Don’t Be Fooled By Copies

We continue to see in Proxibid auctions replicas of coins that are not designated as such in the lot description. Copies, marked or unmarked, plague numismatics, which is why eBay forbids any sale of such on its portal. If you are selling copies for a consignor, you should be aware of US Mint rules and regulations regarding the offering of copied coins to the public. You could be in violation of the US Hobby Protection Act.


Here is a recent example of a Proxibid auction offering a copy of a US Mint coin without describing it as “copy.” (Click to expand photo.)

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The word COPY should appear on the obverse, not the reverse. Nonetheless, this coin clearly states COPY on the reverse (again not mentioned in the Proxibid description).

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Here is a summary of US Mint rules regarding copies. For a detailed description provided by the Mint, click here.

  • Do consult with your attorney before embarking on any activity involving the reproduction of genuine United States coins.
  • Do be aware of existing counterfeiting laws.
  • The Hobby Protection Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 2101–2106), requires manufacturers of imitation numismatic items to mark plainly and permanently such items with the word “copy.” Failure to do so may constitute an unfair or deceptive act or practice pursuant to the Federal Trade Commission Act.
  • Do not advertise your replica product as a “coin.” The term “coin” is commonly understood to be a piece of metal issued by governmental authority as money or legal tender. Alternative terms such as “replica,” “medal” or “medallion” should be used in order to avoid confusion.
  • Do make it clear in your advertisement and marketing materials that the product offered is a replica.
  • Do include a disclaimer in all advertisements, order forms, web pages and other marketing materials featuring replicas of genuine United States coins. Disclaimers should be placed immediately adjacent to or below the actual photograph of the replica used in the advertisement or marketing material, and should not be buried in “fine print” at the bottom of the advertisement or marketing material.
  • The United States Mint owns copyright in several commemorative and circulating coin designs.

We will continue to bring to Proxibid’s attention violations of US federal law in the selling of replicas and counterfeits, especially California Fractional Gold, which pollutes Proxibid because sellers on eBay have been banned and have found a home in auctioneer consignments. We do not name those auctions in our posts on Proxiblog because ours is an educational site. However, we do report them to Proxibid using the “Report this Item” link. Often, those counterfeits and replicas continue to be sold because the auctioneer refuses to take down the lot. Why does this happen? eBay bans sellers; Proxibid does not, for this infraction.

There are consequences, however, as the US Mint warns.

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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California Gold, real, replica and fake

We are seeing plated tokens being billed on Proxibid as “California gold.” A few of these are jeweler’s tokens of the 1930s. Most are outright fakes produced by the millions. Here are a few tips to tell if you have the real deal.

There are four kinds of tiny metal disks being billed as “California gold”:

  1. California fractional gold coins. These usually come in denominations of 1/4, 1/2 and 1 Dollars, and Dollar is sometimes abbreviated to D. or DOL.
  2. California gold tokens. These were minted privately up until around 1871 and are authentic gold, usually with a miner or other scene on the reverse or text on an obviously gold planchet.
  3. California jeweler’s charms. These are made of gold, typically in the 1930s, and sold as souvenirs of the west.
  4. Replica brass or plated tokens. These are fakes and usually feature a bear on the reverse.

Here is real California gold being sold on Proxibid. (Click picture to expand.)

Click here to view a California gold token.

Here is a California gold charm. To identify, you have to use a very good gold detector. Here’s a 22K charm offered by Silvertowne, correctly described. (Click picture to expand.)

Below are photos of California gold replicas, the most prominent on Proxibid and a violation of the US Hobby Protection Act, as they typically lack the word “Copy.”

Unlike other Proxibid auctioneers selling base-metal as California gold, Silvertowne’s Larry Fuller shows how to correctly describe these fake tokens, earning our trust and living up to ethical standards of the National Auctioneer Association and the American Numismatic Association. We encourage bidders reading our blog to take integrity like this into account when deciding whether to bid in a Proxibid auction. Click this Silvertowne Auction picture to see how to correctly identify California gold replicas.


We advise all auctioneers to use PCGS CoinFacts to identify California gold. You’ll find accurate descriptions, photos and values from realized prices of other auctions.


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.

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.