US Coins

PNG abandons expanded ‘doctoring’ definition

The Professional Numismatists Guild has abandoned the expanded definition of “coin doctoring” its governing board added to the PNG Code of Ethics six months ago and is returning to a one-sentence statement long used in the code.

After a heated debate during a luncheon meeting open to members and the public Jan. 5 in Tampa, Fla., the membership voted 45 to 2 to remove the expanded definition. An estimated 40 to 50 guests and associate members witnessed the debate and action.

The PNG claims its 223 full-member dealers to be the “world’s top rare coin, paper money and precious metals experts” and says its primary mission “is to make the hobby safe for collectors and investors by maintaining rigid standards of excellence for our member dealers.”

PNG Executive Director Robert Brueggeman said 40 full members constituted a quorum, so the action taken at the meeting stands. He noted that PNG bylaws provide the general membership the opportunity to override decisions made by the PNG Board of Directors.

The sentence in the code that stands requires members “To refrain from knowingly dealing in counterfeit, altered, repaired or ‘doctored’ numismatic items without fully disclosing their status to my customers.”

The text jettisoned by the action stated:

“Coin doctoring is the action of a person, or the enabling of another, to alter a coin’s surface or appearance, usually to diminish or conceal defects, and thereby represent the condition or value of a coin as being superior to its actual condition or value. Among the practices defined as doctoring are effacing hairlines by polishing or manipulating the surfaces of proof coins, applying substances to the surface of coins to hide marks and defects, hiding marks or otherwise changing the appearance of a coin by adding toning, adding chemicals or otherwise manipulating the surfaces to create ‘cameo’ frost on the devices of proof coins, and making a coin appear more fully struck by re-engraving portions of the devices, such as re-engraving bands on the reverse of a Mercury Dime or adding head detail to a Standing Liberty Quarter. Altering dates or mintmarks or other struck portions of a coin to make it appear to be from a mint date or type other than that of origin, and altering business strike coins to make them resemble proof issues are also examples of coin doctoring. This definition is not intended to be all-inclusive, but only illustrative of forms of coin doctoring.”

In a joint statement issued Jan. 11, Brueggeman and PNG President Paul Montgomery noted:

“This move by the PNG membership in no way diminishes the position of the PNG. We are wholly resolved to do our best as Guild members to protect and serve the collector and investor community. This is a very challenging issue we face as an industry. The PNG Board will continue its efforts to pursue this issue in conjunction with the grading services and our membership.”

In July the PNG Board announced it had partnered with two grading services — Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and Professional Coin Grading Service — to review and adopt a new definition of “coin doctoring” in order “to help combat the deliberate and unacceptable alteration of coins in an effort to deceive.”

The new definition was added to the organization’s Code of Ethics, to which members must adhere as a requirement of membership.

Announcement of the expanded definition prompted discussion and debate in dealer circles throughout the summer and fall, and was put on the organization’s Tampa agenda for discussion by Montgomery.

During the Tampa meeting, more than a dozen members spoke out against the new definition and two rose to its defense before former board member John Feigenbaum, president of David Lawrence Rare Coins, offered the motion to return to the earlier, simpler statement.

“I think it [the motion] reflected the sentiment in the room,” Feigenbaum told Coin World.

“I’m against coin doctoring as much as the next person,” Feigenbaum explained, adding that he did not think the new definition was better than what had been in the code for years. “It was not well thought out. This was PNG trying to be proactive when it wasn’t asked to be.”

Feigenbaum noted that no coin doctoring complaints had been filed with PNG against any of its members. “This is McCarthyism — everybody is being accused, and nobody knows why,” Feigenbaum said.

He maintained that coin doctoring problems are matters best dealt with by the grading firms.

“It’s not PNG’s torch to bear, to decide who is a coin doctor and who is not,” he said.

“What I fear most is the collectors are being confused by this situation,” Feigenbaum said.

Coin dealer Mike Fuljenz, a former ANACS authenticator and grader, spoke out at the meeting in favor of the PNG Board’s expanded “coin doctoring” definition. He said he believed it was important to update and evolve the old definition to combat new techniques being used in doctoring. “A lot of work went into crafting the new definition, and I implored the Board and the PNG membership to only tweak the new definition and work out any problems, but don’t throw the whole baby out with the bath water,” Fuljenz said.

Steve Ivy, a former PNG president, spoke in support of Fuljenz’s comments.

Greg Krill, one of three PNG members named as a “coin doctor” in a federal lawsuit filed by PCGS in May (which was dismissed in December), observed:

“It is obvious to members that PCGS participated in the writing of some of the added anti-coin ‘doctoring’ language that it furnished to the PNG, with its own vested interest as a plaintiff in the coin ‘doctoring’ lawsuit in mind. (As well as what it deems to be in its current business interest.)

“Based on the inconsistencies and changing positions of PCGS over time, many PNG members felt that it was not appropriate for PNG to enforce PCGS business interests masquerading as ‘consumer protection,’ ” Krill said.

In their joint statement Brueggeman and Montgomery noted that in addition to the section that has been retained in the code, another section “prohibits misrepresenting the quality of a coin.”

The statement added:

“The PNG has and always will take action against any member charged with any type of deceptive trade practice, including, but not limited to coin doctoring. This is covered by our bylaws that every member must adhere to. Under our bylaws we offer binding arbitration to anyone, regardless of being a collector or dealer. We urge anyone who has a grievance against a PNG member to contact Executive Director Robert Brueggeman.”

The PNG can be reached at 28441 Rancho California Road, Suite 106, Temecula, CA 92590. E-mail it at ¦

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