To spot a fake

1893-S1

Can you spot a fake 1893-S Morgan dollar, one of the most counterfeited coins? This article explains how.



Compare the photo above of a probable fake 1893-S with the genuine article below, offered by Jewelry Exchange.

1893S_Jewelryexchange

They look almost identical, an indication of how good counterfeit coins coming into this country from China are being manufactured.

There is one particular diagnostic, however, that counterfeiters often fail to get right, and that is the date. Compare the dates of the two coins:

1893-S2

The number “1” of the date must sit squarely over the denticle below. The “1” on the left does not, indicating it is a fake. The “1” on the right is square over the denticle. Also, there is a difference here in the number “3.”

If you are an auctioneer getting an 1893-S Morgan in a consignment, which can bring thousands, it pays if you can identify whether the coin is authentic. This can save you time and trouble if a bidder files a complaint.

Concerning “ALL SALES FINAL,” keep in mind that selling a counterfeit coin is a violation of the US Hobby Protection Act. As we have advocated for many years now, auctioneers should create policies that make the consignor and not the bidder liable for counterfeit coins.

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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Don’t Call Counterfeits Replicas

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This is a prime example of a Chinese counterfeit that is being sold as a replica without the word “copy,” indicating the auctioneer knows about the U.S. Hobby Protection Act.


If your consignor sends you a counterfeit coin and calls it a replica, don’t be fooled. Replicas must have the word copy on the obverse to be in compliance with U.S. Hobby Protection Act. Also, the US Mint has specific instructions on the manufacture of replicas.

We strongly recommend that all auctioneers create a consignment agreement that specifically states that sellers are responsible for all counterfeit coins returned for reimbursement.

Several auction houses already have such contracts. Here is such a clause from Leonard Auctions:

REPRESENTATION OF GENUINENESS. Consignor represents and warrants each item to be genuine. Consignor agrees that any item found to be non-genuine within 30 days of the auction date, will be returned to the Consignor, and upon return, Consignor will pay Leonard Auction, Inc., the net proceeds of the returned item.

Sometimes it takes 2-3 months to prove that a coin is counterfeit. For instance, last year we purchased one that was so skillfully done that we had to send it to NGC for authentication because we would not have been able to prove it was a contemporary copy of an 1869 coin. That cost us $70 in NGC fees, but it was worth the money.

The Proxibid auctioneer took back the coin, to his credit.

In general, the consignor and not the buyer should be held liable for all doctored, counterfeit or otherwise altered coins. Create a contract protecting you rather than focusing on the “All Sales Final” mantra of auctioneers. That does not relate to U.S. Coins and Currency.

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.

What To Do If You Buy a Fake Coin Online

What should you do if you purchase a fake coin on Proxibid or eBay and discover it when your options have run out–a few months, or even years, after the sale? What if you buy a counterfeit in a private coin dealer auction online? Or an Internet estate auction?

Portals like Proxibid and eBay have service terms that prevent the selling of fakes. Yet, you can spot dozens on eBay, especially California Gold. You can read about that in Coin World.

In fact, some bloggers routinely post about fakes being sold on eBay. Check out this one.

We buy on Proxibid as well as eBay. Some Proxibid sellers announce that all of their lots are genuine. Here’s an example:

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We especially like “Auctions by Wallace” (screen shot above) because its owner Sheena Wallace understands that all lots must be authentic and that Proxibid’s Unified User Agreement forbids fake coins on the block.

Unfortunately, Auctions by Wallace is the exception on Proxibid. Too many auctioneers on Proxibid and Internet estate and coin sales warn bidders “All Sales Final–No Warranties” in their service terms. When it comes to Proxibid, these auctioneers and their attorneys might read clause 5.16. of Proxibid’s Unified User Agreement:

If, within a reasonable amount of time, Buyer gives notice in writing to Seller that the lot so sold is a counterfeit and after such notice the Buyer returns the lot to Seller in the same condition as when sold, and establishes to the satisfaction of Seller that the returned lot is in fact a counterfeit, Seller as agent for the consignor will rescind the sale and refund the purchase price.

Sheena Wallace guarantees her lots are genuine not because of the above clause but because it is the ethical auctioneering thing to do.

Many Proxibid auctioneers (as well as eBay mega-sellers and auction houses) are members of the National Auctioneers Association. Before they post service terms, they might want to read their Ethics Code, particularly this. …

For the rest of the article, click here.

Fakes on Proxibid

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Proxiblog scours Proxibid every day, looking at all auctions in the Coin and Currency section, even ones that we do not patronize, to keep tabs on their progress. We always find counterfeit coins. Here’s the harvest Sunday on the portal.

Fake California Gold continues to be the most frequently found counterfeit on Proxibid. Here are two from different auctions.

base metal

The manufacture of this counterfeit is so bad that the base metal shows under the plating. Yet this was billed as a California gold coin.


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This counterfeit has the dreaded bear on the reverse. 99.9% of the time, that’s a fake. Ironically, the description states 1957 rather than 1857 as the date of the fake. The auctioneer may believe this is a lot description error; but it’s probably accurate in terms of date of manufacture.


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The flip of this 1864 Seated Half has a question mark, and rightly so, as the “six” in 1864 has been altered and etched in. Dates and fonts are difficult for counterfeiters to master, so always look closely there on 19th century half dollars that just don’t seem right at first glance.


Auctioneers have a responsibility not to sell counterfeit coins. Many are used to “all sales final.” Not the case when items produced by the U.S. Treasury Department are faked, the sale of which is a serious federal offense. Auction companies also open themselves up to fraud for violations of the U.S. Hobby Protection Act.

If counterfeit coins continue to be found in great quantity on Proxibid, the company might want to stengthen its rules in the Unified User Agreement to ensure that the Omaha company will not be found liable in the transmission of images that lead to sales of fake money.

As we always advise, make sure your consignors know they are responsible for coins proved to be counterfeit. Put that in your consignor agreements. Protect yourself.

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.

Silver Eagle Winner Knew Fake

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Did you guess what the problem was with this coin? It has to be legitimate, no?, because it is in a PCGS slab. Or is it?

Upon viewing this photo from a 2011 Proxibid auction, we felt uneasy. The Morgan dollar looked deep mirror prooflike in the photo; but the grade was AU53. PCGS never grades an almost uncirculated silver dollar in that condition “deep mirror.”

Here were the steps to determine the 1894 key date coin was a fake:

1. Go to PCGS certification verification.
2. Input the certification number on the label. When you do, you come up with this page:

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3. Click on the link to the Heritage auction.

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4. Compare the coins on the Heritage page with the one in the Proxibid auction (see photo below):

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Voila! The authentic PCGS coin has a CAC sticker and is an almost uncirculated Morgan without any deep mirror reflectivity. The Proxibid lot was a fake.

To see how far Proxibid has come with respect to counterfeit lots, and to see the impact Proxiblog has had as an advocate for fair bidding, read about the 2011 scenario in this Coin Update post.

No one had surmised the correct answer for more than 24 hours. One made a good guess that this was an impaired proof in a mislabeled slab.

We posted an update that no one had won the eagle, and correct answers came in. The one that arrived first, j****d, wrote: “”My guess for the contest is that the coin photographed is either a counterfeit PCGS slab, or a crack-out with replaced coin. The coin does not match the one with the same serial number that was sold by Heritage: http://coins.ha.com/c/item.zx?hdnJumpToLot=1&saleNo=29121&lotNo=20348&x=0&y=0#Photo

We hope you enjoyed the contest and will visit Star Coin and Currency’s auctions on Proxibid!

Proxiblog thanks Jim Haver and Star Coin and Currency for sponsoring this week’s Proxiblog and for donating to our scholarship fund. We welcome donations from our audience. Proxiblog invites high quality houses for sponsorship because we want to promote the best on Proxibid to our viewers.

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.

Honoring the Unified User Agreement

We encourage all Proxibid users to read the company’s recently updated Unified User Agreement, which protects seller, bidder, auctioneer and, of course, the portal. We also encourage auctioneers to read their own service terms to discern whether they still are in compliance with the Unified User Agreement.

One of the most persistent myths in auctioneering is the “all sales final–no exceptions” service term. There are, in fact, exceptions.

Sales of some weapons, for example, can be illegal. Same goes for stolen art.

No auction house is excluded from these laws and regulations.

Case in point: Ancient coins were seized a day before an auction earlier this year at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel with the seller detained and later charged with criminal possession of stolen property. You can read about the seizure of coins here and the charges here.

Proxiblog has posted several articles about the illegality of selling counterfeit coins. Here is an example.

So it troubles us that auction houses selling coins on Proxibid continue to insist that “all sales are final–no exceptions” … even if the item is counterfeit, a clear violation of this service term in the Unified User Agreement:

  • 5. DEFAULT AUCTION TERMS If, within a reasonable amount of time, Buyer gives notice in writing to Seller that the lot so sold is a counterfeit and after such notice the Buyer returns the lot to Seller in the same condition as when sold, and establishes to the satisfaction of Seller that the returned lot is in fact a counterfeit, Seller as agent for the consignor will rescind the sale and refund the purchase price.

This week we came across this rather insistent service term in a Proxibid auction, prompting us to cross off this house from our list for future bidding:

  • Special Terms of Sale: Buyer aknowledges (sic) that the property being auctioned is available for inspection and it is being sold “AS IS, WHERE IS” without warranty or guarantee of any kind. We made no guarantee of the authenticity of the item. … All sales are final, NO EXCEPTIONS. … The buyer is responisble (sic) for examining and inspecting, or have their own representative examine or inspect the items prior to bidding and accepts it the way it is, NO EXCEPTIONS.

Even though Proxiblog is an independent entity, we admire the company’s increasing emphasis on quality control. If the above auctioneer sold a counterfeit coin, and refused to make a refund–NO EXCEPTIONS–he might acknowledge that his service term is invalid, not only with Proxibid but also with federal law.

We advise all coin bidders to read Proxibid’s Unified User Agreement and cease bidding in auctions that continue to insist that they are not responsible for authenticity. When it comes to counterfeit coins, auctioneers should place responsibility on the consignor rather than the bidder (as our top houses do in the right sidebar).

In the end, there are exceptions when it comes to fake collectibles.