From the Nov. 30 Numismatic News E-Newsletter:
Are coin collectors and dealers winning the battle against counterfeits?
Here are some answers sent from our e-newsletter readers to Editor Dave Harper.
No, I don’t think that they are winning the battle at all! I think as numismatists we all must do our part when we see something that is fake, but how is it possible to keep up with the counterfeiters when the government is so lax on their approach?
I try to personally go on eBay a few times a month and report the counterfeiters, and they just keep popping up. We need help and we need it now so in the future the only thing you are certain of buying is a slabbed piece, authenticated by a third-party grader. More people in power need to help the little guys who have almost no way to stop this.
The risk of encountering a counterfeit coin can obviously be avoided by purchasing graded and authenticated coins by either NGC or PCGS.
There are many hobbyists that get rolled coins from banks that are turned in by the public, which often contain some zingers. A good friend of mine in the last year has uncovered euro coins mixed in with a roll of half dollars and a double-headed Sacagawea fake in another roll.
I must say being educated about coins helps a bit. This same friend said when we first met that he had more than 1,000 Walking Liberty half dollars that he kept from his newspaper route 40 some years back, and he was going to sell them to a pawn shop. Thank the Lord he met me, as I informed him about what even one complete set might be worth. He has since purchased all of the proofs needed and now has five complete sets.
So, in our field of numismatics, knowledge about coins is paramount.
Counterfeiting is probably the fourth or fifth oldest profession. For as long as there have been coins, someone has been counterfeiting them.
Novice collectors will always be taken in by even poor counterfeits, while seasoned pros will be fooled by the really good counterfeits.
The fight against counterfeiters is a war that will never end. Any victories by the hobby (or even governments, for that matter) will only be temporary until counterfeiters figure out new ways to trick us all again.
To begin with, it is unfortunate that some collectors will never know if they are storing a counterfeit coin. They will be discovered when their heirs try to cash them in when liquidating the estate. Just a sad fact. Counterfeit coins are only one problem affecting the hobby.
How many people buy those 24-karat gold plated coins that are sometimes advertised on TV? Obviously they are replicas and not considered counterfeits. But people have been known to buy them thinking they are getting a great deal. It is legal, but buyer beware.
It is probably easier to counterfeit a coin than U.S. paper currency. Counterfeiters in the People’s Republic of China are talented and noted for being capable of copying almost anything. How hard is it to produce common or better-date coins worth under $100 each? How many collectors would be willing to buy such a coin that comes in a grade of Very Fine or AU? If it is profitable, they will do it.
Many collectors are more interested in noticing that a coin was cleaned or whizzed than counterfeit.
There have always been coin scams. Many collectors only buy from the Mint to avoid the scam. And with the markup of Mint prices, that can sometimes be considered a scam in itself.
Do we know or can we tell if any certified coins are counterfeit? If a coin can be encased by a professional grading service, what makes anyone think someone making counterfeit coins cannot duplicate the professional grading company encasement? Yes, there are protections.
How many art collectors and dealers have purchased counterfeit paintings over the past 100 years? We have all seen movies and TV episodes regarding that situation. Even an episode of Maverick made in the late 1950s dealt with counterfeit paintings. Point being that even high-end professional collectors and dealers can be taken. Greed and ego play a major role. Many collector/investors that deal in the high-end rare coins will be reluctant to admit that they ever purchased a counterfeit coin.
Then, of course, we have replicas. Last Christmas, my brother gave me an encased MS70 1933 gold double eagle. A joke gift. Even has “copy” under the “Twenty Dollars” on the coin. I love it even though it is worthless. Actually, it can probably be sold for $10. But I will keep it.
Every month, Numismatic News and Coins Magazine publish a price guide. Yes we know the guide is just a reference and that dealer buyer price is 10 percent to 40 percent lower than retail. Why not publish a more realistic price? People on eBay think they are getting a great deal everyday. Nothing to do with counterfeiting but does affect the hobby.
Only the dealers and high-end collectors know for sure whether they are winning the fight against counterfeit coins. Like high-end art collectors and art dealers/investors, they will be reluctant to ever admit that they were taken. For the average collector/accumulator, we buy what we like and can afford.
Lately I enjoy carrying a silver Eagle in my pocket. It will always be worth the price of bullion.
As an aside, I nominate collector Dilenia Fiore as collector of the year for her find of the 1995-D Doubled-Die Obverse Lincoln cent. That is what collecting is all about.
Regardless, it is hard for either collectors or dealers to spot counterfeits. This being said, BUYER, still be aware! Even the most astute can be fooled by the fakes going around. This is why the experts state that “education, is the best thing” that anyone can have. This, and handling plenty of real McCoy’s in this field.
This IS very true! I have cashiered many of my 40+ years of retail. Yes, I have caught many fake bills out there. I am willing to wager that most “lax” people will get nailed. Yes, even bank tellers will be had!
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today
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