Counterfeit coins: still out there, still a big threat to hobby

Published : 09/05/12
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Counterfeit coins are perhaps most deceptive when they are least expected. While everyone knows to watch out for the usual suspects — like 1916-D Winged Liberty Head dimes with added Mint marks — other coins can be more deceptive. Counterfeit “regular” coins like circulated early large cents also pose a serious problem in that these “coins” can casually slip into groups and easily avoid immediate detection.

Add to that counterfeit third-party grading service holders and one can see that the hobby remains threatened by the increasing sophistication of counterfeiters.

In Congress, the Collectible Coin Protection Act, H.R. 5977, was introduced June 20 by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. This bill seeks to strengthen the Hobby Protection Act and provide increased trademark protection for grading service holders and inserts. Most notably the legislation adds teeth to the Hobby Protection Act by going beyond sellers to target manufacturers and importers of counterfeit numismatic and political replicas.

The threat of counterfeits is ongoing as counterfeiting continues to be big business in China. While the typical targets include products like Louis Vuitton handbags and Apple electronic products, counterfeiters are becoming increasingly inventive and expanding their scope. For example, fake prehistoric fossils made to deceive collectors have been reported. A May 22 ABC News report indicated that counterfeit electronic parts from China are even being inadvertently incorporated in critical U.S. military systems including surveillance planes and special observations helicopters.

A major supply route for counterfeit coins to enter the United States was cut off when Internet auction powerhouse eBay restricted replica U.S., world and other historic coins from being listed on eBay effective Feb. 20. Yet, recently produced counterfeits — lacking the word “COPY” and looking convincingly like the real deal — linger at flea markets, antique shops and elsewhere. Often, they’re priced a bit below market value, which allows a potential purchaser to get a “deal.”

Education is one way that the hobby has tried to combat counterfeits. Teaching collectors how to detect fakes and showing the characteristics of genuine coins are key parts of tackling the problem.

The passage of the Collectible Coin Protection Act would help the rare coin hobby and market by further restricting the supply flow of deceptive counterfeit coins in the marketplace.


Steve Roach

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