps my confidence in explaining MLM’s ethical procedures.

    Thank you so much for more insight.

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  31. Jarman Bryant (July 30th, 2008 at 12:57 pm)

    Great info. It’s amazing, when you think something is to complicated to understand and find the truth is always simple and easy to understand.

  32. Gary Robbins (August 26th, 2008 at 2:10 pm)

    Great explanation!

  33. Simon Koh (November 18th, 2008 at 6:25 am)

    I had always suspected governments are not the cleanest of authorities as perceived by the public. Never trust politicians and businessmen for their face value. I find this article a great revelation and a turning point in the way I share MLM with anyone. Thanks for your priceless article & God Bless…

  34. Tom Doiron (December 6th, 2008 at 6:41 pm)


    Debt as money is the root cause for the USA’s economic crisis. When the Federal Reserve took us off the gold standard back in the 1970’s; the stage was set for what we see today.

    Thank you for taking your time to research and present this to us.

  35. Dave Thompson (March 23rd, 2009 at 8:14 pm)


    I’m sure you know that the Federal Reserve is actually a private corporation and the biggest scam ever foisted upon the American citizenry! The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was the day America was robbed of much liberty. Anyone who dobuts this should read “The Creature from Jekyll Island” by G. Edward Griffin for the truth about the Federal Reserve and the I.R.S. that control America today!

    Dave Thompson
    Nashville, TN

  36. Isabella (August 17th, 2009 at 2:32 pm)

    I bought a book on how to begin a MLM business, the book was more a “motivator tool” rather a specific learning tool – this site really shows how and why… the do and don’ts… and in a very simple way!!!! Great!!!

  37. Anthony (September 8th, 2009 at 7:49 pm)

    Tim is Great! The minute I get a new person or prospect who has doubts of our industry, I send them links to Tim’s videos. The biggest sceptic can not argue, he brings valid points and facts to the table. He makes my job a lot easier. Thank you Tim. Come join another winning team Tim =)

    Anthony Rivera
    Miami, FL

  38. PSatyanarayana (October 16th, 2009 at 6:07 am)

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  39. PSatyanarayana (October 16th, 2009 at 6:09 am)

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  40. SP Singh (February 8th, 2011 at 9:34 pm)

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  41. mohd (May 27th, 2011 at 5:26 am)

    thanks for the information ,glad to read this ….(Will share to others )

    (malaysia fans)

  42. shei (August 23rd, 2011 at 4:34 am)

    this is what not a simple information, this is education! THANKS!

  43. Viv (August 24th, 2011 at 7:40 pm)

    I get this comment “sounds like a pyramid to me” and I feel as though whenever I explain that my business actually has goods and services that people need, use and want they simply switch off anyhow…which tells me you cannot say the right thing to the wrong person anyhow!

  44. Shirley (February 18th, 2012 at 11:28 pm)

    Wow Tim, this was great information and at the same time great education. Thanks a lot!

  45. L K Jayasinghe (May 13th, 2012 at 11:05 pm)

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  46. Shawn Ghani (January 18th, 2013 at 8:41 am)

    If I had only come across this great information in my younger years who knows where I would be now. But it has been said that “whenever you catch the fish, it is fresh”.
    Thank you for this information Tim. I am reading and learning about everyhting in your website.

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