Sorry for being late. It’s the holiday season and those of us in retail are busy!
‘Tis the season… for scams!
According to the AARP Fraud Watch Network, the people perpetrating the scams are skilled in the psychological warfare necessary to get the intended victim to believe them. Most target the elderly because they are the ones with psychological issues that come from aging, such as reduced functionalities, loss of loved ones, and a changing culture that they do not understand.
Although gold and silver scams are not new, scammers are using the confusing language of new laws that allows these criminals to hide behind the mumbo-jumbo of words.
Unfortunately, these slick-talking salespeople are good at what they do. The result is separating their mark from their money, leaving the victim broke.
The best suggestion to deal with this type of fraud is not to buy anything over the telephone from someone you do not know. It does not matter how professional they sound or good they make you feel. These people are not looking out for your best interest.
Also, do not fall for the “we will hold your gold or silver in our vaults and give you a receipt” scam. While there are legitimate companies that will offer this service, for a fee, others are not licensed or insured to keep your assets secure. If you fall for this scam, they will run away with your money while you hold onto a worthless piece of paper.
Unless you initiate the call to a verified telephone number, do not give out any personal information to the person on the other end of the line. Even if the person claims to be from a charity, you will not be able to verify whether their story is true or not. Just hang up and go on with your life. You will be happier that you did!
RECOMMENDATION: If you want to learn more about how scams occur and how to protect yourself and your loved ones from them, you will want to listen to The Perfect Scam, a podcast from AARP. Although I have heard about many of these scams, the podcast puts them into a broader context by discussing how widespread it is. If there is a vulnerable person in your life, you should listen to this podcast to learn about the signals that they may be in trouble from a scammer. You can listen to it on your favorite podcast app or visit the podcast’s homepage.
And now the news…
Over the years, I have heard from many people regarding the problems with mailorder numismatics. Every few months, someone writes and asks about the value of something they bought from a non-numismatic magazine or from something they saw on television.
My answers tend to be upsetting because the market does not value these items as the television hucksters do.
Recently, I wrote about the experience with someone who brought in a box of coins he bought from television and magazines. I described his reaction as “The look on his face when I told him was as if I kicked his dog.” Then I was provided an example of why my words land very hard.
Sunday’s are my day off. Even though I have personal work to catch up on, I will play couch potato and watch television. This past Sunday, I entered the wrong number in the remote and landed on the Fox Business channel.
When I tuned in, the camera was panning a display with graded American Silver Eagle coins. Of course, I stopped to stare at the shiny silver coins. Then I heard the pitch.
The pitchman is Rick Tomaska, owner of Rare Collectibles TV. Tomaska seemed pleasant and appeared knowledgable. His pitch was selling a date run of American Silver Eagle graded MS-69 by NGC for $1,995.00. It almost seemed reasonable until it was made clear that the pitch was for a date run of 31 coins from 1986-2016.
Is $1,995.00 a good deal for the 31 coins? My first instinct was to check the price guides. Since the online Greysheet does not include the retail price for graded bullion coins (why?), I used two other guides: Numismedia Fair Market Value Price Guide and the price guide from NGC. Based on a grade of MS-69, the guides provided the following information based on prices for the 1986-2016 34-coin set:
34 coins @ MS-69
|NGC Price Guide
34 coins @ MS-69
31 coins @ MS-69
But Numismedia and NGC are price guides. Guides are not the retail prices a collector would pay. So we turn to the interwebs to search for “date run American Silver Eagle coins.” The search returned several entries on the first page that was not RCTV.
Taking the top three entries from the search, only one dealer was sold out. The others offered a complete set of 34 coins, 1986-2019, graded MS-69 by NGC for considerably less than Tomaska’s price. To be fair, where there was a difference between the cash and credit prices, I used the credit card price, which is usually higher. Then I searched eBay and sorted for the lowest price. The following is what I found:
|Company||Date Run||Coins in Set||Advertised Price||Shipping||Average per coin|
|eBay Seller constitutionclct||1986‑2019||34||$1299.00||$14.95||$38.65|
For the eBay dealer who was charging for shipping, the cost per coin was the lowest even after adding the shipping costs to the total price.
JM Bullion and Mint Products.com are reputable companies. Both firms are worth considering if you do not feel comfortable making this purchase from an eBay seller. Note that these companies will base the price of their bullion coins on the current spot price of silver. Their retail prices may fluctuate.
When you buy from these television advertisements, you will overpay.
To help enforce the issue, the JM Bullion website said that they would buy a complete date set of American Silver Eagle bullion coins for $1,094.12 when I looked up the price. If you purchased the set advertised on television, you would be LOSING $900!
As part of the pitch, if you ordered the set, Tomaska would send a copy of the 4th Edition of American Silver Eagle: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Program autographed by Miles Standish, the book’s co-author, who was present with Tomaska.
What is sad is that Miles Standish joined Tomaska as part of this infomercial. Although Standish did not assist Tomaska in his pitch for the set, his presence is an appearance of legitimacy. It is similar to the appearance of past ANA President David Ganz on an infomercial. Neither endorsed the product that was being sold, but their presence was used to suggest otherwise.
I would not recommend buying coins or any collectible from a television show. Every collectible I have seen being hawked on television was 45-60 percent over what might be considered wholesale value for its market.
As a small business owner, I would be foolish to criticize someone for making a profit. It’s the Ameican way. However, there is a difference between making a profit and price gouging. It is why I am warning you against purchasing collectibles from a pitch on television.
The biggest numismatic-related news of the week that not reported in many media outlets. It was the failure of the U.S. Mint to deal with a high volume of orders for what everyone anticipated would be a popular product.
On November 14, 2019, the numismatic community rushed to the U.S. Mint website. It flooded their call center attempting to purchase the 2019 American Eagle One Ounce Silver Enhanced Reverse Proof Coin. As with almost all of their past launches, the U.S. Mint e-commerce systems failed the collecting community.
Collectors reported web failures, outages, and disconnection on the telephone trying to order the product. I was first alerted of a problem by a family member and my mailbox filled with readers who experienced similar issues.
After hearing the criticism, the U.S. Mint issued the following statement:
To try to spin this further, on Friday, the U.S. Mint issued the following statement:
With all due respect to the U.S. Mint, if this is beyond your capacity, then the competence of the Mint and their contractor (aren’t they contracted with Pitney-Bowes?) are in question. There are e-commerce systems that have higher capacity requirements and service their customers better.
The failure of their e-commerce system is not a new problem for the U.S. Mint. We can go back through the history of this blog to note how badly they have implemented their e-commerce systems.
Frankly, I am not surprised. Years ago, when I was a contractor within the Department of the Treasury, I had to listen to how the U.S. Mint’s systems were built to be greater and better than anyone else in the department. Their technology directors touted their capacity and their capabilities over all the other bureaus. They used these reasons to allow them to separate themselves and to avoid integration with other systems, even suggesting that they be the central integrators for the department.
Even though I have not worked within the Treasury Department in many years, the results and the spin published by their public relations department demonstrates that the chutzpah continues.
For four years, the U.S. Mint has been holding forums to try to learn from collectors what they expect. One thing they have not learned is to fix the mechanisms that provide collector access to U.S. Mint products. It is time for the U.S. Mint to stop talking and do something. Their problems have surpassed annoying and are bordering on malfeasance!
And now the news…
Someone walked into my shop today with a box full of items he said that he wanted to consign to one of our auctions. He said that someone mentioned that I was knowledgeable about coins and wanted me to help liquidate his collection.
I have to admit I was excited as he held a box that you would pack books in and not carry coins. We put the box down and opened the box and was instantly disappointed.
On the top was a complete set of the State Quarter packages from one of the television shopping networks. It was the type of stuff that was over-hyped by touting their “limited production” by the U.S. Mint.
Looking at a few of the packs, they contained two quarters for each state on a card. They appear that if they were graded, they would probably average MS-64 and be worth $5-7 each. If they grade higher, the coins could be worth more. It is not worth my time and money to have them graded. Further, in the liquidation auction business, I would doubt these would sell for more than $5 per card.
The look on his face when I told him was as if I kicked his dog. He then gave me the same familiar story: they cost so much; the guy on television said they were a limited run; they should be worth more; and many other tales as seen on TV.
Anyone who has worked in a coin shop or handled second-hand property has heard the stories. Someone with a slick marketing presence appears on television and spins the tale to sound better than it is. Sure, the State Quarter was a limited production, but the Mint produced hundreds of millions of each of those coins.
In addition to the State Quarters, he had coin sets produced by companies like the Franklin Mint and the National Collectors Mint. While I try not to promise what could happen in an auction and avoid asking how much they paid, he pulls out a Buffalo Nickel display still offered by one of these companies.
The display is a round wooden stand that can rotate on a base. Around the edges is a space for 25 Buffalo Nickels. The nickels on his stand looked to be in extra fine (XF) to almost uncirculated (AU) condition. On top of the stand is a pewter figure of a buffalo (bison) modeled after James Earle Fraser’s image.
It is a lovely display, but one that is not popular. A previous consignor had the display without the coins. We finally were able to sell it for $1.00 to someone who was going to take it apart and repurpose the wooden stand. Selling the nickels in today’s market should allow him to break even.
For the last 25 years, this gentleman bought these coins and medals at a premium above their value. The box had gold plated medals with micrograms of gold that are nearly worthless in the collector market. He did have some older sterling silver sets that he bought when silver was under $8 per ounce. He can make money on those items to make up with some of the losses.
After going through the box, I said that he would be lucky if I can get $500 for everything. That lead to the look as if I kicked his other dog.
He asked how these people get away with overcharging for their merchandise. Unfortunately, there are few laws regarding price gouging except in an emergency (like overcharging for gas during a crisis) or if done fraudulently. But these television hucksters are practiced and can afford the lawyers to tell them how far they can go before they cross the line.
There are no laws to prevent companies from calling themselves a mint. There are credible companies that use “Mint” as part of their business name (e.g., I have been a customer of Miller’s Mint from Long Island and highly recommend them). Others use the moniker to make their products sound more official than they are.
If you like the packaging and are willing to pay the premium for it, then enjoy your collectible. While the Buffalo Nickel stand is not my style, I can understand the appeal. But when it comes time to sell, the packaging has little to do with the numismatic value of the coins or medals.
Anything plated has less than a gram of the metal. There is so little plating that it is not worth the cost for someone to have melted.
Which reminds me, the “1933 Double Eagle Tribute Proof” plated with 14 micrograms of 24 karat gold is not worth the $19.95 they charge on television. Even at the current price of gold, the item contains less than 1-cent worth of gold ($0.00047).
It bothers me that I have to disappoint people like this. It is worse when I have to tell an older person, like the octogenarian gentlemen who was in my shop this week, that the collection he thought was an investment is not worth a lot.
I am not sure what can the industry can do to prevent this from happening. These are legitimate businesses whose marketing practices may be less than ethical but are legal.
Some might suggest that this is something the American Numismatic Association should try to deal with. The ANA may not be the right organization for this. Maybe a consortium that includes the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG), the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA), and the ANA could work together to find a solution.
Until then, I am open to suggestions!
In Northern Ireland, two men looking for a friend’s lost wedding ring found a small hoard of 84 coins dating back to the 16th century. The oldest coin was dated 1512, which was during the reign of Henry VIII.
According to the story, the men who do this as a hobby, look at old maps and accounts of history to find areas that may be the sites of ancient villages or battles. Although I was surprised to read this, it makes sense, and it brings up an interesting point.
Finding artifacts buried in the ground, including coins, are a window into history. Researching where to search and understanding the history of a coin is like what archeologists do to unearth history.
I wonder if there is a way to welcome metal detectorists into the numismatic family?
And now the news…
For those who do not remember or were not born at the time, McAuliffe was selected as the first civilian teacher to fly into space as part of the Space Shuttle program. On January 28, 1986, she boarded the Space Shuttle Challenger along with Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Gregory Jarvis for mission STS-51-L. Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 11:39 AM.
It was an unusually cold morning, even for Florida. The cold and deterioration of the O-Rings that sealed the joints of the solid rocket boosters failed. The firey escape of fuel caused the external fuel tank to explode 73 seconds into the flight. Challenger disintegrated, taking the lives of the seven-member crew.
The surcharge of $10 per coin sold in 2021 will be paid to the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) robotics program “for the purpose of engaging and inspiring young people, through mentor-based programs, to become leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
S. 239: Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2019
The House also passed the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2423) for 2020 and the National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 1865) for 2021. Both bills head to the Senate for their consideration.
H.R. 1865: National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act
H.R. 2423: Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act
Two additional commemorative coin bills were introduced in the House of Representatives. One is so new that the Government Printing Office has yet to release the official text.