H.R. 5977 could impact auctioneering

A new proposal to strengthen the Hobby Protection Act (H.R. 5977) would make a violation the assistance or support of any person or business selling replica or counterfeit collectibles, including coins, “if that person knows or consciously avoids knowing” about the illegal practice.

According to Coin World, “Collectors and dealers have reported the sale of counterfeit coins manufactured in China through online auction sites, flea markets and other venues, though few criminal prosecutions have been brought against the sellers under counterfeiting laws.” (For the entire article, click here.)

In June, Proxiblog had the winning $100 bid on this coin, which turned out to be a counterfeit of a restrike without the required word “COPY” on the reverse. This has been the seventh time in three years that we purchased a counterfeit coin on Proxibid. As in the past, the auctioneer has promised to reimburse us for the winning lot.

Auctioneers may write all manner of “ALL SALES FINAL” in their service terms, but selling counterfeits is a federal offense. Granted, knowledge about counterfeits requires keen numismatic skills because the fakes continue to improve so as to require submission to a grading service.

In this case, even if we are reimbursed the $100 for the coin, we will have spent $45 for grading and mailing.

Keep in mind, too, that this is a coin that we believed to be genuine. We see counterfeits and replicas all the time in Proxibid and feature them on occasion in our “Boos and Booyahs” post, as we will again this week.

Here’s a photo for a replica proof set by an auctioneer who only posts the obverse of the coins. The reverse contains the words “COPY,” and by omitting that photo, the auction company is risking allegations of selling replicas as authentic–just the kind of thing that H.R. 5977 hopes to end.

We understand the auctioneer’s position. Only a handful of companies on Proxibid know numismatics to the point that they can catch these violations. Conversely, making and selling replicas of US coins crosses into trademark and federal law.

Proxiblog hopes to provide educational information for auctioneers and will continue to monitor this situation.

Meanwhile, we strongly encourage auction companies to accept consignments from sellers they trust, to reimburse buyers of counterfeit coins, and to continue learning about coins if they plan to offer them regularly on Proxibid.

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.

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