California Gold Replicas, Fakes Keep Selling on Proxibid

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Unlike eBay, which banned the sale of replicas like this (though they keep appearing), Proxibid does little to remove these items from its portal. What good is the “Report this Item” link if auctioneers persist in selling these abominable fakes?

Next month one of our favorite sellers, alerted multiple times about selling replica California gold (no, you can’t escape a counterfeit by calling it “token”), will be removed from our sidebar. We also no longer will bid in his sessions. When you see a “bear” on the reverse, you can be sure that the item is a modern replica or, at best, and older counterfeit:

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We reported the item, and Proxibid alerted the auctioneers’ sales rep. That, it seems, is as much the company can do (and we appreciate that). But if auctioneers persist, the lots remain. All an unhappy buyer can do is come to his senses and dispute the fake as significantly not as described. How many will go through that procedure when months or even years after the fact they are informed about the authenticity of the replica?

What we cannot understand is how auctioneers would rather lose a major buyer like us to continue to sell these replicas that have plagued coin collecting since the 19th century when the U.S. government cracked down on them.

There are jewelers’ token sold in the 1930s. These are not fractional gold but often depict a western scene and are, in fact, low-grade gold. At least McKee Coins, an Iowa coin dealer, attributes that in this lot, noting there is no denomination on the reverse–a telltale sign of a replica (click to expand photo):

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We have been sounding the alert on these fakes on Proxibid for more than three years. This is our most popular post, which enjoys 100+ hits per month.

For a more in-depth article, click here.

For an in-depth article featuring quotations from top numismatist Ron Guth, president of PCGS CoinFacts, click here.

For those buying and selling small denomination gold coins, PCGS CoinFacts is indispensable. It contains a regularly updated, comprehensive list of authentic types with photos to identify variety and value.

We recommend that Proxibid require sellers to list the “BG identification number” for small denomination gold coins. The “BG” refers to Walter Breen and Ron Gillio, authors of California Pioneer Fraction Gold. That book is pricey ($300); best to get a subscriptiuon to CoinFacts. If you cannot find the BG number, you most probably have a fake. If you see a bear on the reverse, you have a fake. If you do not see a denomination–1/4 dollar, 1/2 dol., dollar, etc.–you have a fake or a jeweler’s token (with western scene).

We just reported another fake on an auctioneer site from which we have bought coins in the past. If it is not taken down in a few days, we no longer will bid there as well. Reason? How can you trust an auctioneer who would rather sell a fake than take it down for a favorite buyer?

The more these fakes appear on Proxibid, the more they will erode the company’s brand of “trust.”


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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Proxibid Pet Peeves

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We have written about these pet peeves before, and we still encounter them frequently on Proxibid. Best we can do is make you aware of them. (Click to expand photos.)


DMPLs that Aren’t
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No mirror on this lot; so how can it be “deep”?


Low Resolution Photos
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Want to sell online? Then master digital photography.


Sticker Shock

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Auctioneers love stickers. We hate them covering certification data on slabbed coins.


Mistake a Lot

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Please master Proxibid templates so we know what we are bidding on.


Counterfeit Replica Gold

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Tempting, isn’t it, to label these plated fakes as gold? How about calling them brass-plated fake California replicas?


We will continue to bring to monitor and report these peeves so that auctioneer and bidder alike become more aware of standard numismatic practice.

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.

Use “replica” when selling fake California gold

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We continue our fight against fake California fractional coins, especially when they are described as 19th century gold. The above replica is not from California and not minted in 1853. Calling it a “token” without the qualifier “replica” is inaccurate. As such, this lot is a SNAD (“significantly not as described”).

The replica above was described as “1853 CA Gold Token, 1/2, BU.” These replicas have been plaguing numismatics since the 19th century when the U.S. government began to crack down on them. California gold replicas are plentiful today, and the temptation is to offer them as authentic. When we spotted this one on Proxibid, the bid already was at $22. See photo below.

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That bid is about $20 more than the replica is worth.

Conversely, John Leonard at Leonard Auction–one of the most ethical auctioneers on the portal–knows how to describe these offerings. See screenshot below (click to expand):

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Leonard calls them replica tokens worth about $1-2 each. He is selling them as one lot and provides a clear photo of the reverse, showing the dreaded “bear” (which signifies a replica or counterfeit).

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We advise not to offer these fakes. Don’t obfuscate the matter, either, by calling them gold tokens or gold souvenirs. Using the word “gold” without testing the lot for the metal also is spurious. Most of these are brass or brass with gold plate. If you test for gold, note the karat.

For more information about real, replica and fake California gold, click on the most popular Proxibid post viewed more than 1000 times since 2012.

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.

Counterfeit Gold Tokens on Proxibid

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We see them all the time on Proxibid. We report the items. Auctioneers insist on selling them. Don’t bid or offer these fakes.


If you want to bone up on California Gold Tokens, read this article, the most popular on Proxiblog, with more than 50 hits per week for more than a year–an indication of the scope of this problem.

Here are recent offerings on Proxibid (click pictures to expand):

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Beware the bear! This symbol has been associated with counterfeits ever since the 1880s. Most probably this coin was manufactured within the past five years, using plated base metal.


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This is another counterfeit, and a poor one at that, with tell-tale plating appearing as small ripples on the metal.


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Auctioneer makes an attempt at warning bidders about this brass replica, calling it a token.


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This one is a blatant fake, and the description even worse. Every word of it is suspect. It’s not a coin. Not from California. Not a half dollar. And not from 1949. It’s a cheap souvenir from someone’s trip to Mount Rushmore.


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SilverTowne Auctions shows how to describe a California Gold Coin. First, note any flaws. These are thin coins subject to easy damage. Second, locate “the BG number” from CoinFacts or from the original source: Walter Breen and Ronald J. Gillio’s California Pioneer Fractional Gold book. Third, report any item or return the lot to the consignor if you cannot locate the BG number. Otherwise, you’re buying or selling a counterfeit, which is a violation both of the Proxibid Unified User Agreement and the US Hobby Protection Act.

If you sell a fake, your sale is not final, no matter what your terms of service state. If you sell a fake, accept a return and bill the consignor for any losses. That’s what many of our top houses in the right sidebar do, because it’s ethical.

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.

Black and Gold Auction Provides Frank, Honest Descriptions!

We love it when houses like Black and Gold, of Columbia, Missouri, describe lots honestly, with candor and numismatic knowledge. Click to expand photos below and check out these screen shots!

Checking the seller

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Uncirculated rolls of cents are big money-makers. Check out this post to see why. Concerning the above 1955-S roll of cents, the house states, “We peeked to see condition, but did not further open.” That’s honest. You can bid with confidence.

Checking authenticity

But in the same recent auction, Black and Gold did something we seldom see on Proxibid … and did it with style! Click to expand the photo below and read the description.

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Black and Gold writes, “1860 one-half dollar California gold piece–guaranteed to be counterfeit.”

You gotta love Black and Gold which writes black and white descriptions and earns our trust.

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.

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.

Booyah Proxibid!

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We were excited when Proxibid unveiled its “Report this Item” function. We’re more excited to see that the portal followed through on one of our reports of fake California fractional gold.

Among the most faked coins are California fractional gold. Almost all being offered on Proxibid, eBay and other portals are base-metal replicas manufactured in the 20th century. Typically, they feature a bear on the reverse with “1/4” or “1/2” or “One”–eliminating the monetary denomination 25 cents, 50 cents, half dollar, dollar and so forth.

Below are examples of real California fractional gold, compliments of NGC, which also has posted an article about the kinds of coins it holders.

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Proxiblog has run several articles about California fractional gold. One of our posts is logging more than 100 views per week.

This post challenges Proxibidders to use the “Report this Item” button whenever you discern a fake or replica example of California fractional gold.

We advise all auctioneers to follow these guidelines:

  • 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.
  • Test the lot for “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.

Why are we taking such a stand? Because real fractional gold sells for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars, and we have seen certain bidders (ones that try buy all lots marked “gold” in any Proxibid coin auction) paying exorbitant fees for near worthless brass and/or gold-dipped brass plate.

Beware the bear on the reverse. Learn about the hobby. Bid with confidence when you are confident about your knowledge of numismatics.


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.