Some Auctioneers Know Better–Or Should

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We reported a replica California gold piece with bear reverse, as we customarily do–using Proxibid’s “Report this Item” function–and were glad to see the replica coin withdrawn. But we disagree that it was described properly.

Many of our top houses in the past year have been coin dealers. On the one hand, they usually describe coins numismatically. On the other, they not only have to answer to Proxibid but also to professional organizations, such as the Professional Numismatists Guild.

As many of our viewers also know, we have waged a battle against fake or replica California fractional gold pieces turning up regularly on Proxibid because eBay has banned the sale of them on its portal (though they are still there, if you look hard enough).

When it comes to fractional gold, we have laid out three rules:

  • Do not label lots with the words “California,” “fractional,” “gold” or “coin” unless you or your consignor can identify the Breen-Gillio number as found on CoinFacts.
  • Do not use the word “token” or “charm” unless those words appear in a slab by PCGS, NGC, ANACS or ICG. Unfortunately, many other slabbing companies cannot tell the difference between real and fake fractional gold.
  • Ensure that the lot is “gold” before using that word on any lot or you will be found in violation of the Unified User Agreement for not describing the fake accurately.

An upcoming auction offering real California gold also listed a replica piece as: 1852 – 1/2 California Gold Token with Indian Chief Head.


After being reported, the auction company specializing in coins deleted the photo of the replica and stated: “Withdrawn! – This lot was described properly but withdrawn to avoid confusion.”

The item was improperly listed. You cannot say:

  1. “1852”, unless you can prove the year (which in this case you cannot because no bear reverses were minted then).
  2. “California Gold” unless you can assure everyone that (a) it was minted in that state and (b) are positive this is not plated brass or other base metal.
  3. “Token” unless you can prove that the item was a 1915 replica of California fractional gold sold as part of a token series called “Hart’s Coins of the West.”(These were offered at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition by M.E. Hart Co. of San Francisco, which specialized in the sale of souvenirs.)

See our most popular post–“California Gold: Real, Replica and Fake“–which typically registers between 50-100 hits per week.

We were disappointed in the auction company for being defensive in maintaining that it had properly described a replica. It did not. Almost all replicas and counterfeits of California gold have a bear reverse. Very few are from “Hart’s Coins of the West.” Many are jeweler’s tokens sold as souvenirs of the West in the 1930s. Those are made of cheap gold, brass or plated base metal.

Proxiblog will continue to report replica and fake California fractional gold as we encounter them. And we continue to applaud Proxibid for listening to us in this regard, as this post illustrates.


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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