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David Klein, who calls himself “a real-life Candyman” and the founder of Jelly Belly jelly beans, plans to host a series of scavenger hunts with Gold Tickets and a Willy Wonka-like premise – a chance to win the key to a candy factory.

To enter, be prepared to pay $49.98 for a spot in a state hunt where Klein and “his partner have started going across the USA hiding gold style tickets in the form of necklaces,” according to a news release posted under the business name Tricky Treasures, which is described as “an interactive treasure hunting experience in North America.” 

Registration has begun at and each state hunt is limited to 1,000 participants. The California hunt is sold out, according to posts in a growing Facebook group associated with Klein and Gold Ticket and the contest’s YouTube channel.

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The initial entry is to get a riddle for a “treasure valued at $5,000.” States launch the hunts on different days with several states saying “coming soon.”

“You will be looking for a Gold Ticket in the form of a necklace with a tag that includes a

code you need to use to verify your find. Winners will receive $5,000,” the “how to play” portion of the website says. “Gold Ticket codes must be submitted to [email protected] with the location it was found.”

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According to the release, anyone who joins at least one treasure hunt will be eligible to search for the “ultimate treasure,” the key to one of Klein’s candy factories and an all-expenses paid trip and education to a candy-making university.

“With The Gold Ticket treasure hunt, our goal is to get people out and about with their families,” Klein said in the release. “Grandma and Grandpa can even join with the kids and grandkids. Take videos of your treasure hunt experiences for possible inclusion in our upcoming series.”

The candy factory up for grabs is not the Jelly Belly Candy Company, which Klein has not been a part of since 1980 when the company acquired the trademark.

“Due to confusion in the marketplace, Jelly Belly Candy Company would like to take this opportunity to clear up the misconception that it is involved with a contest that purportedly offers a candy factory as its grand prize,” Jelly Belly said in a statement to USA TODAY Tuesday. “Jelly Belly Candy Company, formerly known as Herman Goelitz Candy Company, has candy making roots back to 1869. It was founded by brothers Gustav and Albert Goelitz and remains family owned and operated today.”

Jelly Belly said Klein as “an independent third party, came up with the name ‘Jelly Belly’ and other novel marketing ideas.”

In 2019, Klein launched a line of jelly beans infused with the cannabis-derived compound cannabidiol under the company Spectrum Confections. The candy factory that is part of the contest is for Klein’s Candyman Kitchens in Florida. 

According to the terms and conditions posted on the hunt website, for each Treasure Hunt Game, “Tricky Treasures will provide an answer form for that game that players will send their answer to when enough tickets have been sold or the final answer can be submitted.”

“Hunts are designed to provide you with friendly competition with other participants. By purchasing a Treasure Hunt Game ticket, you are purchasing the experience of a treasure hunt game and an opportunity to use your thinking skills to decode clues and hints, that may lead to the answer to the Treasure Hunt Game,” the website says. “Winners are responsible for all local, state and federal income taxes.” 

On the Gold Ticket Facebook group, some have asked if the hunt was a scam, which Klein addressed in a post. 

“We started this to have fun and to bring excitement to a world that is so troubled..So many people have responded favorably to what we are doing,” Klein wrote Tuesday. “Unfortunately there have been a few haters that are attempting to take away the fun..I believe in freedom of speech but to be called a scam is so wrong…We will be removing members whose only intent is to take away any joy that this is giving everyone.”

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Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

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