The American Numismatic Association and Numismatic Guarantee Corporation recently issued press releases notifying the public that there have been attempted phishing scams by trying to impersonate a hotel service or someone who works for NGC. Since this is back in the news, I am taking an article I had previously written on the topic and updating it to be more current.
Phishing is the term used to describe the attempt to convince someone to reveal personal information by sending them an email that looks like it came from a legitimate source. Unfortunately, it is so easy to spoof (trick) the Internet’s email system that all it takes is someone with attention to detail to get past spam and other security filters.
Last year, I retired as an information security professional where, for the last 25 years, was contracting to the United States government. I saw many attempted and successful attacks against both government and commercial systems. However, the one attack that is the most difficult to defend is those where humans are convinced to act against their own best interest. The technical industry calls them phishing attack but they are forms of social engineering.
A social engineering attack tries to use something about you or something you care about to convince you to do something that could potentially harm you. For example, an attacker looking to scam someone who collects rare coins may know about NGC’s business. Knowing that the people who might be using NGC’s services are collectors with a lot of disposable income, they could use the weaknesses of the email system in order to fool the recipient into a situation where they can be taken advantage of.
To help you stay safe, the following are rules you can follow to keep safe online:
Rule #1: Unless you are 100-percent certain that the email is legitimate, do not click on the link!
You will be never 100-percent certain that any email you receive is legitimate. Thus, make sure that you are as close as 100-percent certain as possible. One thing you can do is to move your pointer over the link, stop, and wait for the tooltip to show you the address.
Tooltips are those balloon-like popups that will tell you something about the link or element before you press the mouse button. One way to tell that a link is bad is that if the address is not what you think. For example, if the link is supposed to send you to the ANA website, the tooltip better say that it will send you to money.org. If it does not, then do not click on the link.
Place your mouse pointer over the link and let the tool tip appear. What does it say?
When you check the link, the address of the server is the first part of the address. If what should be the server name is not in that area at the beginning of the address, do not click on the link.
One trick the phishers use is to show you what looks like a complicated address in the message, but the link behind it will send you to another website. This is where tooltips can help. If you hover over the address and they do not match, it is an attempt to trick you and you should not click on the link.
If you are using a web-based email client, such as Gmail, you can check the address on the status line at the bottom of your browser window. Check to see if the address makes sense. For example, if the email claims to be from Amazon, the link should say “amazon.com” and nothing else. Sometimes phishers will try to write a link using something after the address like “amazon.com.anothersite.co” to fool you. Do not be fooled. A link like this is trying to send you to “anothersite.co” and not Amazon.
Understanding the part of a typical URL and what to look for
If you are unsure about the link, then go to your browser and type in the address yourself.
As with everything in life, there is an exception to the rule. Organizations, like the ANA, will use mailing list services to send out notices to members and anyone else who have signed up for these emails. Unfortunately, the URL you will click on will be one associated with the mailing list service. The service uses this to provide engagement statistics to whoever is sending out the email. For example, for the service that the ANA uses all of the links are to r.listpilot.com.
Mailing list services are great resources for many organizations and their tracking service is necessary to understand the effectiveness of the communication. If you are not sure, continue to visit the organization’s site without clicking on the link.
An example of an email message showing what to look for to understand how to identify it as a phishing attempt.
Examine the envelope information, also referred to as the headers of the message, for signals that this could be a phishing attempt.
Even though a lot of email contains grammatical errors, businesses have proof readers that will prevent the most egregious errors. Look for bad spelling and even using numbers instead of characters, such as using a zero instead of a capital “O.”
Rule #2: No legitimate company or organization will ask for information to be sent via email
One of the tactics that the phishers use to try to trick you into giving them your personal information is to create a form that looks like it is legitimate. Just as it is easy for someone with moderate skills to fake a web page they can also create a counterfeit form. Not only will the form be counterfeit, but they could also embed programs in that form to steal your information.
Embedded code in documents is called macros. Macros are used to command programs to do something for the user. When used in productive environments, macros can be a wonderful tool to create dynamic documents and provide input validation. But the same instructions that can make macros a productive tool can also be used to do bad things.
Unless you are certain about where the document came from, do not open a document. If you open the document and the program asks if you should enable or run macros, do not enable macros.
This is not just a problem with word processing document. PDF documents can also deliver very nasty malware (malicious software). Not only can an attacker add macros to a PDF document, but someone can embed Flash in those PDF. Flash is the technology that helps you watch online videos and add enhancements to the visual interface of some websites. But Flash can be used to attack your computer system. Opening a PDF file sent by someone you do not know can be as dangerous as a word processing document.
Rule #3: Do not open suspicious attachments
Another trick the attackers try to use is adding an attachment named in a way to entice you to open the file. File names consist of the name of a file followed by a period followed by a file extension. The file extension is used to tell the computer the type of program to execute to allow you to work with the file. There are three file extension that very dangerous and should never be opened unless you are absolutely sure who sent them: .zip, .exe, and .dmg for Mac users.
The .zip file extension tells the computer that the file is something called a Zip archive. A Zip archive is a file that is formatted to allow it to store many files that are compressed. Zip files are used for many legitimate purposes including being the default format of Microsoft Word’s .docx file. Unfortunately, it can contain programs and files that can be used to attack your system.
One of the types of file that can be included in a Zip archive is a .exe or executable file. Simply, these are programs in the same way that Microsoft Word is a program. Once an executable file is opened, it will do whatever it is programmed to do. Among the things that the program can do is keylogging. A keylogger reads what you type on your keyboard, what you click on the screen, and in some cases, what is displayed on your screen. The keylogger will be able to capture the username and password you entered when you visit any website including your bank’s website. The problem is that when a key logging program is run, you do not know it is watching what you type. Nor do you know that it connects to a server somewhere on the Internet to send the information to the attacker. Keyloggers and other malware can infect your system in a way that allows it to continue to exist, even if you reboot the computer.
You may ask about anti-virus software helping stop malware. Anti-virus software is programmed to understand what is known about attack vectors. It cannot protect you if it does not know how the virus works. Remember that the government warned that last year’s flu vaccine was not effective for the version of the virus infecting people? Anti-virus software is similar that if it doesn’t know about the strain it cannot protect you. Hackers are always looking for ways to fool anti-virus software.
For Windows user, you should consider running Windows Defender. Windows Defender is built into Windows but cannot be run if you have another anti-virus software. I use Windows Defender and have been happy with the results. If you want more information about Windows Defender visit this page on Microsoft’s support site.
While Macs are more difficult to attack they are not immune. Mac users should never open a file with a .dmg file extension unless you know who sent the file. The Macintosh .dmg file is a disk image stored as a regular file. A disk image file is formatted to look and acts like a disk so that when you double-click the icon, it will mount on your computer as if you plugged in an external disk drive. Because .dmg files are commonly used to install legitimate software, sometimes the installation can be automatically started. If you allow the installation to continue, you can install software as dangerous as what I described for the Windows .exe file.
OS X is a different type of operating system where if you are careful you can get away without running an anti-virus program. However, if you want to be paranoid (along with me) you might want to run the free anti-malware software from Malware Bytes.
Regardless of the operating system and software you use, ALWAYS KEEP IT UP TO DATE! Patching your computer may be an annoyance but the dangers, if you do not apply security patches, will hurt more and last longer!
Rule #4: When in doubt, throw it out!
While all this seems simple to me after having worked in this industry for nearly 40 years, I have seen how these concepts are confusing to the non-technical user. The problem with email is that it was developed as a way for researchers to communicate by plain text across Arpanet, the forerunner of the Internet. Email, as a text-based service, \ has been extended in so many ways that it has created a complicated series of standards that require a degree in computer science to analyze. While these complications make it easier to communicate via email it also makes it difficult to secure.
Even if you cannot fully analyze whether the message is spam or legitimate, if you have any doubt, then just press the delete button. If the message came from a source you know, contact them off-line and ask if the mail is legitimate. If you think the email is from your bank, call the bank and ask. If you think the email is from your credit card company but not sure, call the credit card provider and ask. If you think the email sent from the ANA or NGC is suspicious, call them and ask.
A little intuition and some due diligence can be of great help in these circumstances.
Stay safe online!
Last week, I posted an article about online resources that I use when I want to begin research on a numismatic topic. The list provided a number of resources but a reader wrote to me and noted that I forgot to include paper money resources beyond the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Paper Money Sources
When it comes to searching for information on paper money, I always start at one of the following three sites:
The opening line at USPaperMoney.Info says that it is the “home of everything you ever wanted to know about U.S. currency. (Well, almost….)” This is truth in advertising. Even with the page of unanswered questions, the site has everything you could ever want to know about U.S. currency. I just wish the author would organize the site better.
Don and Vic’s World Banknote Gallery is one of those sites that looks like it was created by a seventh grader in 1998 but has a tremendous amount of very useful information. It is one of the best sites I have found to identify world banknotes.
They have a companion site named World Coin Gallery that is similar. I have used this site and have added it to the original bookmarks file. If you downloaded the original bookmarks then right-click (Control-click for Mac users) and select the option to add worldcoingallery.com to your bookmarks.
Last, but definitely not least, is Banknote News by Owen Linzmayer. If you want to know anything about the production of world paper money, this is the site you need to read. In addition to the information, which a lot of it is in blog form and consistently tagged for easy navigation, Linzmayer has also compiled one of the best references on world paper money called The Banknote Book. He said he did this because he and other collectors were frustrated with the “many errors, omissions, and poor-quality images” in the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money.
The Banknote Book can be purchased as a physical book as a three-volume set complete through 2014 or you can buy individual chapters corresponding to the country of your interest.
If you want to check it out for yourself, download 17 Free Sample Chapters and judge for yourself.
Do you want to add these links to your browser’s bookmarks? Right-click (or Mac users can CTRL-Click) on the following button and select whatever option your browser requires to save the file to hard drive. Import the file as an “HTML Bookmark” file to add these links to your bookmarks.
Normally, I do not directly publish news items but this is important for the entire community.
Did you receive an email or call trying to sell you a Philadelphia World’s Fair of Money hotel room?
The ANA did not authorize this.
It has come to our attention that a third-party booking company inaccurately representing itself as our hotel vendor is contacting ANA members, dealers and exhibitors, offering to book you a hotel room at the ANA World’s Fair of Money; some even provide a promotion code or will misrepresent that they are calling from the hotel.
ANA is not utilizing any housing service vendors for the Philadelphia World’s Fair of Money. Nor has the ANA shared your email with anyone.
Room reservations for the Philadelphia World’s Fair of Money should be made directly with the Philadelphia Marriot Downtown (the show’s host hotel) either by phone – 1-888-236-2427 (mention ANA World’s Fair of Money to secure the group rate) – or via our website at www.money.org/worldsfairofmoney/lodging. Should you want to stay elsewhere, we strongly recommend calling the hotel directly or using a reputable online service such as Hotels.com or Expedia.com.
If you provide your credit card information to any of these unauthorized vendors, your card may be charged but you may not have a reservation when you arrive in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, this is a well-known scam perpetuated on unsuspecting conventioneers across the country.
If you have any questions about the World’s Fair of Money hotel block, or general questions about the show, please contact Jennifer Ackerman at firstname.lastname@example.org, Christie Cooper at email@example.com, or call the ANA Convention team at 1-888-448-3262. Complete information about the show is also available online at www.worldsfairofmoney.com.
Numismatists and serious collectors will tell you to never clean your coins.
At one time it was common practice to clean coins and even use shellac on copper coins to keep their color. Dealers would dip coins in harsh chemicals to remove dirt and grime in order to make the coins more attractive to buyers. But that was in the past. Today, we are more sophisticated collectors and like our coins with as natural of a surface as possible. Because of this, the value of a cleaned coin will drop since it will not be as desirable as a coin with an original surface, regardless of the coin’s overall condition.
In fact, cleaning a coin or altering it to make the coin look better is not only unethical, but it can also be a crime since you would be representing a coin as original and it is not. It is called coin doctoring. This is such a touchy subject for the numismatic community that the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG), an association of top dealers, spent two years trying to define what coin doctoring really means. In 2012, PNG came out with the following three conditions that indicates coin doctoring (emphasis added):
- Movement, addition to, or otherwise altering of metal, so that a coin appears to be in a better state of preservation, or more valuable than it otherwise would be. A few examples are plugging, whizzing, polishing, engraving, “lasering” and adding or removing mintmarks.
- Addition of any substance to a coin so that it appears to be in a better state of preservation or more valuable than it otherwise would be. The use of solvents and/or commercially available dilute acids, such as Jeweluster, by qualified professionals is not considered coin doctoring.
- Intentional exposure of a coin to any chemicals, substances, or processes which impart toning, such that the coin appears to be in a better state of preservation or more valuable than it otherwise would be. Naturally occurring toning imparted during long-term storage using established/traditional methods, such as coin albums, rolls, flips, or envelopes, does not constitute coin doctoring.
But there may be good reasons to clean collectible coins that may not be considered coin doctoring. Some may have collectibles that could be saved if we could just get the dirt or grime off. Some may have some PVC damage that may not have attacked the surface of the coin and could also be saved.
Another reason to clean coins is if you found the coins with a metal detector buried in the ground. Years of being buried in the dirt probably stored in non-archival materials can take its toll on a coin. These coins can be cleaned to remove the dirt.
The purpose is to remove the foreign substances from the surfaces and not to change the physical properties of the coin.
WARNING: IF YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT THIS PROCEDURE OR WANT TO CONSERVE A RARE COIN, CONTACT A PROFESSIONAL CONSERVATION SERVICE.
If you want to try to clean your coin, consider using neutral and non-abrasive means, such as soaking your coins in extra-virginolive oil or acetone. Yes, I did say extra-virgin olive oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is as neutral as you can get with a product that has been used to make soaps and other cleaners. In order for olive oil to be branded as “extra-virgin,” it must be made by the natural pressing of olives with no chemical additives and be no more than 0.8 percent acidic. Not only does the purity make for oil that is good for consumption, the natural fats can react with dirt on the coin and naturally loosen it to be easily rinsed away.
When trying to remove PVC or other stubborn dirt, try using acetone. Acetone is a natural solvent, chemically known as an organic compound, that has many uses. Acetone is slightly acidic, no more than two percent by volume, which is not enough to cause damage to coining metals.
When you buy acetone, check the contents. Acetone that is sold on the paint aisles may contain extra ingredients like turpentine to aid in cleaning brushes. It is important that you use pure acetone. Onyx Professional
is pure acetone marketed to the beauty care market and is safe to use. Its advantage is that it comes in smaller containers than other brands and can be easily ordered online
If you use acetone you need to use 100-percent pure acetone and not nail polish remover. Although nail polish remover does contain acetone, it also contains perfumes and is diluted to the point that it will not work on your coins. The additives will damage the coin’s surface. Acetone can be purchased at your local hardware store and is sold either by the quart or gallon. While shopping, you should also purchase protective gloves (made from powder-free latex or nitrile), a protective mask for your nose and mouth, and something for your eyes if you do not wear glasses. Always remember your safety when using any chemical!
You should never use vinegar or soap. Vinegar is acidic and could affect the surface of the coin. Using vinegar can cause the small scratches and imperfections from the minting or bagging process to become more pronounced. These small etches can also become rough and allow new dirt to adhere to the coin.
Commerical Coin Cleaners
If you go to any coin supply company, you will find commercial coin cleaners. While there are a few that claim to be pH neutral, they contain elements that could cause damage to coins. For metal detector finds and non-rare coins, these may be fine products to use. Others that will brighten or tone a coin do so by altering the surfaces and are not recommended.
Soap is a salt of a fatty acid. Chemically, a salt is a compound that neutralizes the reaction between the alkaline and acid properties of the chemicals. When fats are combined with other ingredients to reduce its acidity, it creates a soap that can be used for cleaning or lubrication. The problem is that the fatty acids on their own will not damage coins, you never know what the alkaline components are that have been added to balance the pH (potential of Hydrogen) of the acid.
Unfortunately, there is no standard definition of pure soap. Its common use is to define a product whose pH is as close to neutral (pH 7) as chemically possible. Unless the company discloses its formula, it would be impossible to tell if the makeup of the soap will negatively interact with the metals.
One final item you should have is distilled water. Distilled water has all the natural impurities removed and reduced the risk of the rinse damaging your coins. Using a squeeze bottle filled with distilled water is the most effective way to rinse away the olive oil or acetone.
When using either olive oil or acetone, the procedure is similar:
- Start with a clean work area. Wash your hands and work on a clean surface. Cleaning your workspace with anti-bacterial wipes will also help. Make sure your work area is safe and well ventilated, especially if you are using acetone.
- Consider covering your work surface with a lint-free towel folded over several times. If you drop the coin, you will drop it on the padding provided by the towel.
- If you are using acetone, don your safety gear. I cannot stress enough that while using acetone is an effective cleaner, you need to work with it in a well-ventilated area and away from any ignition sources, like your kitchen. If you smoke, you may want to leave your matches and lighter outside your work area.
- Pour your acetone or olive oil into a glass that would cover the coin. The depth should be about one-quarter to one-half inch of your liquid. It is also important to use glass for this. Acetone will react with plastic and olive oil may loosen anything that would be stuck to the plastic. A clean glass jar, drinking glass, or dessert bowl works best.
- If you are using acetone, place the coin in the glass and swirl it around for about 30 seconds. After a few swirls, you should start to see dirt in the acetone. If there is PVC on the coin, hopefully, you can see it begin to loosen. Do not do this for much longer than 30 seconds since the dirt in the acetone could scratch the coin.
- If you are using olive oil, place the coin in the glass with the dirtiest side up. Swirl it a few times to ensure the coin is coated and let it sit. Olive oil is not as strong as acetone and needs time to loosen the dirt. Depending on how dirty the coin is, let it sit for 30 minutes to three hours. Do not touch or swirl the coin. Just let it sit.
- Remove the coin from its bath with tongs or your gloved hand. Then using your squeeze bottle filled with distilled water, rinse the coin. Rinse it well to remove the acetone or olive oil. Olive oil is harder to rinse, so patience is required.
After the rinse, place the coin on a lint-free cloth and let it air dry. DO NOT RUB THE COIN! Even though you are using a lint-free cloth, it will scratch the surface. Wait for the coin to dry naturally before storing it away.
If your cleaning attempt did not work, try again. If you used olive oil and want to try again, let the coin sit longer. You may also try using acetone instead. If you used acetone to try to remove PVC damage and it did not work, there is one more thing you can try using a cotton swab:
- After swirling the coin in the acetone, remove the coin from the liquid and place it on a clean surface. Make sure you are using all of your safety precautions.
- Using a cotton swab with a cardboard handle (do not use once with plastic handles since the acetone will react with the plastic), dip the cotton in the acetone and roll the cotton tip across the problem area of the coin. You can gently nudge at PVC particles that may still be attached to your coin. DO NOT RUB THE COIN! You are trying to remove the PVC without causing any further damage and rubbing it or using any other abrasive motion will damage the coin.
- Keep rolling the cotton tip over the area, changing tips after a few rolls. You may also want to have a little clean acetone nearby to dip the cotton swab.
Most importantly, be patient. It may take a few swabs to see results. If it is not working or you feel anxious doing this, then stop. The last thing you want to do is add damage to your collectible. At this point, if the coin is not “clean” then it may not be cleanable. You can try to contact a professional conservation service for additional help.
When you are done, make sure you clean your work area and dispose of your used materials properly. Acetone is considered hazardous so NEVER POUR ACETONE DOWN THE DRAIN. Do not let it sit out because allowing it to evaporate will add toxic vapors in the air. Many cities and towns have hazardous waste processing rules. Find out what they do in your area to allow for disposal of acetone. You can also ask the sales clerk at the store where you bought the acetone for your area’s acceptable disposal options.
While olive oil is not hazardous, it is not a good idea to pour it down the drain. The natural fat in the olive oil will congeal and may stick to your pipes. After a while, the fat builds up and will cause a clog. In my neighborhood, the water company once had to remove a 25-pound congealed ball of grease that caused a backup in everyone’s drain. It was not a pretty sight. You can dispose of olive oil with the trash since it is a natural product and will not pollute the environment.
While watching television, a new advertisement sent off the usual bells and whistles that the numismatic industry needs to watch out for.
Image of the alleged 1964 Morgan Dollar from the cover of A Guide Book to Morgan Silver Dollars 5th Ed. by Q. David Bowers
Our “friends” at the National Collectors Mint has seized on the story of the dies and drawings of a potential 1964 Morgan Dollar that was first published in the fifth edition of A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars. They came up with a tribute proof.
As with all of their tribute proofs, it is clad in 71 milligrams of pure silver. To give you an idea of how much 71 milligrams is, it is 0.002504 ounce or just a little more than two one-thousandths of an ounce. If troy ounces are more your style, it is 0.0022827 troy ounces. This item has 4-cents worth of silver using the current silver price of $16.33 per troy ounce.
With mouth agape as I was trying not to throw something at the television, not only are they selling these at $9.95 each ($19.95 on their website) but they may have figured out a way not to have to embed the word COPY somewhere. They must have made a “deal” with someone in the Cook Islands to put their name on the coin so as to represent it as a coin issued by or for the Cook Islands.
On the back of the coin, rather than the regular legend, it says “TRIBUTE TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is on the left side of the eagle and “COOK ISLANDS” is on the right. They are claiming that these are legal tender coins of the Cook Islands. The commercial does not identify these as non-circulating legal tender coins even though they do make that distinction on their website.
In all other ways, it looks like it could be a 1964 Morgan Dollar.
I was told that commercials for this coin first appeared last August, likely not on cable stations I watch. Apparently, they are stepping up their advertising because I saw it twice on Tuesday night.
Like most of their stuff, collectibility is in the eye of the beholder. However, if someone asks whether you think it is a good buy I would recommend you tell them to save their money. I have seen these “tribute coins” in the junk bins at shows for prices ranging from $1.00-$2.50. The fact that they are in dealer junk bins should be enough of a warning!
There are many ways to collect numismatics and there are many places that a collector can find items to add to a collection.
Collecting can be an expensive hobby regardless of what is collected. Whether it is numismatics or comic books, one piece is never enough and there is always a desire to collect an entire set regardless of the parts that make up the set.
When collecting numismatics, we know about the coin dealer, coin shows, and online auctions from the major auction houses and eBay. But did you know there were other online auctions that you can tap into to find collectibles with better prices?
There is an entire community of resellers working with estates, relocations, downsizing, and liquidation that offers a way to find bargains.
Estates are an easy concept to understand. Someone dies and the family, executor, or personal representative of the estate has the responsibility to clean out the home, apartment, or condominium of the decedent so that everyone else can move on. Regardless of how gentle we try to be, everyone dies and something has to be done with the stuff left behind.
This is where estate sale companies are a help. These companies are contracted to whoever is trying to sell off the estate and hold a sale of the goods. Some estate sales are held over one or two weekends. Buyers go to the house to see what is for sale and buy what they want.
Over the last few years, there has been a growing number of online estate auctions. Rather than holding a sale, the items are either staged in the home or in a warehouse and people bid online. Estate auctions have been extended to relocations, downsizing, and liquidation of seized properties and even commercial assets.
Online estate auctions work like any other online auction. You bid for the item you want and hope you win. When the auction is over, you pay for the item plus a buyer’s premium, similar to what you would pay if you were buying from an auction house. In most cases, the buyer’s premium ranges from 10-15 percent of the selling (hammer) price. In most cases, local sales tax is charged.
Although you can find bargains at these auctions, it is not always an easy process.
First, not every company works the same. Unlike eBay where there are consistent rules sellers have to abide by, estate auction terms and conditions can be very different than what you are used to. Before you bid, read the terms and conditions. If you cannot abide by them, do not agree to bid on the auction.
How do you agree to the terms and condition? Register on the auction site and click the button for that auction. Registration requires you to identify yourself including entering a valid credit card. When you agree to the terms and conditions of the auction, most companies will put a hold on your credit card for a set value to determine that the credit card is valid. These holds can range from $1-100. Remember this if you use a debit card. In most cases, your credit card will be charged for the purchases immediately up the close of the auction.
The auction platforms may be very different than what you are used to. These auction platforms take their cues from services offered by major auction houses and not eBay. Their catalog is a list of lots for sale that includes pictures an additional information. Not every item includes good pictures or descriptions and not every auction service uses their software to its best capabilities.
Some companies offer a live preview. If the auction is being staged onsite, then you can go to that site during the designated time and examine the items up for bid. Auctions held from warehouses usually hold multi-day previews. If you cannot attend a preview or if there is no preview offered, you have to rely on the pictures. If the picture does not give you the confidence you need to bid, pass on that item.
These auctions allow you to enter a maximum bid and will raise your bid price until someone outbids your maximum, similar to what you may be used to on eBay. One big difference is that most of these auctions use a soft close system. A soft close happens when a bid is received at the last minute of the auction. When a bid is received the end of the auction is extended. Most auctions will extend the end time 3-5 minutes to prevent sniping.
Most of these estate and liquidation auction services set their lots up with a low starting price. Usually, the opening price is $1.00 and sell with no reserve. Some have other practices that they use to protect the seller of higher-priced items. But this scenario can be a recipe for finding bargains. In one auction, I was able to purchase three Carson City Morgan Dollars in GSA holders for about 75-percent of than their Greysheet value even after sales taxes and buyer’s fee were added. I was then able to sell the coins to a client who paid their Greysheet value giving me a nice profit for the day.
Another issue you will have to work around is that many of these auctions do not provide shipping. If you read their terms it will say that if you win you will have to pick up your items at a specific place during the designated pickup time. If you want your items shipped you will have to work with a third-party shipping service such as the local Parcels Plus or UPS Store.
There have been mixed reports using third-party shipping services. Some are very good, contientious, and will take care of you but at a cost. There are others that are not very good and have been known not to pack the items well and pilfer from your winnings. There is no way to know the rating of the auction service’s recommended shipper. You may want to try to find online reviews of that shipper.
A few of these estate auction companies will provide shipping services. If you require shipping, you may have to do this as part of the registration or contact the company immediately following the close of the auction. Those companies that provide shipping will charge a service fee in addition to the postage.
Remember, the larger and more expensive the item, the more will be required for it to be shipped.
When purchasing anything from an estate auction, it is important that you read and understand their terms and conditions before you bid and buy. Each service has different terms and conditions that could turn your purchase into a nightmare. If you are careful, you can find bargains.
Where can you find these bargains?
This is where I give up the secrets that have allowed me to build a collectibles business. I have used these resources to travel the region to find cool items that have made a lot of people smile.
My first go-to resource is EstateSales.net. I have found no other resource with the most complete listing of every estate sale and auctions for whatever region of the country I am located. It is a free service for buyers. Either select your state or enter your zip code to find all of the sales in your area. Even if you are visiting your relatives out of town, enter their zip code and see if you can find some bargains.
Listings on EstateSales.net include the address and hours of the sale. If it is an online auction, it will provide a link to the auction site. Each sale page can include photos of the items for sale. While photos are not required, most listings include them. You can get a preview of the items for sale to help you decide whether it is worth the trip or the effort to bid.
They also have a mailing list you can sign up for that will send you sales in your selected region.
Using the listing on EstateSales.net, you will learn who some of the local auction companies are. You can either watch for their sales on EstateSales.net or go to their website and sign up for their mailing list. Some of these auction companies continue to have live, in-person auctions and it may be something you will consider attending.
Another place to find estate auctions is on the site that provides the auction services to the various companies. One of the largest services is HiBid.com.
HiBid is a great site for finding a lot of auctions in a lot of places and supports a few different auction formats including online only, live webcast auctions, absentee bidding, or just catalogs for auctions that will be live or even on another platform. They will allow you to search across auction companies and regions.
As I am writing this, there are 1,134 open auctions with 794 being internet online-only. Of those online-only auctions, there are 3,607 lots in the Coins & Paper Money category.
AuctionZip.com is another auction hosting service that is very auction company-centric. While you can search across auctions its model is to try to protect the propriety of the companies that use its site. Once you see the difference in the interface between HiBid.com and AuctionZip.com, you will understand why the former is more popular.
One nice feature about AuctionZip.com is that when you do a search it lets you look at the auctions open for a particular day. If you have time restrictions, it will allow you to better tailor your bidding times. This is good if you are traveling so that you do not have a conflict with the end of the auction.
LiveAuctioneers.com is a similar service but serves a more upscale audience. Their service has stricter requirements as to who can list auctions on their platform. What this does is provide better assurances for the buyer that they are dealing with a more established company. Currently, there are 7,780 items listed for auction in the Coins, Currency & Stamps category.
A feature of LiveAuctioneers.com, aside from its clean interface, is that they have a consignment service that helps connect you with an auctioneer that will help sell your items. If you have something that you want to sell at auction but do not know who to speak with, this is a good service to help get you started.
One of the oldest services is icollector.com. They are a strictly collectible market auction service. Although their catalog is smaller than the others listed, their listings are comparable in the collecting categories. iCollector.com may not be as elegant as other services, but they do have the inventory for you to look at. There are just under 15,000 lots of various numismatics. Their strength is that the numismatic categories are divided by country and type. Where other auctions make have a general category, iCollector.com has categories to allow you to narrow your search down to what your interest.
Last, but definitely not least, is Invaluable. Auction companies that use Invaluable are what could be classified as mid-to-upper range companies. These companies are more concentrated around art and furniture but have added collectibles and other categories likely to facilitate sales from companies that buy higher-end estates in order to keep them as clients. Most of the auctions on Invaluable are absentee bid auctions with some items available for immediate sale. As I write there, there are 20,485 lots available in the Coins, Money & Stamps category. In fact, over the last few weeks, gold and silver bars dominate the listings on the first page of the category.
Invaluable is also a site with a very clean interface that is very welcoming. They also divide their larger sections into individual categories so whether you are interested in US Coins or Ancient Coins, you can browse that section without clutter.
Since I started writing this article, I won several silver Chinese Panda coins from an online estate auction. Most of the coins were purchased at or below the spot price of silver even when adding the buyer’s premium. One of those coins that were purchased a little over the spot price is the very popular 2000 Panda that can sell for a lot of money. There are other coins that I purchased at less than market value.
Even though I am not a fan of third-party grading services, especially for modern coins, I will send these coins to one. Although I think all but one is genuine, and it is possible it was a pocket piece, as long as the 2000 and amake up of the pre-2000 silver Panda coins are genuine, I will more than makeup for the cost of the entire purchase plus the grading fees.
Now go out and find your own bargains!
If there is one story from this week that makes my blood boil is from the Houston Chronicle. They reported that a 72-year old woman was duped by the National Collector’s Mint (NCM) into purchasing $1.3 million in alleged rare coins.
“Clad in 31 milligrams of pure gold,” or $1.34 in gold at the current price of $1,349.10 per troy ounce. (YouTube screen grab)
The elderly woman, like many other elderly who may not have the experience to deal with the sales pitch or understand the nuances of the particular investment, was smooth-talked by one of their salesmen who played on her emotions.
According to the story, the woman has infrequent contact with her children and used to look forward to the sales call from the NCM representative. Like similar scams, the representative likely fed on these emotions to convince her to buy NCM’s overpriced products.
The National Collector’s Mint settled on a fine of $750,000 from the Federal Trade Commission for advertising they were selling “official” 9/11 commemorative coins. The FTC claimed the ads were deception because no such coin was authorized by Congress, the only constitutionally legal entity to grant legal tender status to any coin from the United States. NCM settled without admitting guilt.
With all due respect to the National Collector’s Mint, they have advertised garbage collectibles before. Whether it is the not-so-official 9/11 commemorative coin or the tribute proof plated with gold with less than one-dollar in value, the television commercials that I have seen even on allegedly reputable cable channels is enough to make one gag on their coffee.
If you have elderly relatives living alone, give them a call. First, you will be doing a good thing especially if they are your parents. Even if there have been problems in the past, get over it. Life is way too short to hold a grudge. While talking with them, make sure they are not being taken advantage of by the likes of these scam artists. By talking with them they will not feel lonely and have to seek comfort in the voice of a smooth talker sitting in some cube farm in some sterile office.
Please remind them that if the deal sounds too good to be true, it is not a good deal! This includes the overpriced coins that are sold on the television shopping channels!
And now the news…
February 13, 2018
Our colleague Martin Shaw thinks he may have actually found a fake → Read more at cornwalllive.com
February 13, 2018
Thursday is the last day that one-cent, ten-cent and 25-cent coins can be used as legal monetary tender in Jamaica.However, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) will continue to redeem them indefinitely, during its regular business hours of 9 a.m. to 2 p.m…. → Read more at jamaica-gleaner.com
February 13, 2018
In many quarantines, these coins were the only form of money that patients affected by the disease could access. → Read more at atlasobscura.com
February 14, 2018
South Africans can expect a new coin and banknote issue with former President Nelson Mandela’s face on it later this year. → Read more at timeslive.co.za
February 14, 2018
An elderly Houston woman says an on-line coin seller based in New York took advantage of her loneliness to sell her $1.3 million in gold and silver coins at inflated prices. Patricia Thomas, 72, sued the National Collector's Mint in federal court in Houston, alleging that one of its sales representatives, under the guise of "checking in" with Thomas, smooth-talked her into to buying the coins, which cost more than twice what they were worth, according to court documents. → Read more at chron.com
February 15, 2018
February 15, 2018
MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) – Timberwolves players, coaches and fans paid tribute to the late Coach Flip Saunders at the Target Center. Saunders was honored as part of “Flip Saunders Night” at Thursday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. → Read more at fox9.com
February 16, 2018
Blackpool Tower is set to feature on a new silver £5 coin, an announcement by the Queen has revealed. The commemorative cash, which will be released ahead of the iconic structure’s 125th birthday next year, will be part of a series to celebrate British landmarks. → Read more at blackpoolgazette.co.uk
The news article that caught my eye this week is a commentary produced on the website for WDEL, a radio station in Wilmington, Delaware about an advertisement that appeared in Wilmington’s News Journal newspaper for the “First-Ever Official Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl LII Champions Legal Tender Coin.”
An online search found the item for sale at the Bradford Exchange.
According to the product page (I am not providing a link since I am not endorsing this product), it is a legal tender coin but does not indicate the country of issue. The “coin” is plated in 24-karat gold and comes in a holder that looks very similar to a popular third-party grading service.
The images provided on the product page are of one side of the coin. There are no images of the reverse of the coin or the holder. Even with the description that does not include the coin’s metal content including the amount of gold it contains and the country that granted legal tender status. They want buyers to shell out $49.95 plus $4.95 for shipping and handling.
This is worse than the Gold Buffalo Tribute Proof from the National Collector’s Mint. If you have the opportunity to watch the business cable channels during the day, they are consistent advertisers. At least with the Gold Buffalo Tribute Proof you will only be ripped-off for $19.95 plus $7 shipping.
Simply, the amount of gold in the plating is so thin that there may be less than $1.00 worth of gold. Even if the base coin is brass or bronze, the amount of copper would make the metal value less than $2.00. Since the Bradford Exchange has indicated it has licensing agreements with the NFL and NFL Players Association, their costs may be higher in order to pay off these concerns.
Even though they are creating only 2,017 of these coins, the resale market is very limited. When you or your heirs try to sell these coins, they will find that if the coin can be resold it will probably bring pennies on the dollar versus the original price.
If you are a Philadelphia Eagles fan and want a numismatic-related souvenir of their win in Super Bowl LII, then it looks like a nice, albeit expensive item. If you are only interested as a speculator, you can find something better to invest in.
And now the news…
February 5, 2018
Bank to act amid concerns over private firms selling medals marking historic events → Read more at irishtimes.com
February 5, 2018
More than $50 million worth of gold bars, coins, and dust that has sat at the bottom of the ocean since the ship it was on sunk in 1857 is about to go on public display in California. → Read more at fox10tv.com
February 5, 2018
Today marks 100 years since the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which was the first piece of law that gave women the right to vote in elections. And to celebrate, the Royal Mail has released a set of eight special stamps, commemorating the piece of legislation which extended the right to vote to women over 30 and to millions of men over the age of 21 who had previously been denied the opportunity. → Read more at digitalspy.com
February 5, 2018
WE'RE getting used to plastic fivers and tenners and are now awaiting the official announcement from the Bank of England on when the polymer £20 notes will be introduced. The polymer tenner came into circulation in September 2017, with hundreds of millions in circulation. → Read more at thesun.co.uk
February 6, 2018
Page 6A of today's News Journal carries a half-page ad for the "First-Ever Official Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl LII Champions Legal Tender Coin". Doubtless this very same ad appears in newspapers all over our region. → Read more at wdel.com
February 6, 2018
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Rochester man has been sentenced to three years of probation for selling counterfeit coins. Timothy Meacham, 32, was also ordered to pay over $5,000 in restitution. → Read more at wivb.com
February 6, 2018
Most of the coins in the Knights of St John collection were contained in Professor Salvatore Luigi Pisani’s donation. Photos: Chris Sant Fournier Coins from every era of history have for the first time gone on permanent display at the National Museum of Archaeology, offering a glimpse of the commercial and political forces driving Malta through the ages. → Read more at timesofmalta.com
February 7, 2018
IT MAY seem baffling why anybody would want to burn money, and there are many rumours about what would actually happen if you were caught destroying currency. We’ve debunked the fact from the fiction, so you can keep on the right side of the law. → Read more at thesun.co.uk
February 7, 2018
MARQUETTE — A standing-room-only crowd of nearly 1,000 people filled the Mather Auditorium in Munising Wednesday to be part of the launch of the first America The Beautiful quarter issued in 2018, which honors Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. → Read more at miningjournal.net
February 8, 2018
During the reign of William III, in the second half of the 17th century, it was the fashion for a young man to give a crooked coin to the object of his affections. The suitor would bend the coin, both to make it an amulet and to prevent it being reused. → Read more at theguardian.com
During a recent coin club meeting, someone asked how to create an album or some type of presentation for a custom collection. Whether they are putting together year sets, typeset, or a theme set, there is always the question as to how to create a way to display them.
One typical solution is to purchase the pages that you can slide 2×2 holders in each space. Each page holds 20 of the 2x2s and the pages can be placed in any binder.
Experienced collectors know that the typical 2×2 holder is ugly. They are either cardboard with an opening covered in Mylar or they are clear plastic flips. And not all flips are the same. Those made with certain plastics, including those that contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) will damage whatever you put into those holders. Also, some of the older pages contain PVC. Even if the individual holder may be archival safe, the holders are not airtight and will allow the gasses from the PVC to eventually damage the coin.
I found a better solution.
When I started collecting Canadian coins, I started looking for an album or some other way to display the collection. At the time, Whitman had not started selling Canadian coin folders again (they had stopped years earlier). Using the Internet, I began to search for Canada-based coin shops to see what they had in inventory.
Gardmaster Canada 5-Cents Album
A page from my Gardmaster Canada 5-Cents Album
Gardmaster Canada Dollar Album
A page from my Gardmaster Canada Dollar Album
Just like for United States coins there are only a few options. After doing some research I settled on Gardmaster albums.
Gardmaster albums use clear pages that have a slider where the coins are placed. Pull out the slider and insert your coin or other numismatic collectibles in the pocket. Slide the slider back in and you have a clear page to see both sides and edge of the coin. The plastic they use does not contain a softening agent (like PVC) to keep your collectibles safe.
Slider slides out to place coins
Coins are inserted from the top of the slider which holds the coins in place
The covers themselves use a snap closure to keep the pages in place. These covers are thick enough to hold 5 pages comfortably but can be pushed to six. The limiting factor will be the thickness of your collectibles. Adding too many pages will cause the cover to bulge making the presentation less attractive.
Between the pages is a page where information is either printed with the information about the collectible or can be purchased blank for you to add your own information. For my Large Cent collection, I used Brother P-Touch labels to mark the slots for each coin. I tried to make a template using Microsoft Word but was unsuccessful. A more experienced Word wrangler explained what I was doing wrong which will allow me to fix this when I get a chance.
Gardmaster Generic USA Cents album I use for Large Cents
One of the pages of my Gardmaster USA Cents Album
Gardmaster, a Canadian company, makes albums for all series of Canadian coins including modern coins. Albums for Canadian coins have the Canadian crest printed on the cover along with the coin’s series.
Gardmaster also makes albums for United States coins that have a heraldic eagle on the cover. Albums are available for all United States series including State quarters, Presidential dollars, and albums with coin types on the cover but no dates printed on the inserts allowing the collector to make their own collection.
Blank covers are also available that include what they call a “World Crest.” I do not know what the World Crest looks like since I have not purchased one.
- 30 pocket page, fits up to 27mm coins
- 16 pocket page, fits up to 41mm coins
- 2 pocket page, fits proof or mint sets
- 3 pocket page, fits current or small currency
- 9 pocket page, fits up to 52mm coins
- 20 pocket page, fits up to 30mm coins
If you are making your own album, Gardmaster has six-page types to choose from. Most coins can fit into a 30-pocket page that has six pockets in a row and five rows. When I was creating my Large Cent album I thought that was a little tight. I bypassed the 20-pocket page (five pockets with four rows) for the 16-pocket page (four pockets in four rows).
The various page sizes can be mixed and matched depending on your needs.
Currently, I buy the Gardmaster Albums and pages from Brooklyn Gallery Coins and Stamps. When you search for the albums and pages, you need to search for “guardmaster” since they spelled it wrong. Who cares about the spelling—Brooklyn Gallery has great prices and they ship quickly.
Although Gardmaster albums are better looking than 2×2 pages in binders, they are not as good looking as the Dansco, Whitman, or the Littleton albums I have used. The binders remind me of the 1980s that is in dire need of an upgrade. The covers look like they are pressed around the cardboard in the center instead of cleanly wrapped like most covers we are used to using.
My next project is to organize my New York Collection. Currently, these are coins, tokens, and medals in 2×2 holders and flips with most put into the typical binder page. As I gather these items, I am going to figure how I will organize these pieces and buy the appropriate Gardmaster albums for them. When I do, I will fix the template so that I can print the divider page with the information I want using the inkjet printer on my desk.
Storms of all type are hitting the shores of the United States. Nearly two weeks after Harvey did his damage in southeast Texas, Irma is north of the Florida Keys and heading towards Naples as I type this.
And don’t get me started on the devastation that Equifax will bring to all of us!
While Irma is now attacking Florida, Hurricane Jose is hanging out about 300 miles northwest of the northern Leeward Islands. Some forecasts have Jose stalling out over the Atlantic Ocean. However, its movement shows is on a very slow track that if it keeps going will land on the shores of the Carolinas.
Forget the suggestion to keep your valuables in your dishwasher or washing machine. If the electricity flashes or surges, it could trigger the appliance to turn on. If the storm rips apart your house, your appliance can find itself miles away with your valuables still inside.
In the days to come, I will have information about protecting your collectibles in case of a disaster.
It is too late to plan now. Your primary concern should be to the lives of you and your family, relatives, friends, and neighbors. If you were told to evacuate, get the heck out! Material items can be repaired and replaced. Once you die there is no coming back.
For everyone else not in the path of the storms, please consider helping. If you cannot work in the affected area, you can donate money and blood. Money is more flexible than donating goods because it allows relief workers to buy what is necessary instead of warehousing surplus.
Blood is needed to help the injured and sick during this time.
Blood has a shelf-life of around four weeks. It constantly needs renewal. You can donate whole blood every 56 days!
To find a blood drive near you visit redcrossblood.org.
The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) works with credible agencies to help people during domestic disasters. You can donate to any of the members listed on their website at nvoad.org.