For the sixth time in two years, this weekend Proxiblog purchased another counterfeit coin. And for the sixth time, a Proxibid auctioneer graciously allowed return of the coin for a full refund because fakes are the responsibility of consignors. Which leads to today’s big questions: How many fakes are being sold on the Internet each month and, if you’re a bidder, how many are in your own collection?
One of the biggest so-called “sleepers”–rare coins often overlooked–is the 1862-S quarter eagle, which rarely comes on the market. And when it does, bidders and auctioneers seldom realize that fewer than 100 actually are thought to exist. We spotted one in a Proxibid auction, and the coin had all the earmarks of being genuine, including the correct weight at 4.18 grams. This meant it could be a genuine 1862 Philadelphia quarter eagle with an added “S” mint mark in the wrong place on the reverse. Or an entirely fake replica in gold.
Michael Fahey, senior grader at ANACS and also a Coin World columnist who often writes about fake coins, has seen this kind of counterfeit before with the “S” in the wrong place.
This is the type of coin that can fool an auctioneer because weight and dimensions are correct. However, mint marks on quarter eagles can occur in various places on the reverse. It’s something we neglected to check. But when the coin arrived, that “sixth-sense” feeling of something being wrong–which numismatists cannot explain–arose.
We went immediately to CoinFacts, pulled up a picture of an authentic 1862-S quarter eagle, and studied the devices … only to see with a sinking feeling that the mint mark was misplaced and too small for the year.
Without PCGS CoinFacts, the coin would have been submitted for authentication, adding unneeded expense and making it difficult for the Proxibid auctioneer to refund the purchase. (This particular house, one of our top-rated companies, did so with no questions asked.)
If you’re an auctioneer or a bidder–or a quality control officer at Proxibid, for that matter–we strongly encourage you to subscribe to CoinFacts. We highly recommend the numismatists responsible for the data and auction prices of this indispensable online aid, which not only provides all the details of every year of US coinage but also features expandable pictures, current auction prices and so much more.
Visit the site and decide for yourself if it is worth the monthly fee. We never bid without it.
However, the true worth of this database is in detecting counterfeits that have lain dormant in bank boxes for generations as well as the tens of thousands of fakes flooding the auction market from China, as this post documented last month.
We commend the Proxibid house for upholding its consignment policies, placing liability squarely on the seller rather than the Proxibid buyer, and recommend that you adopt a similar policy.
Proxiblog is an independent entity with no connection to the auction portal Proxibid. Our intent is to uphold basic numismatic standards as established by the American Numismatic Association and the National Auctioneer Association and to ensure a pleasurable bidding experience not only on Proxibid but also on similar portals such as iCollector and AuctionZip.