Auctioneer Advisory: Fakes are on their way!

Coin World is reporting that eBay no longer will allow on its site replica US and world coins of any kind, with violators risking their selling privileges being suspended for any infraction. Pictured here is a counterfeit coin purchased on the Proxibid portal. We secured an immediate refund when explaining the illegality of selling counterfeits.

The new eBay policy even bans coins marked as “copy” in keeping with the Hobby Protection Act.

We applaud eBay for this policy.

The world’s largest online auction portal made the move to showcase the company’s commitment to improve the buying, selling and collecting experience on eBay, Coin World reported in an exclusive story.

Get ready, Proxibid coin auctioneers. Be prepared, Proxibid. You’ll be targeted next as you are becoming the portal of choice for the selling of coins and currency.

The world counterfeit and replica market for coins is responsible for tens of thousands of fake coins flooding into the United States, mainly from China.

In the past three years, even Proxiblog with its keen understanding of numismatics has purchased five counterfeit coins on Proxibid. You can read about our experiences here as well as the policies of some of our top auction houses, including Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction, Key Date Coins and Crawford Family Auction.

What concerns us about the anticipated flood of fakes into the Proxibid auction stream is how some auctioneers are unaware that they cannot sell counterfeit coins no matter what–repeat, NO MATTER WHAT–your terms of service state. It’s a violation of federal law, and you can be investigated by the Secret Service or worse, sued.

When we have explained this after purchasing fake coins on Proxibid, all auctioneers refunded our purchases. In one or two cases, it took some convincing.

We have repeatedly advised you to make consignors rather than bidders responsible for fake, doctored or otherwise altered coins.

We’re also hoping that Proxibid’s resolution center understands and prepares for the coming influx of fakes on our portal. We recommend an internal policy for auctioneers on Proxibid concerning bidder refunds for counterfeit coins when adequate proof is provided. As the influx of fakes becomes more apparent in the months ahead, given the new eBay policy, stricter selling rules must be enforced or bidders will look elsewhere–probably eBay–for alternatives.

As for auctioneers, here are some tips:

  1. Purchase a strong magnet. Fakes often are made of base metal and will stick to the magnet. Silver is non-magnetic and also has a special ring to it unlike the clang of cooper-nickel coins. Test for that sound with a Franklin half dollar.
  2. Invest in a gold coin tester. There are several brands and methods, from stone to liquid. This is especially important if you are selling so-called “California fractional gold.”
  3. Buy coin scales and calipers to weigh suspect coins, checking their weight and diameter in coin guides. We recommend subscribing to PCGS’s CoinFacts to learn about weights and measures of coins.

To learn more about the multi-billion-dollar Chinese counterfeiting industry, read this expose by Susan Headley.

Also be on the lookout for consignments by unknown entities. Professional coin thieves also slip in fakes with a shipment of bonafide coins. Flooding auction portals with counterfeit and replica coins is only one of the latest cons being perpetuated on portals, dealers and auctioneers. We learned with great sadness yesterday that one of our top auction houses was robbed in the past week. This is the third theft of consignments we learned of this year, prompting us to recommend that auctioneers store rare coins, gold jewelry and other precious smalls in large local bank boxes for enhanced security.

As for bidders reading this post, never ever keep more than a few coins in your home. Insurance will not cover rare coins. Take out a bank box if you are pursuing this hobby or reinvesting in coins as part of your portfolio.

If ever your coins are stolen, report it immediately to local authorities as well as the Numismatic Crime Information Center.

Take every precaution in the months ahead, with a poor economy prompting more counterfeiters and criminals suddenly as interested as your bidders in precious metals and rare coins.

Please share other tips or warnings if you are an auctioneer in the comment section below.

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.