US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Sept. 16, 2019: Counterfeits plague many collectibles

As I opened a template for the week’s Editorial and began seeking a theme, Jay Bigalke, editor-in-chief of Linn’s Stamp News, walked over from the philatelic side of the Amos Media Co. offices with a Letter to the Editor for me that had landed on his desk.

As he handed me the letter, Jay said that even before he opened the letter to read its contents, he knew that it was not from a stamp collector. The American flag Forever stamp it bore on the envelope was counterfeit, he said, implying that a stamp collector would know the difference.

As readers of Coin World know, counterfeit coins are a plague upon the numismatic hobby. Thousands of counterfeit coins, many struck in China, are in the marketplace here or offered for sale on such sites as eBay. Unlike the counterfeit stamp affixed to the envelope that Jay handed me, most counterfeit U.S. coins produced these days are made for collector sales rather for practical use as money.

The fake stamp market is a problem for the philatelic community and the United States Postal Service.

Jay said, “Modern counterfeit stamps are being sold heavily on eBay and other websites. And they are keeping up with the new designs.

“The sellers are selling large quantities at a huge discount to get quick cash. The usage of these fakes falls on people unknowingly using them, but then USPS machinery kicks them out as fakes and the letters get returned (most of the time).

“Collectible older stamps that have overprints are typically the most faked to defraud the unknowing collector. Usually if the Scott catalog value of an unoverprinted stamp is low and the overprint is high, fakes are prolific.”

But coins and stamps are not the only collectibles plagued by counterfeits.

Among the collectibles areas I collect outside of numismatics are statues of various comic book characters. For one series in particular, counterfeit statues from China are a big problem. A Facebook group that I belong to for that series maintains a list of “knockoffs” for collectors of the series. New collectors of the series are advised to never buy anything from a seller in China or Hong Kong; the product is likely to be fake. I have seen many such counterfeits for sale on eBay, many at prices that are aimed at attracting unknowing collectors.

Unfortunately, I suspect that this problem will only worsen in the future for collectors of many collectibles categories.

As for the envelope with the counterfeit stamp, I handed it back to Jay for his collection. Collectors of U.S. coins collect such fakes as the 1900-O Morgan, Micro O dollar or the circulating Capped Bust half dollars produced during the mid-19th century and such pieces as the counterfeit Jefferson 5-cent coins made by Francis Henning for circulation in the 1950s. Collectors like Jay like to add to their collections covers with fake stamps that did not get caught by the Postal Service. And I suspect that some collectors will knowingly add to their collection a knockoff version of a rare comic book statue simply because they cannot afford the real one, which might cost many hundreds of dollars.

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