Leaders of the American Numismatic Association, the Industry Council for Tangible Assets, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, Professional Coin Grading Service, and the Professional Numismatists Guild have issued a joint advisory warning consumers of the millions of dollars spent on fake US coins from China. Counterfeit coins have been sold through online auctions, flea markets, and swap meets.

“Millions of dollars already have been spent on these fakes and potentially
millions more may be unwittingly lost by consumers who mistakenly think they’re
getting a genuine rare coin,” warned Paul Montgomery, PNG President.

The advisory notes that copied and replica coins sold in the United States that are not marked as “COPY” are in violation of the U.S. Hobby Protection Act. However, reports of Chinese fakes that do not include “COPY” stamped somewhere on the coin has been appearing in greater numbers.

The sophistication of Chinese counterfeiters have been documented with pictures showing the use of modern coining equipment and expertly engraved dies that can fool everyone not an expert in counterfeit detection.

One problem with the attempt at enforcement are complications with Chinese Law. While it is illegal to counterfeit Chinese money (Renminbi) the law does not cover foreign money as long as it is not used as a medium of exchange and sold as souvenirs. This allows the counterfeiters to manufacture Morgan and Trade dollars for sale as collectibles but they cannot try to cash them into a local currency exchange to convert them into Renminbi.

The best way to combat Chinese counterfeits is with education. Read the article by Susan Headley and her other articles about Chinese counterfeiters at about.com. You should know about the coin you are buying so you should read the book before buying the coin. If you are buying expensive rare coins, work with a reputable dealer, one who is a member of the organizations that sponsored this advisory.

One resource is the booklet, What You Should Know Before You Buy Rare Coins. To purchase a copy, send $1 to the Professional Numismatists Guild, 3950Concordia Lane, Fallbrook, CA 92028.

Buying certified coins is an answer but there has been cases where the slabs have been counterfeited, too. It is incumbent on the buyer to do your homework before spending money on a coin with questionable authenticity. Remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true!

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