This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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I had an e-mail this morning from Asia. The sender wanted to know if I was interested in trading for coins he had. The images he sent looked like fakes to me.
Now thanks to spam e-mails like this the fakes come right to my desk. I don’t have to search online auctions anymore. Next step I imagine is every member of the American Numismatic Association getting a similar e-mail solicitation.
I remember when reproductions were novel, even neat.
At the Baltimore ANA convention in 2003, Legend Numismatics arranged a very nice cocktail reception where the attendees could view the then four known 1913 Liberty Head nickels. (The fifth one turned up later during the show).
One of the party favors was a 1913 nickel deeply embedded in Lucite plastic. It was a clever gift. It is a great memento.
But how naive I was then. Nowadays I could probably order the 1913 Liberty nickel by the thousands from China, perhaps even from the spam sender.
Think of the new business opportunities for producers of coin albums. When I was a child, the Liberty Head nickel album had a helpful cardboard plug where the 1913 would be placed. This was to let me and everyone else know that I would not be finding one in change.
Today, thanks to the helpful and friendly counterfeiters in China, there is no need for a plug. A nice copy of the coin could be inserted where the plug used to be.
Why stop there? Album sellers could put Chinese fakes into every hole and sell a complete set. There doesn’t seem to be anything stopping them. Just allow four to six weeks for delivery.
This week we have news of a record sale price of nearly $8 million for a 1794 silver dollar on the front page.
Perhaps I should order one of those from China, too. After all, why should only one person (or foundation) get to own such a beautiful coin?
Next, I think I will order an 1804 dollar. Perhaps I should ask for all three versions.
I was frustrated as kid when I couldn’t find a 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent in change. Mark that one down, too.
How about a 1955 doubled-die Lincoln cent to go with it? Whoops. Can’t do that. Someone might go to jail.
Why? Chinese law prohibits reproduction of coins from 1949 on. What’s special about that date? That’s when the People’s Republic was founded.
Perhaps the U.S. Congress should declare all U.S. coins older than 1949 as cultural patrimony; no exports or imports allowed. Customs then would be as vigilant about them as it is about any attempt to import a common Roman denarius from Italy. That might stop the present wave of Chinese fakes. Certainly customs doesn’t seem to want to act against counterfeits, or the business fraud in selling them.
So let’s call American coins patrimony or any other faddish term we can come up with to get the federal government to do its job of protecting us from counterfeiting. Its either that or hitting the “send” key on my order to China.