The numismatic community is ready to crack down on counterfeiters.
It is rallying behind legislation introduced June 20 in Congress that would expand provisions of the Hobby Protection Act to make it illegal to assist anyone who violates the act.
“We’re hoping to pick up 100 co-sponsors of H.R. 5977 and pass it by the end of the year so it can go into law and give us the ability to go after the importers, distributors and sellers,” said coin dealer Barry Stuppler of Stuppler & Company, Woodland Hills, Calif.
He’d also like to see some people prosecuted so folks realize that this is a serious crime.
“Throw a couple of these guys in jail for a few years and they’ll think twice about selling counterfeit coins,” Stuppler said.
The time for action is now, said Scott Cordry, a world coin dealer in San Diego.
“We need to organize the world against counterfeits,” Cordry said.
In the United States, Cordry sees a lot of counterfeits that are not high end, but in the $20 to $100 range. Some are slabbed, he said, and some are in counterfeit slabs.
And sometimes the coin is authentic but the insert that describes the coin and states its grade is counterfeit, giving the coin a higher grade than it deserves.
“There are many different ways to sell a counterfeit coin or to try to get a higher price with a counterfeit insert or slab,” Cordry said.
Stuppler, who is president of the California Coin & Bullion Merchants Association, said not a week goes by that he doesn’t hear about someone who thought they got a real deal on a rare coin at a swap meet, carnival or some other public event.
“A guy will walk around with a price guide and say, ‘I just need a couple hundred bucks for this coin so I can get my car started,’” Stuppler said. “This is happening nationwide on a daily basis.”
But then the buyer takes that rare coin to a dealer only to find out that it’s a counterfeit and they’re devastated, Stuppler said.
It has helped that eBay has cracked down on copies and replicas, no longer allowing them to be sold, Stuppler said.
Cordry said he sees two types of counterfeiting.
There are the cheap items that are usually poor imitations sold in tourist shops around the world. They were never meant to take anyone for a lot of money, he said.
But then there are the counterfeit coins made for actually fooling collectors.
“A lot more care is taken in making those and those are the ones that are far more dangerous,” he said.
The majority of counterfeit coins are coming from the Far East, he said, areas like China, Malaysia and Indonesia.
“That seems to be where the flow of numismatic counterfeits is coming from now,” he said. “It used to be from the Middle East.”
The sophisticated counterfeits are only starting to make their way into the market, Cordry said, which makes this the time for the government or big numismatic firms to fund an agency that has the machinery and technical expertise to stay one step ahead of the counterfeiters, Cordry said.
“What eventually can kill the coin business is if people can’t tell that what they’re buying is real,” Cordry said. “If they don’t have the confidence that what they are buying is absolutely authentic, they will stop buying.”
Stuppler agreed it’s time to get tough.
“If we can give the enforcement to customs and the Secret Service and they make some prosecutions and serious time is served, it will send a message,” Stuppler said.
H.R. 5977 has received the backing of the Industry Council for Tangible Assets and the Coalition for Equitable Regulation & Taxation.