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Paul Gilkes

Mint State

Paul Gilkes

Paul is a senior editor and has been a member of the Coin World staff since 1988. Paul covers the U.S. Mint beat and has memorably reported for more than two decades on many of the hobby's most important stories including the record sale of the Farouk/Fenton 1933 double eagle and the ongoing legal proceedings of the Langbord 1933 double eagles. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Grove City College in Pennsylvania and collects autographs and memorabilia from The Andy Griffith Show.

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Archive for 'March 2016'

    Will counterfeits ever be vanquished from numismatics?

    March 7, 2016 11:55 AM by

    Counterfeits. They just keep a-coming. 

    While counterfeiting is as old as the advent of coinage itself, it is a plague, nonetheless, for the success of the genuine issues and those who manufacture the real deal.
     
    The latest scourge to test the numismatic marketplace is the counterfeiting of popular bullion collectible and investment products in gold, silver and possibly other precious metals.

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    For more than a year, I’ve been writing articles dealing with fake gold and silver American Eagles, products of the Royal Canadian Mint, the Perth Mint, and other government mints.
     
    The two most recent articles have dealt with the counterfeiting of 1-ounce silver and gold bars produced by private mints.
     
    Among those targeted have been, in the case of the silver products, SilverTowne, Northwest Territorial Mint, Sunshine Mint, Scottsdale Silver and Highland Mint, and for gold, PAMP.
     
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    The silver bars are manufactured by plating .999 fine silver over brass or a zinc alloy. Place one of these counterfeits next to a genuine article and most people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference since the designs, surface fineness, weight and other specifications of the fakes duplicate those of the genuine bars.
     
    The primary diagnostic, short of drilling into a bar to see the interior composition, is that the fake bars are thicker than the genuine bars.
     
    In the case of the PAMP bars, not only are the bars plated fakes, the packaging in which they are being peddled i also a counterfeit of the genuine.
     
    It’s obvious that the intent with the PAMP bars is to deceive and defraud.
     
    Not so obvious with the silver bars. The silver-plated base metal bars are being marketed in many instances as “novelties,” with the piece described as being plated, even though the pieces bear the hallmarks and designs from private mints who likely have their material copyrighted or trademarked.
     
    Where the problem lies is when such a “novelty” is passed on or sold to someone as genuine silver.
     
    The buyer will not know that they’ve just been fleeced.
     
    The counterfeiting only benefits only the counterfeiters. It threatens and diminishes the branding of the private mints, who must, if they want to protect the integrity of their products, seek civil remedies against those ripping them off.
     
    It becomes not only a public relations nightmare, but a financial strain, as consumers may steer clear for fear of a product not being genuine.
     
    There is no large-scale investigation or prosecution of the persons responsible for the counterfeits. Occasionally, local law enforcement may get involved, depending on the dollar amount of an alleged fraud.
     
    There is no coordinated effort to stifle the criminal activity.
     
    Government mints like the Royal Canadian Mint have introduced anti-counterfeiting devices in their precious metals products whose authenticity can be immediately verified.
     
    The U.S. Secret Service, I assume, has larger fish to fry than going after an operation possibly making fake silver or gold American Eagles.
     
    Counterfeits have been around for thousands of years, and some have morphed into separate collectible fields. 
     
    I guess counterfeits will be around for thousands of years more. They won’t be fading away anytime soon.