One of the biggest problem with some online auction sites are the number of counterfeit coins being sold as genuine. Many of these coins look genuine. They may have been made of cast models of genuine coins with engraved enhancing to make them look better. Others are very badly made where designs have dates of coins that does not exist. Two coins commonly faked are Trade Dollars and Morgan Dollars.

Susan Headly of posted an excellent and scary report that counterfeiting foreign coins, or any non-Chniese product, is legal in China as long as the seller pays the appropriate government taxes. Even with complaints from numerous copyright owners about piracy and the many recalled products from China, the United States government appears to be unable to prevent these products from entering the country. It is especially distrubing when Nancy Nord, acting chairperson of the Consumer Product Safety Commission turns down additional appropriations to help her agency to do their job better showing the government will not help.

Even if you are buying graded coins that are encapsulated in a reputable third party grading service’s holder, you have to be careful with some coins because the slabs are now being counterfeited. The picture on the left was posted on the Collectors’ Universe Forums by user pcgs69 showing a genuine coin in a PCGS slab next to a counterfeit slab complete with valid serial number. In this case, pcgs69 knew the real coin was sold by Heritage Auction Galleries a few years earlier.

I was prompted to write about this from a friend who purposely bought a counterfeit Trade Dollar on a very well know online auction site. He knew it was counterfeit because it was dated 1886 (Trade Dollars were struck 1873-1885) but was curious as to what he would receive. The coin was sent from an address in China and arrived in ten days. The first thing he noticed was that the coin was made from a casting with softer details than a struck coins. My friend consulted a metallurgist who estimated the coin was made from a mixture of metals containing 40-percent silver. A real Trade Dollar is struck on a 90-percent silver planchet.

As my friend was telling me about the coin he asked if we will be seeing more of these coins this fall? With the Summer Olympics starting on 8/8/08 in Beijing, how many unsuspecting tourists will be sold counterfeits as “rare coins” and will try to post them on a popular online auction site hoping to make quick money?

Please be careful as you look to purchase items marked as “rare coins” from unfamiliar sources.

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