- The scammers are in Shenzen, China
- It may be more than one person behind the scam, but they are working together.
- There appears to be a pocket of these scammers in the Middle East. Early analysis suggests they are in Doha, Qatar.
- All email addresses are either on Gmail or use Google’s professional services that allow Gmail to look like a real domain.
- Any of these sites that have a U.S.-based telephone number are using burner phones. For those not familiar with the term, a burner phone is one on a pay-as-you-go plan. The phones are cheap, easily disposed of, and are difficult to trace.
- Any of these sites that use a U.S.-based physical address use a dropbox service from a logistics company. The dropbox service is a locker that the company pays as a way to manage shipping remotely. There are legitimate uses for these dropbox services, but these scammers use them to make it look like they are located in the United States.
- The scammers are using branded gift cards to pay for these services.
While investigating these sites, I learned that there are five tips that, if followed, you will avoid being scammed.
- NO LEGITIMATE DEALER IS SELLING BULLION COINS FOR BELOW THE SPOT PRICE!
The current price of silver is $23.43 per troy ounce. If anyone is selling American Silver Eagles for less, they are likely trying to sell counterfeit coins.
- IF THE DEAL IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT LIKELY IS NOT A GOOD DEAL!
When purchasing bullion and coins from dealers, the price between the spot price and the price the dealer will sell the coins for is called the spread. The spread can change based on inventory, availability, and other market forces. It is rare when the spread is less than 5-percent. Some of the largest dealers will lower their spread for their better customers or as a special to lure other customers. A good deal is when the spread is less than 5-percent. However, the spread is rarely less than 2-percent. If a legitimate dealer sells metals for less than 2-percent over the spot price, that is a good deal. These companies are not in business to lose money. Be very worried if someone is trying to sell bullion coins for less.
- IF THE DEALER DOES NOT IDENTIFY THEMSELVES ON THEIR WEBSITE, THEY ARE LIKELY HIDING SOMETHING.
On every website that is likely selling counterfeit coins, they have a wonderfully written “About Us” page that says nothing. The Of the four websites that readers have sent to ask if they were legitimate, all of the “About Us” pages were copies. A web search using sample passages from the page yielded thousands of results.
- IF THE CONTACT PAGE DOES NOT HAVE LEGITIMATE CONTACT INFORMATION, THEY ARE LIKELY HIDING SOMETHING.
One of the indicators of a site owned by Chinese scammers is if they give you hours in HKT or Hong Kong Time. These scammers are not in Hong Kong but are in Shenzen, which is in the same time zone.
- IF THE SITE IS “POWERED BY SHOPLAZZA,” IT IS LIKELY A SCAMMER SITE.
Go to the bottom of any page. If there is a copyright statement followed by “Powered by Shoplazza,” then run away. Shoplazza is a newly created service out of China that seems to be a Shopify clone made by reading Shopify’s HTML. While looking at the HTML code, there are indications that the site was created quickly. During a quick look at three sites highly suspected of selling counterfeit American Silver Eagle coins, I was able to confirm that their sites are hosted on Shoplazza.
Since my first post about these Chinese scammers, I have received at least five notes per week saying they bought ten coins from these websites. Everyone that received the coins and was able to weigh them found they weigh only 25 grams. A real American Silver Eagle coin should weigh 31.103 grams.
Yes, I bought two coins from one of the sites, but I did so for educational purposes. I suspected that these would be counterfeit, and I wanted the coins to learn more about them. I believe they are silver plated. As for what is under the silver plate, I have to wait until I can visit a dealer with one of those devices that can analyze coins.
Please do not buy from them.
There is a coin shortage.
There is also a currency shortage, but it is not as severe as the coin shortage.
The shortage is not because the government has stopped the manufacturing process. There was a production slowdown in April and May, but that does not account for the lack of circulating coins. The West Point Mint briefly closed because the circumstances were different. West Point does not strike circulating coinage.
Although the Bureau of Engraving and Printing slowed down production in Washington, D.C., Fort Worth did not miss a beat.
The Federal Reserve, an independent organization, did not stop the circulation of money. There is money in the various cash rooms around the country. While some of the supply is lower than usual, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified to Congress that their supplies are adequate to meet the demand.
If the government is not causing the coin shortage, then where are the coins?
For nearly eight weeks beginning in mid-March, the amount of money circulating diminished to its lowest levels since the Great Depression. You have not been spending cash. The result is that the stores and banks were not circulating coins forcing the logistics companies to store what they can and deposit the rest with the Federal Reserve.
The Federal Reserve believes there are enough coins to satisfy commerce. The problem is that the supply chain has to restart. There is a limit to how fast the supply chain can move the coins around.
The warehouses where the coins are stored is like a gallon jug or your favorite beverage. To server your guests, you need to pour that gallon jug into glasses. But the only way to pour the jug is into a funnel to guide the liquid into each glass. How much is pouring slowed down by the bottleneck of the smaller opening at the bottom of the funnel?
In the case of coins, the smaller opening is the armored cars that deliver the money from the warehouses to the banks and other large institutions. The limited capacity of the opening will slow down the pouring of the beverage and the pouring of the coins back into the economy.
One Federal Reserve research group suggested that it could take 3-6 weeks for the supply chain to get back to normal. Compared to the lack of Clorox and Lysol cleaners in the supermarkets, that is lightning fast!
And now the news…
According to a source, the American Numismatic Association Board of Governors voted to hold the 2023 World’s Fair of Money in Pittsburgh. As part of the selection, the “ANA will be seeking a better deal from the venue than they got in 2020.” If they do not get a better deal, the source interpreted the discussion that the ANA will look elsewhere.
The vote was 7-2 in favor of the decision. President Steve Ellsworth and Governor Mary Lynn Garrett voted against the measure. Both believe that the show should exclusively be in Rosemont.
I have come out against holding the ANA premiere show in one location. Moving it around the country will help reach more people and include its educational agenda in more places. While I love Chicago and have friends in the Chicagoland area, moving the show is in the best interest of the ANA.
For a hobby that is not seeing growth and is having difficulties with diversity amongst its membership, having a traveling show should be an invitation to potential members.
I am still holding out hope for holding the World’s Fair of Money in Washington, D.C. While there have been roadblocks in the past, the environment for making the District more welcoming to the ANA a possibility. I have a few ideas to welcome minority communities to introduce them to numismatics. It would work well in the Washington community.
With all due respect to Ellsworth and Garrett, you miss out on an opportunity to reach out to potential new members. You have to look beyond your self-interests and work for the good of the association!
There is a meme going around the Interwebs that shows Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) getting out of his modified DeLorean with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) standing there with Brown telling Marty not to set the time machine to 2020. If you do not understand the meme, I recommend you stream Back to the Future on your favorite streaming platform. It is a classic movie!
We are 13 days into July, and I realized that June was over, and the Legislative Update was due. Then again, we discussed the only legislation that Congres introduced in June. Otherwise, there is nothing to report on the legislation front.
S. 4006: Coin Metal Modification Authorization and Cost Savings Act of 2020
Coins are available from the Royal Mint in gold, silver, and uncirculated. Uncirculated coins come in a special folder honoring Elton John.
There will be those that will complain that these coins hurt the hobby. To borrow a term from our British friends: RUBBISH! If these coins bring people into the hobby, then they are great.
What is bad for the hobby is buying surplus coins from the U.S. Mint and calling it a hoard! For years, the U.S. Mint has been selling off its excess inventory or melting precious metals. This time, someone bought them, sent them to be slabbed, and would jack up the prices under the guise of something special. When the buyer goes to sell them and finds out that they are not worth what they paid, that will have people running away from the hobby. It is similar to the overpriced crap sold on television during the 50 State Quarters program.
Even GovMint.com is getting into the junk selling hype. They have been on satellite radio hawking the emergency production bullion coins struck at Philadelphia after COVID-19 temporarily closed the West Point Mint. Their ad for “P-Mint designated” coins touts them as something special. They are not unique or rare, as the commercial insinuates. Bullion coins are struck at Philadelphia. The difference is that there was a way to determine which mint struck these coins.
What is more damaging to the hobby, selling over-priced bullion or common leftover coins or non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coins with themes that some old-timers do not seem to like?
Here, let me make some of you upset. I visited the website for the Royal Mint and found something that I will add to my collection:
If that makes you upset, then you need to rethink your attitude on the hobby!
And now the news…
Once again, the State Department is about to do something that negatively affects a part of numismatics. Even if you are not an ancient coin collector, the ability to collect and study ancient coins helps give all of us clarity into history.
If the State Department permits the Memorandum of Understanding with Italy to pass, it will signal an end to ancient collectors’ ability to participate in the hobby. First, it will be the restriction of ancient Roman coins, then others will follow. Soon, every coin will become cultural property and locked in a museum, never to be seen again.
I heard it explained that coins were never meant to be static items. The rulers of ancient lands intended for the coins to circulate with their image. It was supposed to tie people to the empire. It was so important to pay the soldiers and circulate the money that coiners accompanied many armies. They would strike coins using the looted material and move on to the next conquest.
Most of these coins are not rare or even scarce. They are common, often seeing hoards of hundreds and accumulation of thousands across Europe. Some of the scarce coins can be readily found on the market and in museums.
However, if we listened to the archeologist, every crumb they find from the ancient past belongs in a museum. The necessity to save every widow’s mite is like wanting to save the Cross of Coronado.
From Wayne Sayles, Executive Director of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild:
The deadline to send a comment to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) has been extended to July 14, 2020. Comments can be left at:
If you want more detailed information and a sample letter to the CPAC, read:
In fact, read it anyway. It contains a lot of useful information.
We should stand up for the hobby, whether you collect ancient coins or not!