How big a threat are counterfeits in the coin market today?
Everybody has their own story. Most agree it is a growing threat. But we don't know for sure.
That is why the Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force of the Industry Council for Tangible Assets conducted a survey of major dealers in June.
Interpreting results and then acting will be the challenge.
The survey obtained responses from 363 dealers.
That number might seem small, but these are veteran dealers.
Over half said they have been in the field for over 30 years.
This isn’t their first rodeo, as the saying goes.
However, there was no weighting.
A dealer doing a billion dollars a year in sales had the same input as a vest pocket dealer doing just a few thousand dollars.
It pays to keep this in mind for figures like the following:
Fully 20 percent of the respondents said they were never offered a fake.
Another 68.6 percent said they were offered fakes only sporadically.
If I stopped reporting here, you might be forgiven for thinking that counterfeits aren’t much of a problem.
Even if I add in the fact that 1.9 percent of respondents said they are offered fakes daily, it does not seem like much.
But if these are the high-volume buyers and sellers, it takes on a different light.
Another 9.2 percent say they are offered fakes two or three times a week.
It also pays to remember that just 36.1 percent of respondents actually has a shop or storefront.
I would think they would get more fakes offered to them as every flea market scavenger rushes there to cash in their newly obtained “treasures.”
The survey results show just how interconnected collector coins are with the bullion market.
Of the respondents, 94.7 percent dealt in rare coins and 76.8 percent dealt with bullion items.
Obviously, most are doing both.
This breakdown might explain why 74.6 percent of respondents were offered fake classic American coins.
Some 44.9 percent were offered fake gold bullion coins, and 44.2 percent were offered fake silver bullion coins.
So, do these figures indicate a more serious counterfeiting problem?
I think they do.
These numbers make quite a contrast to the 20 percent who say they have never been offered a fake.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force is to be commended for taking this step to define the counterfeiting problem.
We can be sure counterfeits will not go away unless everyone in numismatics gets behind efforts to stamp them out.
Other statistics show just how far we have to go to have an impact.
Fully 67.8 percent of dealers have never reported to law enforcement when they have been offered a counterfeit.
Just 28.5 percent of dealers surveyed said investigations were begun when fakes were reported to law enforcement.
Clearly, we might conclude that under reporting by dealers and lack of law enforcement both need to be addressed with further education.
This survey is a fine first step along that path.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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