World Coins

Berk launches sticker program for ancient coins

Harlan J. Berk Ltd. has announced a new program to apply verification and guarantee stickers to holders of ancient coins. The silver foil label features a company logo and the word “verified.” Another label, to guarantee the authenticity of coins, is also being developed.

Images courtesy of Harlan J. Berk Ltd.

Concerns about authenticity are a frequent barrier to collecting ancient coins, according to Aaron Berk, so he has devised a solution to minimize those concerns.  

Berk said, “One of the most frequently asked questions we get when it comes to ancient coins is, ‘How do you know it is authentic?’ Style, weight and strike are important, but it finally comes down to experience. The more fakes you handle in your career the better suited you are to recognize a copy.”

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Berk announced Oct. 16 that Harlan J. Berk Ltd., the business in Chicago where he has worked since 1992, has created a new sticker program that he says will help bring assurance to the ancient coin market. 

The firm plans two different sticker options.

One sticker with the firm’s logo states Verified. Its placement on the back of a slab or coin flip means representatives of the firm have seen the enclosed piece and agree that it is authentic.

The firm also will offer a sticker with the word Guaranteed, which means the firm offers a lifetime refund of the price paid for any coin with the sticker that is later proved to be a modern copy. 

The big difference between the two stickers is that the firm will provide a refund for the Guarantee sticker. 

According to Berk, the Verified sticker is strictly used for vetting purposes and does not carry any refund or buy back policy.

To access the service, owners of coins must pay for shipping and insurance to and from the company, and the stickers will also be available at coin shows where the firm’s ancient coin department is present.

Berk said, “We started the program for ‘Verification’ out of a need for both collectors and dealers who want to collect or deal in ancient coins but either know nothing about them or the coins they sell are worth less than the NGC’s slabbing fees.”

Numismatic Guaranty Corp. is one of the major third-party grading services that slabs ancient coins, but it does not guarantee their authenticity, which Berk cited in the announcement of the program.

“In the United States, more and more new collectors are purchasing coins only held in NGC holders,” the announcement said. “This is good news as it is bringing in all types of new collectors to the ancient market. The problem however, is NGC does not stand behind their opinion of grade and authenticity since neither is guaranteed.”

ANACS is another third-party grading service that encapsulates ancient coins, and the firm’s authenticity and grading  guarantee applies to platinum, gold and silver coins, but excludes those in bronze, copper and copper-nickel.

Dealer’s guarantee policy

Most dealers in ancient coins offer a lifetime guarantee of authenticity (including Berk).

Once coins are encapsulated, they are harder vet, according to the firm. 

In addition, “slabbing” of ancient coins is practiced for a still relatively low percentage of the overall ancient coin population, due to preference, low value and other factors. 

“Using NGC is a great option for many but since only a small amount of the ancient market is actually slabbed it is not the only option,” the Berk announcement said.

“Collectors owning ancient coins just want assurance as to their authenticity. Even coins in NGC holders have sometimes been determined to be modern. And guess what, everyone in ancient coins has been fooled at some point in their careers.” 

The verified sticker is available for free to anyone who has the company view their coins and vet them for authenticity. 

The guarantee sticker will be available only for coins sold by Berk, for now, but the firm will be working on expanding the program to guarantee any coin for authenticity. 

Harlan J. Berk Ltd. already guarantees for life what it sells, so the guarantee sticker will not be used quite yet until details of a paid service are decided, to apply to all coins, regardless of whether Berk sold them.

“When we make the guarantee sticker available for all coins we will photograph and publish every coin,” Aaron Berk told Coin World. “Since every ancient coin is unique from each other there will be no need to heat seal as every coin would be able to be identified if searched.  The point of collecting ancient coins is to handle them so we will keep to this tradition.” 

Current details are available at the firm's website

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