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What are Some of the Scams in the Rare Coin Market?

Like any hobby, or area where people buy and sell items, the coin industry has its share of fraud, tricks and rip-offs. This article will explore some of the common things a prospective coin buyer should be aware of.

 Chinese Fakes

One of the things that is having an impact on the hobby is the influx of fake coins, which are mostly originated from China. While the Hobby Protection Act requires that all imitation numismatic and imitation political items sold in, or imported into, the United States be marked with the word “Copy” or the year of manufacture, many Chinese fake coin sellers blatantly ignore this. Unfortunately, many of these coins sell on eBay and so far eBay seems to have ignored this issue. When buying coins on eBay, insist on large pictures and do NOT be afraid to ask the opinion of others. Better to pay a few dollars more for a real coin, than buying a fake coin. This scourge of fake coins is not limited to raw coins. The people who make these are also placing fake coins in real PCGS slabs as well as fake coins in fake PCGS slabs. Buy from well known dealers. Dealers with 100,000 feedback items does NOT make them a reputable dealer. It only means they have sold a lot of junk.

Over Graded Slab Coins

You might read that you should only by slabbed and graded coins. While there is some truth to that, be aware that there are companies who grade and then sell the coins they grade. These so called “self slabbers” typically way over grade their coins often graded them as MS70 and claiming they are perfect. These coins are entering the market place at the rate of thousands per week. They are often not worth the plastic they reside in. Do your own research on coin grading companies.

Coin Magazine Advertisers

You would think that buying from a dealer in a coin magazine would be a safe venture. I am sorry to say that this is not the case. Many of these dealers in the big magazines (COINS, Coin World, Coinage, Coin Values, etc) are known for selling cleaned coins as BU/UNC coins. Before buying from a dealer in these magazines, simply Google their store name and do some research. PNG, ANA, etc., membership is also NOT a guarantee of honesty.

Coins on TV

Be very cautious about buying coins on TV. These are typically way over priced. Do not buy into the hype. Think about how much it costs to put on a TV show. They did not get the coins for free, so someone has to pay for the show, and that someone is the buyer of the overpriced coins.

Doctored/Altered Coins

This is very difficult to detect and can even fool the best of coin experts. When buying any coin of value, buy from reputable dealers. Again, these altered coins have fooled the best of coin experts and some have even been slabbed by the top tier grading companies. These alternations sometimes do not show up for years. PCGS is currently engaged in a lawsuit against several dealers and individuals who are accused of coin doctoring.

Big Newspaper Ads

From time to time you may see advertisements in major newspapers by some company claiming to be selling the last of something, or some rare coin. Many of these ads are structured to look like a news story, The only news for you, is that the product is usually junk and will NEVER rise in value. Again, a little research can go a long way in saving you money and embarrassment. Just because it is a big advertisement in a well know paper does NOT make it legitimate.

Final Words

Simply put, doing a little research may save you a ton of embarrassment as well as a lot of money. Spending $10,000 on a coin to find out it is a fake or doctored is a very expensive lesson. Let your pride take a hit and ask questions.

As always, happy collecting

Keith Scott has been a collector for over 30 years. His website has US coins for sale. He also writes Coin Collecting Articles for fun. Visit his websites for a history of US coins, metal market updates and news about your favorite coins.

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