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.

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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.

Big Shout-Out Kudo to GWS Auctions

Last week GWS Auctions was notified that it had listed several fake California gold replicas on its site. The auction company not only removed those lots from the Proxibid block but also telephoned Proxiblog to thank us for informing them. This is in stark contrast to how some other auction houses responded.

For the basics about how to tell fake California gold from the real deal, see this article. Above all, if you are an auctioneer selling coins regularly on Proxibid, we once again recommend a subscription to PCGS CoinFacts. Nothing is as authoritative as this in providing data for you to combat counterfeit replicas or know the most current auction prices for authentic coins. CoinFacts has listed hundreds of examples of California gold, replete with rarity information.

As for our articles on California gold, we not only share our numismatic knowledge with Proxibid auctioneers but also fact-check what we post with some of the top numismatists in the country.

The biggest giveaway that you are auctioning a replica is a bear on the reverse.

Some Proxibid auctioneers continue to offer these fake replicas, gold-plated or brass, even after being informed. Proxibid should take notice of that. Bidders should take notice, too. We have won dozens of lots with companies in the past; if they did not respond to our alert, nor remove or properly identify the replicas, and we will cease bidding any more with them or just bid on coins in holders by PCGS, NGC or ANACS.

In this post, we warned Proxibid auctioneers that replicas from eBay will be flooding Proxibid, as eBay had banned replica sales. Some heeded the warning, some continued business as usual, listing what consignors told them. It is not enough–repeat, not enough–to call a counterfeit replica a “gold token” or “coin,” especially when the auction house has been informed.

Some fake tokens or “charms” indeed are made of gold, but hundreds more are not. If you have tested the lot with a sophisticated precious metal tester (cheap ones say “gold” when a item is “gold plated”), then state that along with the karat designation in the Proxibid lot description. Some 10- and 22-karat charms between the mid 1870s through the 1930s were made of gold, produced before the Hobby Protection Act went into effect.

Some auction houses listing replicas as real are members of the National Auctioneer Association and the Professional Numismatics Guild, among others, with distinct ethics codes. Moreover, it is illegal to sell counterfeits when you have been informed, even if those counterfeits were made in the 1930s (as many of these fake California gold pieces were).

And we applaud houses like Fox Valley Coins, Leonard Auction, Capitol Coin Auction, Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction, Western Auction and Silvertowne–just to name a few–for correctly identifying authentic and replica California gold pieces. And we will patronize houses like Christy’s Auction and GWS Auctions for having the integrity to remove lots when informed.

Proxiblog will continue to protect the hobby by raising awareness of our viewers. We value auction houses who appreciate our efforts. We know the hundreds of bidders who visit our site do, based on personal emails to this site.

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.