An amazing thing about coin buyers is that a large percentage of
them will lay out hard-earned money for things they know nothing at
all about! As I mentioned in my column in the Jan. 17 issue, if
someone called you on the phone and offered the Brooklyn Bridge, would
you buy it? If not, why in the world would you buy a rare coin you
know nothing about?
While someone buying a share in the Brooklyn Bridge might be able
to get his (or her) money back by hiring a lawyer and trying to find
the person who sold the share (which may be impossible, as fraudsters
move quickly), it would have been simpler to have done some due
diligence. Ditto for an overpriced, counterfeit, or otherwise phony
This is prompted by an e-mail letter sent to editor Beth Deisher
and me by Alan H., a Maryland reader, here quoted in part:
“It has become painfully evident that too many of our fellow
mankind is into taking away our hobbyists/investors/publics’ hard
earned money. I have heard story after story and even dealers are
getting caught in well planned scams and sleight of hand antics. Is it
not time that Coin World become more active and expose
details of those who would rather spend their time fleecing their
fellow man. I know that we have plenty of issues to deal with, but
wouldn’t it be nice to list names, companies, method of operation and
where they operate (for the most part) somewhere where the public can
look and see if the person/entity they are dealing with are on the up
and up and not someone who they need to watch, when they come near.”
I replied by stating to Alan that Coin World has indeed
printed much about threats of coin doctoring, Chinese counterfeits and
the like. However Coin World cannot protect people from themselves.
Then I concluded with this:
“A very important part of the equation, which you did not mention,
is that BUYERS have some responsibility. If someone buys coins and
does not know what they are buying, and will not spend any time to
learn, not that they deserve to be humbugged (to use a P.T. Barnum
word), but they do have some responsibility.”
Many coin scams are, say, 90 percent factual — such as saying a
coin has a low certified population, gold coins are in demand, and so
on. This lulls the pigeon (naïve buyer) into thinking all is well.
Then, if twice the current market is charged, the deception will be complete.
A perfect transaction! The seller is delighted. The pigeon is
ecstatic — that is, until he tries to sell the coin.
Q. David Bowers is chairman of the board of Stack’s and numismatic
director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached at his private
or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.