California Fractional Gold: Some learn, some persist on Proxibid

When eBay banned replicas from its site, we started seeing copies turn up on Proxibid, especially fake California gold coins. We report the items. Sometimes auctioneers take down lots. Sometimes we get them to admit these are plated tokens. They are not; they are replicas. Coin dealers have been calling them tokens for decades, and they should know better. Here are recent fake lots from last week on the portal, with shout-outs for Munda and Janzen auctions.


This is a prime example of a fake California gold replica being sold on Proxibid without the auctioneer showing the reverse of the lot, which is how one distinguishes real California gold with use of a monetary amount (25 cents, 50 cents, Dollar, Dol., D., etc.). Click to expand photos.

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Here are more fakes on Proxibid. You are almost assured of a fake if you see a bear on the reverse, as depicted below.

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Bottom-tier slabs do not guarantee an authentic coin. This is a plated base metal piece that appeared in a Proxibid event by an auctioneer who knows better, especially when we report it and call him out by name in our “Report this Item” warning.

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That said, we are making progress with this issue. And some auctioneers understand how these fakes have harmed the hobby since the 19th century when the Secret Service began cracking down on token-makers. Here is how Munda Auctions described the fakes as (“fantasy, not genuine”):

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Here is how Janzen Auction correctly described the replica:

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To learn more about this pervasive issue in online auctions, see this post.

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.

Small Denomination Gold

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These lots have plagued auctions for decades because so many are fake, the real ones are pricey, and so few know how to tell the difference. The Coin World article below may help.


Numismatists recognize four kinds of tiny metal disks being billed as “California fractional gold” or “California small denomination gold,” one of the most alluring but also pricey series for the typical home hobbyist.

The first kind, the true California small denomination gold coins, were struck from 1852 to 1882. They usually come in denominations of quarter dollar, half dollar and dollar. All have the inscription DOLLAR or abbreviation “D.” or “DOL.” Genuine examples can cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.

A second kind, California gold tokens, were privately minted on gold planchets until around 1871 and usually depict a miner or other Western scene on the reverse.

A third kind, California jeweler’s charms, are made of gold and were sold as souvenirs of the West typically in the 1930s.

Replica brass or plated disks are a fourth kind. These are fakes and usually feature a bear on the reverse (genuine pieces do not show a bear). They have been flooding the coin market, especially on eBay, which banned replicas in 2012. Moreover, the brass disks do not carry the word “copy” and are in violation of the Hobby Protection Act.

Recently on an online auction portal Proxibid, a seller offered an “1852 California Gold Coin.” Everything in the seller’s four-word description was wrong. …

For the rest of the article, click here.

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.

More California Gold Replicas on Proxibid

We continue to see fake, plated and replica California Gold misidentified as authentic on Proxibid, eBay and other portals. It’s time something is done about the problem.


A few Proxibid auctioneers continue to offer fake, plated and replica California fractional gold, often without knowing how these so-called tokens have undermined the hobby. The replicas are essentially worthless, or worth a few dollars. Often, however, they are billed as rare and valuable pioneer gold from the 19th Century U.S. West.

The coins below were listed on Proxibid using language from CoinFacts whose president, Ron Guth, has been interviewed by Proxiblog about the problem on eBay, Proxibid and other portals. Watch for a Coin World column quoting Guth.

(Click photo below to expand and read auctioneer’s descriptions.)

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You can read the language about authentic California coinage by clicking here on a CoinFacts page citing BG numbers for authenticity. “BG” are the first initials of surnames of Walter Breen and Ron Gillio, authors of California Pioneer Fractional Gold.

CoinFacts:

    Throughout the early years of the California gold rush there was a constant need for coinage to satisfy the commercial needs of a booming community being based on gold dust. … Over 450 varieties are known to exist, some undated but most bearing dates between 1852 and 1882.

Proxibid Auctioneer:

    Throughout the early years of the California gold rush there was a need for small denomination coinage to satisfy commercial needs. Over 450 varieties of these California Gold Tokens are known to exist, most bearing dates between 1852 and 1882.

If you are going to take language from CoinFacts, you might as well go the extra step and verify the BG number, which in this case, the auctioneer cannot do because these have bears on the reverse and are most probably replicas. (A few tokens with better images of bears–as opposed to ones that look like pigs or rodents–are copper replicas and were sold from a booth in 1915 at the Panama Pacific exposition; but these are scarce and need to be authenticated by PCGS or NGC because replicas of these, made of goldine, base metal or plated copper were sold as souvenirs in 1948 and 1972.)

We give Proxibid auctioneers the benefit of the doubt in cases like these. Nonetheless, sale of these replicas as authentic may violate the U.S. Hobby Protection Act, which states:

  • The manufacture in the United States, or the importation into the United States, for introduction into or distribution in commerce of any imitation numismatic item which is not plainly and permanently marked “copy”, is unlawful and is an unfair or deceptive act or practice in commerce under the Federal Trade Commission Act [15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.].

See how Cece’s Sales correctly lists similar coins in the photo below. (Click photo to expand.)

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See how Engstrom Auction correctly lists plated replicas. (Click photo to expand.)

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For more information on fake California gold, see the most accessed article on Proxiblog by clicking here.

If you are a bidder who has purchased a replica billed as authentic, you might contact Proxibid, which has been proactive and helpful in cases such as these. Proxibid wants authentic coins sold on its portal with proper descriptions. Anything else may be a violation of these clauses in the Unified User Agreement:

  • Buyer gives notice in writing to Proxibid with documentation from a reputable authenticator or provides a police report that the lot so sold is a counterfeit, Seller will rescind the sale and refund the purchase price including all fees. At such time, Proxibid will refund any fees paid by the seller to Proxibid for the lot sold.
  • Proxibid will generally require the Buyer to ship an item that the Buyer claims is Significantly Not as Described back to the Seller (at the Buyer’s expense), and Proxibid will generally require a Seller to accept the item back and refund the Buyer the full purchase price plus original shipping costs. In the event a Seller loses a claim, the Seller will not receive a refund on his or her APN or Proxibid fees associated with the transaction. If Seller loses a SNAD Claim because the item sold is counterfeit, Seller will be required to provide a full refund to the Buyer. Seller liability will include the full purchase price of the item and original shipping cost (and in some cases, Seller may not receive the item back).

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.

Nearly 20,000 Views, New Rankings!

Proxiblog’s audience keeps growing with close to 20,000 views worldwide in the past year, as bidders register to read about top coin auction houses. Speaking of which, after points were tallied for consignments, photography, lot descriptions, buyers’ fees, customer service, shipping and numismatic knowledge, we were as surprised as you might be in discovering 5 houses tied for highest scores. Listed alphabetically, they are Capitol Coin Auction, Key Date Coins, Silvertowne Auctions, Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction, and Western Auction.

Note: Regular postings to begin on Sunday, Aug. 5.

Beginning next week, we will do spotlight features on each of these houses, noting what makes them so special–including what practices they follow–so that bidders and auctioneers can benefit from our reviews.

Making her debut in our top rankings is Debra Johnson of Auctions Unlimited, which has one of the lowest buyer’s fees on Proxibid at 10% and which also dropped transparency notices. Midwest Coins also did likewise, and we’re happy to include this fine Iowa house in our rankings. Braden Auction Service also enters our top houses in the sidebar to the right.

While the competition in the Coins and Currency page on Proxibid continued to grow, Proxiblog’s audience also grew in the same five-month time period. Our audience is closing in on 20,000 views. The United States, by far, provided most of that audience; however, Proxiblog’s popularity is growing in Canada, Philippines, India, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The most accessed articles were “California Gold, real, replica and fake” and “Beware Dipped Coins.”

The most popular pages were “Boos and Booyahs!” and “Honor Roll.”

In the past five months we also had 18 total sponsors, with several sponsoring Proxiblog for several weeks and donating funds to our scholarship account. Sponsors include:

We thank these auction companies and numismatic publications for sponsoring Proxiblog’s scholarship fund to help ease student debt and create the next generation of auction-house bidders! If you would like to sponsor a week’s worth of Proxiblog, email mjbugeja@yahoo.com

Boos & Booyahs: Best & Bad Auctioneer Lot Descriptions

It’s important to be in sync with the Proxibid technology to showcase your photos, hone your lot descriptions, and highlight your consignments for top bids on the leading portal! In the latest installment, Proxiblog laments and compliments best and bad auctioneer lot descriptions during the past week. We will name the best, but you will have to search Proxibid for the bad. (Click pictures to expand and view lot descriptions below.)

> One Big Booyah to GWS Auctions for noting that the slab of this coin may have been tampered with. We know unscrupulous persons routinely open, extract and replace coins without breaking holders and even re-glue so that evidence is concealed. But it is not always easy to tell. Sometimes people try to crack open coins for resubmission and decide against that halfway through the process. Brigitte Kruse alerts the bidding audience that the slab has damage, advising to bid accordingly.


One Big Booyah to BidAlot Coin Auction for noting that this coin is holdered by a bottom-tier slabber, also advising to bid accordingly. We have seen some auctioneers quote MS66 and higher Red Book retail prices for basic silver melt coins.


Boo! to this unnamed auctioneer who hypes one of the bottom-tier slabs, claiming that the common 1900-O Morgan is rare and that this may be a good deal when the buyer is close to being cheated in our estimation. Don’t pretend to know coins when you do this.


Booyah! to Larry Fuller at Silvertowne Auctions for not only exposing the bottom-tier slab but also for giving a truer grade. These hyped slabs give the hobby a bad name; Larry makes it all better.


Boo! to this unnamed auction house for hyping what looks like a $50 Morgan as super-rare and perhaps worth the ridiculous price of $6000 on the flip. We wish Proxibid would create a badge for laughable lot descriptions. But this really isn’t a laughing matter, especially if a bidder is a novice and falls for this untrustworthy hype.


Boo! to this auctioneer who showcases a 1922 No D cent whose reverse has three types–two cheap, one rare. When are auction houses on Proxibid ever going to learn that we need photos of obverse and reverse?


Boo! to this unnamed auction house for failing to show the reverse of purported California gold, without which we cannot discern genuine from replica with a price difference in the hundreds!


Boo! YET AGAIN to another unnamed auction house for failing to show the reverse of purported California gold. It may be gold, and that just might make it a counterfeit, which violates the Proxibid user agreement. For more information about California gold, click here.


One Big Booyah! to Scott Strosnider at Scott Auctions for noting a coin might be buffed and therefore damaged and not worth a high bid. Scott’s known for integrity. This is just one example.


Viewers can point us to other candidates for our “Boos & Booyahs!” series. Just leave a comment but follow our rules–all in good fun as a way to inspire accurate lot descriptions 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.