Michael Bugeja

Online Coin Auctions

Michael Bugeja

Michael Bugeja, a coin collector since childhood, is a professor at Iowa State University and also a former member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. He is a nationally known author, journalist and educator.

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Replica California Gold Sells on eBay

Earlier this month  we warned about fake and replica California fractional gold   selling on Proxibid, noting that the company eventually persuaded the auctioneers to take it down. The one pictured here sold after 37 bids on eBay for $205, despite my reporting the item four times to eBay, citing its rules, and once to the seller (without a response).

The item was listed as 1/2 dollar "California Fractional Gold Coins" with the seller stating the two coins being offered were found in the proverbial estate lockbox. The seller added he is not a coin expert and so could not authenticate them.

Those words are red flags in my book with any coin, especially when the seller seems to know the denomination and how to describe the lot numismatically. Of course, according to his disclaimer, he is not a coin expert and so couldn't authenticate the lot--an indication that he had an inkling about their authenticity.

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Every word of the description is most likely in error. It's not a 1/2 dollar, as the word dollar never appears. The replica is not from California and certainly isn't fractional gold (probably brass or gilt plated brass). And it is not a "coin," a word reserved for official mints.

At best it is a replica. At worst, it is a counterfeit.

What is most concerning about this, however, is not the seller but eBay, which made numismatic news om 2012 when it sent out this message:

Based on this feedback, and after closely reviewing the coin experience on eBay, we have decided to update eBay's Stamps, currency, and coins policy to disallow replica coin listings on eBay.com, effective February 20. ... This update reflects standards across the coin industry and helps ensure compliance with applicable laws that require replica coins to be permanently marked with the word "copy." 

Those who report replicas and fakes on the Coin and Currency category of eBay expect that it will take action. Four times this was done in the course of a week, and the item still sold.

The good news is that this was the only replica being sold at the time on eBay. In the past, I could find several.

California fractional gold is rare. One surefire way to insist on authenticity is to require the Breen-Gillio number as found in the book about the denomination, titled  California Pioneer Fractional Gold.
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