A contingent of hobby professionals met with legislators June 27 in
Washington, D.C., to generate support for passage of pending
legislation targeting the proliferation of counterfeit U.S. coins made
in China and elsewhere and sold in the U.S.
H.R. 5977, the Collectible Coin Protection Act, was introduced
June 20 by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee
on Judiciary, and co-sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman
of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
The Collectible Coin Protection Act, if it becomes law, would not
only strengthen provisions of the Hobby Protection Act, but also
provide increased trademark protection for grading service holders and
After a three-hour tour of representatives’ offices on Capitol
Hill, an evening event followed at the Tortilla Coast restaurant in
Washington, focusing on specific hobby concerns, with displays and
presentations by representatives of Professional Coin Grading Service,
Numismatic Grading Corp., Dillon Gage Precious Metals and Stack’s
The hobby contingent for the congressional awareness events comprised:
➤ California dealer Barry Stuppler, founder and chairman of the
Gold and Silver Political Action Committee (found online at www.goldandsilverpac.com),
co-founder and current board member of the Industry Council for
Tangible Assets; a member of the board of the Coalition for Equitable
Regulation & Taxation; president of the California Coin and
Bullion Merchants Association; member of Professional Numismatists
Guild Board of Directors.
➤ Philip Diehl, Gold and Silver PAC board member, chief executive
officer of United States Gold Exchange, Austin, Texas, and a former
U.S. Mint director.
➤ Armen Vartian, attorney representing PCGS and the PNG,
representing PCGS at District of Columbia events.
➤ Michael Fuljenz, Universal Coin & Bullion Ltd., Beaumont,
Texas, longtime ICTA Board member and PNG member.
➤ Patrick Heller, Liberty Coin Service, Lansing, Mich., ICTA
treasurer and PNG member.
➤ Jimmy Hayes, longtime collector, former Louisiana congressmen,
and current CERT-registered lobbyist representing the Gold and Silver PAC.
➤ Eloise Ullman, ICTA’s executive director.
CERT’s function, according to Ullman, is to do direct lobbying for
the rare coin/currency/precious metals industry. CERT is financed by
dealers’ 25-cent-per-coin fee for coins graded by NGC and PCGS.
ICTA sets legislative priorities; CERT initiates/implements these
priorities; and the Gold & Silver PAC provides the means by which
the industry can thank members of Congress who support and promote the
industry’s issues and concerns, Ullman said.
All these groups and other industry organizations work closely
together to develop and present a unified “coin/precious metals
legislative agenda,” she said.
The hobby contingent was able to discuss details of H.R. 5977 with
Smith and Upton and their respective staffs: Rep. Howard Berman,
D-Calif., ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs;
Rep. Lloyd Alton Doggett II, D-Texas, a member of the House Ways and
Means Committee and House Budget Committee; and Rep. John Lewis,
D-Ga., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and ranking
member of the House Oversight Subcommittee.
Conveying the message
The hobby entourage carried the message to congressional
representatives that the proliferation of counterfeit U.S. coins
primarily manufactured in China and sold in the United States is on
Don Willis, president of PCGS, said the rise in the quantity and
quality of suspected imported counterfeits sometimes makes it
difficult to distinguish fakes from genuine coins.
“Chinese counterfeiting is the most serious challenge faced not
only by the collectibles markets and brand name products, but also by
the United States Treasury,” Willis said. “Entire industries have
sprung up in China to manufacture virtually anything made in America,
including U.S. government-issued coins. These factories and industries
operate in the open and with the full support of the Chinese
government. By its lack of action to stop the activities, the Chinese
government endorses the counterfeiting of U.S. coins.
“Even worse,” Willis added, “Customs and the U.S. government do
little to stop counterfeits from entering the U.S. Once in the U.S.,
little effort is made to arrest and prosecute individuals selling
counterfeit material. Consequently, the U.S. has been flooded with
counterfeit products, including coins, resulting in the loss of
billions of dollars in revenue each year.”
Willis said PCGS has detected more than 5,500 counterfeit coins
from among its submissions over the past 12 months, higher than any
previous 12-month period.
At the Tortilla Coast event following the Capitol Hill visit,
Vartian and Corbin Jung, representing PCGS, discussed the problem of
counterfeit U.S. coins, and of genuine and counterfeit U.S. coins
encapsulated in counterfeit PCGS holders with counterfeit grading inserts.
Max Spiegel, numismatic researcher at NGC, displayed and explained
details of numismatic grading and certification.
Terri Hewitt, director of sales for Dillon Gage in Texas,
addressed the precious metals market and the firm’s market maker
status in the industry.
Scott Reiter, executive director of consignments for Stack’s
Bowers Galleries in Irvine, Calif., addressed the nuances of
Vartian said provisions of H.R. 5977 would allow litigation
against an entity in any venue where the defendant does business.
Current law requires the defendant to have an agent in the district in
which the suit is filed for the litigation to proceed, he said.
Under H.R. 5977, if a retailer is selling fake coins obtained from
a wholesaler, a litigant could pursue the sources, making it
unprofitable to do business, Vartian said.
The legislation would also provide greater trademark protection
for PCGS, NGC and other grading services whose holders, grading
inserts and other security devices have been counterfeited.
Vartian told Coin World that he felt the June 27 contacts with
legislators went a long way toward reaching additional congressional
sponsors for the legislation.
Stuppler and Vartian are urging collectors and others in the
numismatic community to contact their federal representatives in the
House asking that they add their names to the list of sponsors for
H.R. 5977 in a nonpartisan effort.
Stuppler said he’s optimistic that the necessary congressional
support can be generated to secure passage of the legislation.
Hayes said he’s working hard on not only securing passage of H.R.
5977, but helping to direct a parallel effort on the Senate side.
Over the summer months, Hayes said he will be busy trying to
replicate on the Senate side the efforts from the House, and bring
both sides together in a unified front.
“There’s nothing partisan about counterfeiting,” Hayes said. ■