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Category: Counterfeits & Fraud

California Gold Dealer, Superior Gold Group LLC is seized, assets frozen

On Monday, a California judge froze the assets of Superior Gold Group LLC of 100 Wilshire Boulevard, as well another office in Woodland Hills,  after it was accused of fraudulent business practices in a civil lawsuit filed against the company and owner Bruce Sands by the Los Angeles County district attorney and the Santa Monica city attorney.
Editors Note: This company has NO relationship to Superior Galleries, a well known and respected numismatic firm.

Superior Gold Group, which sold gold coins and bullion and other precious metals, is alledged to have taken  payments from customers but never delivered the gold ordered, charged prices much higher than fair market value and misled customers into buying expensive specialty coins according to the lawsuit, filed Friday.

In their lawsuit, the agencies said Superior Gold took advantage of investors who flocked to gold as the price of the precious metal rose and the value of many other investments fell in recent years.

“By fostering fear and confusion among its customers, Superior has induced them to pay far above market prices for various gold products,” the complaint said.

In a report by The LA Times, they recounted one victims story…”

Steven Siry, 61, of Los Angeles is one customer who believes he was ripped off. Siry said he invested $20,000 in a “gold IRA” through Superior Gold. But company representatives sold him collector’s coins at an inflated rate rather than offering him bullion, and it took more than a year and numerous phone calls before the coins were delivered to the trust company that was to hold them, he said.

Siry estimates the actual value of the gold, when it finally arrived, as a little more than half of what he paid for it.

“It was a big mess, it was uncomfortable, and I felt kind of stupid, quite frankly, because I didn’t do enough shopping before I used them,” he said.

In another complaint the victim stated: “Nearly two years ago (Mar. ’09), I purchased approx. $47, 000 worth of gold and silver coins (my entire life savings). I have yet to recieve (sic) a single coin! I have been calling for years and they refuse to give me my money back or to buy my coins,” (more…)

Gold Coin Scam Victims: Where To Turn For Help

What do you do when a gold seller fails to deliver or the merchandise you received was not as described when you ordered it?  Who can you contact for help when you don’t receive payment for gold you’ve submitted to sell?

In two recent cases, “Howard” in Mississippi wired $20,000 several months ago to a California coin and bullion dealer to purchase gold coins, and “Richard” in Virginia sent $150,000 to the same dealer.  With the recent run-up in bullion prices they both would have made a nice profit, except they still have not received any gold from the dealer.  Howard laments, “All I’ve gotten is the run-around.”

“If you don’t know gold coins, you’d better know your gold coin dealer,” is the advice to collectors and investors from three nonprofit organizations: the American Numismatic Association (, the Industry Council for Tangible Assets ( and the Professional Numismatists Guild (

“There are many reputable, professional numismatists in the United States,” the three organizations emphasize.  “Before you make a purchase or offer something for sale, do your homework and check the dealer’s credentials.  For example, contact the Better Business Bureau to check the company’s BBB rating or if the company is even accredited by the BBB.”

A listing of Better Business Bureau accredited and rated companies nationwide can be found online at

The dealer that received the combined $170,000 in unfulfilled purchase orders from “Howard” and “Richard” had an “F” rating from the BBB.

Typically, dealers who are unresponsive to reasonable requests from customers seeking resolution of disputes are not involved in the mainstream of numismatics, but may advertise in prominent, mainstream news media.

Based on the experiences of the ANA, ICTA and PNG, and in consultation with law enforcement agencies, the three organizations suggest that buyers or sellers of gold coins who encounter problems consider taking these actions:

  • Make copies of all correspondence, receipts and transactions and if possible have copies of advertisements or the dates and times ads were broadcast.
  • Always contact the company directly to try to resolve the dispute.  Ask for the manager or company owner.
  • Take thorough notes of your conversation(s).

If the problem is still not resolved after a reasonable amount of time, contact the Customer Service and/or Advertising Departments of the news media organization(s) that published or broadcast the company’s advertisements and let them know about the problems.

The ANA, ICTA and PNG advise: “It’s your money, so do your homework before placing an order, and if there is a problem then don’t just sit back and wait.  Be persistent in your efforts to resolve the dispute. Follow up with the company you did business with and the agencies where you’ve filed a complaint.  You may also want to consult with an attorney.” (more…)


All Editorial and Commentaries posted on CoinLink represent the opinions of the author(s), who are soley responsible for this content. All points of view are encouraged and comments are welcomed.

By Laura Sperber – Hot Topics Blog

I say a heart-felt thanks to everyone who has emailed me support concerning the fight against coin doctors the past several months. Due to my hectic travel schedule, sometimes I just can’t respond to all your emails-but do know I read EVERY SINGLE ONE!


Every single person counts and is needed in this fight. Every single person has a voice that counts. Do not think there is nothing you can do.

You do not have to right on a blog like I do, you can just talk to your fellow collectors or dealers, at shows, clubs, or wherever. Send an email or a letter to the grading services, the numismatic organization, or the coin papers. The more “pressure” that is put applied, the better the results will be. If people don’t speak up it will be back to biz as usual for these bad guys.

A small dealer came up to me at the PCGS Invitational. He told me “I support you 100%”. He told me how badly he HATES the docs and anyone who is a mule for them. He told me how he has told one dealer friend why he won’t do business with him anymore and how he shoos away the docs from buying his coins. But he was upset because he felt he has no where to speak out. I told him if he can write a letter to an editor of a publication that’s great. I also told him-his voice has already spoken and he is a HUGE help. He definitely has the “RIGHT” attitude. Just imagine if very non doc did what he did-or had his attitude. I believe he also told me he is quitting the PNG.

At this point, the PNG has PROVEN (to me, in my opinion) with out any doubt to be the most WORTHLESS organization ever formed in coins when it comes to protecting the consumer and the coins themselves. As predicted, the PNG came up with a definition of coin doctoring and then all has been quiet since. I was totally disgusted that one of the PROVEN trouble makers of the PCGS lawsuit proudly displayed his PNG flag and was set up and doing business PNG day. That is a slap to EVERYONE (from the smallest collector to the biggest dealers). Meanwhile a high ranking PNG official told me he thought I was grandstanding on these issues for publicity. That’s why nothing makes me prouder than NOT being a PNG member.


Nothing disgusts me more than how dealers-especially young dealers disrespect the coin business. I watch the brightest potential talent all lean toward being “crack out” dealers and eventually fading in to full coin doctoring. Why isn’t the PNG working to scare them straight? Why can’t they educate them that coins are a treasure that need to be carefully saved in their original form? We desperately need to break this negative attitude or in 20-30 years it is a real possibility that the % of coins that will have been messed with in as high as 50%. The docs are all about making money. They will do whatever they can to a coin to gain a profit.

All the dealers refuse to blame their buddies or are in pure denial about the issues. So many dealers tell me I am so wrong and that its the grading services who should catch the bad coins. Here is what they need to wake up too: DEALERS WHO FEEL ITS THEIR RIGHT TO VIOLATE THE GRADING SERVICES SUBMISSION CONTRACTS AND FRAUDULENTY SUBMIT “WORKED ON” COINS. Key word: FRAUD. These guys should not only be exposed, but they should be forced to pay back ALL their ill gotten gains in multiples and perform numismatic community service of retraining and supporting dealers from NOT being doctors.


I was speaking with John Albanese (the founder and finalizer at CAC). He confirmed to me that the amount of “messed with” coins he has seen since the lawsuit has been seriously reduced. That’s a huge plus. But that does not mean these rats are on the run. As evidenced in a Coin World Article recently, even after the lawsuit was filed one of the defendants still had the disgusting audacity to be ready to doctor more coins. So as you can see, this is nasty and serious war against sick and greedy individuals. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Defining Coin Doctoring and Dipping, Additions to the PCGS Lawsuit Against Alleged Coin Doctors

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #17

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. The filing and re-filing of this lawsuit

Over the last forty years, especially from the late 1990s to 2006 or so, the coin collecting community has suffered from the terrible problem of coin doctoring; coins are deceptively altered for the purpose of tricking experts, particularly those employed by the PCGS and the NGC, into concluding that a coin is of higher quality than it was before it was doctored. The process of doctoring a coin reduces its level of quality and, in many (though not nearly all) cases, permanently damages the coin. Coins ranging in value from less than $50 to more than $1 million have been doctored.

In many instances, doctored coins ‘turn’ at a later time, as unintended byproducts of doctoring processes result in unsightly delayed chemical reactions or the decomposing of added matter on the doctored coins. It is not unusual for a coin doctor to deliberately harm (often permanently) a coin that grades MS-64 in order to try to deceive experts into believing that it grades MS-66.

John Feigenbaum is president of David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC), and has been involved in the coin business for more than twenty years. In 2004 and 2005, DLRC sold one of the fifteen greatest collections of classic (pre-1934) U.S. coins ever to be publicly auctioned. Feigenbaum says, “in general I [John] applaud PCGS for taking action on this matter, and I think they should take any and all actions in the future towards parties that are trying to slip doctored coins past them.”

In my column of June 2, I analyzed the CU-PCGS lawsuit against alleged coin doctors, which was filed in late May. I encourage readers who wish to learn about this lawsuit, its importance and its implications, to read my column of June 2nd. On Aug. 10, CU-PCGS filed a “second amended complaint” along with a new motion.

II. The basics of the lawsuit

Although technically PCGS is a subsidiary of Collectors Universe (CU) and it is CU that filed this lawsuit, the PCGS predates CU and the PCGS is the core of Collectors Universe. Further, the PCGS certifies coins. So, it is clear and helpful to refer to the plaintiff as the PCGS as the lawsuit concerns allegations that dealers deliberately submitted doctored coins to the PCGS, without disclosing intentionally added defects, for the purpose of deceiving graders at the PCGS into assigning higher grades to such coins than the coins would have merited before they were doctored. Coin doctoring, of course, reduces the grade of a coin, often to the point where the coin no longer merits a numerical grade.

The submission contract that each dealer signs to be a dealer-submitter of coins to the PCGS for grading and authentication prohibits dealer-submitters from sending in doctored coins for numerical grading. At the very least, it is argued that dealers who submit doctored coins for numerical grading have breached their respective contracts with the PCGS. Moreover, the PCGS argues in the lawsuit that such coin doctoring is in violation of several Federal and California State laws. Curiously, attorneys for the PCGS declare that conspiracies to doctor coins and submit them to the PCGS fall under RICO statutes, and are thus said by the PCGS to constitute racketeering.

Importantly, attorneys for the PCGS argue that coin doctoring is not just a civil offense, a racket and a breach of contract. Attorneys for the PCGS maintain that coin doctoring is a crime under Title “18 U.S.C §331,” which is cited in the lawsuit as follows, “Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales or lightens any of the coins minted at the mints of the United States … [or] … Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish or sell … any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled or lightened … Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years or both.” (more…)

Laura Sperber’s Hot Topics – BACK TO HELL?


At the Baltimore Show I heard many rumors about the PCGS lawsuit. One was great-but also was especially disturbing.

That rumor was that PCGS and some of the “named” defendants in the suit were discussing a possible settlement. That news is terrific! Or is it? I should point out what I heard is ONLY rumor and I have not spoken to anyone from PCGS about it. Legend FULLY supports PCGS in this lawsuit and its efforts to stop coin doctors.

PCGS is absolutely deserving of being refunded with penalty for all the damages these disgusting people have caused to them. A note to promising to cease probably will be included in any settlement. So I started to think, if there should be a settlement where does that leave the rest of us? The others who have been damaged by coin doctors actions with no restitution?

I believe it leaves us right back where we started. The coin doctors will just continue on their merry way. Sure, one small group is down, but the others all got away-with out so much as even a slap on the wrist (assuming there is a settlement). Of course since I had my meeting with my favorite party club of dealers-The PNG, they have issued only one statement and seem to be intent of claiming to try and define what makes up the standard for a coin being doctored (my bet is they will NEVER end the debate). Of course that will have to wait until their next meeting, then the board has to discuss, yada, yada.


Collectors, its going to be up to you to make changes apparently. Talk to your dealers. If they do not become vocal about this, before you walk out the door for good, ask what they could possibly be afraid of? How can any dealer not see coin doctoring as a serious crime? Ignoring it will not make the dirt bags who do it stop. Do they really believe this does not affect them? So far I have only seen 3-4 dealers actually speak up. All others seem to be hiding on corners.

Anyone who cares needs to speak up NOW. Keep writing letters to the PNG. Write letters to Coin World. Discuss the subject on the gossip boards. Write the grading services too.

Federal Lawsuit Filed Against “Coin Doctors” by Collectors Universe / PCGS

Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) today sent out a Press Release  announcing  a major lawsuit has been filed in United States District Court, Central District of California, against six individuals claiming they engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity, breach of contract, conspiracy, unfair competition and fraud for allegedly submitting “doctored” coins to PCGS for grading on multiple occasions for a period of years.

The Defendants named in the suit include: Al Rossman of Nevada, Rick Wesslink of California,  Robert Lehmann of Maryland, in addition to three members of the Professional Numismatists Guild ; Eric Steinberg of Florida, Silvano DiGenova of California, and Greg Krill of California

PCGS stated that as many as 10 other defendants could be added to the Complaint.

The suit claims the dealers violated federal laws, including the Lanham Act involving interstate commerce and RICO racketeering statutes, and also alleges “unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices” for submitting coins that were deceptively altered in an attempt to increase their value.

Click Here to view a Copy of the Complaint

The Complaint states: “Defendants knew that these coins had been ‘doctored,’ by themselves and/or other persons engaged by them for that purpose. Their methods included lasering the surfaces of extremely rare proof gold coins to remove surface imperfections, building up commonly-worn or weakly-struck portions of coins, and other physical and chemical processes. Defendants represented to PCGS that these coins had natural surfaces, intending to deceive PCGS’s graders so that the ‘doctored’ coins would be certified by PCGS and then sold in the rare coin marketplace.”

A couple of examples given in the complaint include the following coins:

  • 1885 $5 gold piece, originally submitted to PCGS on Dec 16, 2009 by Steinberg on behalf of Defendant Rossman. Foreign substance added to coin’s surface to cover marks.
  • 1879 $4 Stella gold piece, Originally submitted by Heritage on May 8, 2008. Resubmitted on August 28, 2008 by DiGenova after having been laser treated to remove lines. PCGS refused to grade the coin.

The suit claims the “Defendants have caused, and are continuing to cause, substantial and irreparable damage and injury to Collectors Universe and to the public and Defendants have benefited from such unlawful conduct and will continue to carry out such unlawful conduct and to be unjustly enriched thereby unless enjoined by this Court.” (more…)

Counterfeit Detection: Proof 1885 Liberty Nickel

From the NGC Series on Counterfeit Detection

This newly made fake is certainly deceiving some collectors as we’re seeing it appear in recent submissions. Learn how to identify it!

Genuine 1885 – Click To Enlarge Counterfeit 1885 – Click To Enlarge

Recently this unusual fake, believed to be of new manufacture, has appeared in NGC submissions. Although not particularly deceptive, NGC has received a handful of them.

Our best guess as to why: it’s not a coin that anyone really would expect to be counterfeited. It demonstrates that fakes of just about every issue exist and it’s worthwhile to be vigilant when buying uncertified coins or from an unfamiliar source.

There are obvious clues that identify this 1885 nickel as a fake.

First, the devices (design elements) show a pebbled or rough texture that is unlike that seen on any authentic examples. Knowing the texture of a coin’s surface does require a degree of familiarity with authentic examples, but it can also be the easiest telltale of a fake.

Authentic proof Liberty Nickels have crisp design features and smooth or very, very fine grained devices. Large nooks and crannies visible throughout the design are the hallmarks of this copy. Compare an enlargement of the date area with that of a genuine example — the real coin is on top.

The second giveaway that this coin is bad is the shallowness of its design elements. Note how the Liberty’s ear dissolves into the fields. Same with the hair detail above her temple and at top of her neck.

The shape of these elements will be crisp on an authentic specimen and clearly separate from the fields with a sharp delineation. Other elements of the design are similarly not crisp. Look at the stars. On genuine proofs, the intersecting lines will be clear. Here, the first star is especially weak and the others are rounded and amorphous.

Learning to pick out clues like those mentioned above are a great starting point to spotting fakes.

Counterfeit Detection: KNOW Your Dates

From the NGC series on Counterfeit Detection

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

A basic lesson will help you always catch fakes, like this 1895-O Morgan Dollar, which could be deceptive to many.

In high school history class, a student asks his teacher, “Do I need to memorize dates for tomorrow’s test?”

The teacher replies, “No dates.”

Encouraged, the young student goes home and studies hard, following the teacher’s instruction. The next day he fails the test. Miserably.

Of course, the teacher had not told the student there would be NO dates on the test, but that he should KNOW dates. For aspiring counterfeit detectors, this instruction should be made even more clear: K-N-O-W dates!

Dates are very important areas to examine because they are unique to a particular coinage issues. The position, size and shape of the date should be the first elements examined when attempting to determine authenticity (unless better diagnostics are known for that coin). Often a misshapen or wayward digit is confirmation that something is amiss.

While this advice might seem to apply primarily to altered date coins, it is just as important for die-struck counterfeits. This 1895-O Morgan Dollar is a die-struck counterfeit recently made in China. It is of the correct weight and metal composition of an authentic coin. It is made from transfer dies and this coin would deceive many collectors.

By looking at the date under magnification, the coin immediately falls apart. Raised blobs of metal can be seen surrounding the 5, most prominently at 5:00 and 7:00. The metal flow is also suspiciously smoother in this area, dissimilar from the texture seen around the other digits. If you knew nothing else about this coin, those markers alone should scream, “not genuine.”

The counterfeiter made transfer dies for this coin by using a model coin from the 1890s, replacing the last digit with a 5. While this reveals the counterfeiter’s methods, it also tells us something else. Coins of every date and mintmark combination can be made in this same fashion. It’s therefore important to remember that this rule always applies: “Know dates!”

ANA Counterfeit Detection Seminar Offered April 22 at MSNS Spring Convention

The one-day seminar, “Introduction to Counterfeit Detection of United States Coins,” will be offered April 22 at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn in Dearborn, Mich. The seminar is presented through the ANA’s Florence Schook School of Numismatics, and is in conjunction with the Michigan State Numismatic Society’s Spring Convention, April 23-25.

Join instructor Mike Ellis, noted numismatist and variety specialist, and learn how to detect counterfeit and altered coins seen in the marketplace today. All types and denominations of U.S. coins will be discussed, with genuine and counterfeit specimens present for hands-on study. There will also be opportunities for group discussion and one-on-one instruction.

“Introduction to Counterfeit Detection of United States Coins” will be held Thursday, April 22 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuition is $149 for ANA and Michigan State Numismatic Society members, and $199 for non-members. To register for this seminar, e-mail or call 719-482-9850.

For more information about the Michigan State Numismatic Society, visit

Anyone have Change for $1 Million Dollars ?

Two Germans were caught in an Austria mountain town with 500 million dollars in counterfeit banknotes. It’s one of the biggest hauls of counterfeit dollars in Europe. But the culprits say they thought the 1 million dollar bills were real. Below is the article published in DER SPIEGEL Online.


He dreamed of living the life of a millionaire — with a villa in the woods and an Aston Martin V12, preferably in Quantum Silver, in the garage. Once a moderately successful provincial attorney, he had decided that he was no longer willing to simply look on while others made their fortunes with major business deals.

But his dreams of that villa, that Aston Martin and all the other trappings of wealth have vanished into thin air. Ralf Hölzen, 46, a tall, slender man with graying hair is sitting in a café frequented by retirees in the town of Goch in western Germany. On his plates sits a slice of Black Forest cake and he is removing the canned cream from atop his coffee. Once again Hölzen is living with his parents, only two blocks from the café.

At the end of January, Hölzen will face trial in a district court in Feldkirch, in Austria’s Vorarlberg region. Austrian prosecutors have filed charges against him and his accomplice, Dietmar B., 52, for attempted fraud and possession of counterfeit banknotes. (more…)

PCGS Helps Police Arrest Counterfeit Coin Suspect

morgan_sandwitch_pcgsInformation provided to Northern California law enforcement authorities by Professional Coin Grading Service led to the arrest of a suspect who is now under investigation in connection with the sales of fraudulently altered Morgan dollars in tampered PCGS holders for nearly $300,000.

“Genuine, common date Morgan dollars were split into two pieces (front and back along the rim), then adhered to each other in combinations to create the illusion of rare date and mintmarks. The coins then were placed in tampered PCGS holders to give the coin credibility in the marketplace and to hide the alterations,” said Stephen Mayer, Chief Operating Officer of Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ: CLCT), parent company of Professional Coin Grading Service.

Among the fraudulent alterations were “1883-S,” “1884-S” and “1903-S” that were deceitfully labeled as PCGS MS65, MS63 and MS64, respectively.

After learning about the fakes in late September, Mayer contacted the U.S. Secret Service. Mayer also worked with the Alameda Police Department, providing investigators with detailed information about the altered coins, the altered PCGS holders and six California dealers who purchased or were offered counterfeit or suspicious coins that reportedly were originally offered or sold by the same seller.

Roberto Blas Rodriguez, age 32, of Hayward, California was arrested October 7, 2009 by Alameda Police. He is charged with fraud, suspicion of burglary and violating trademark law, and is free on $45,000 bail.

PCGS was first alerted on September 21 about suspicious coins by Spectrum Numismatics of Irvine, California, a PCGS-authorized dealer.

Millions Lost From Coin Fakes, Hobby Leaders Warn

Chinese-made counterfeit coins pose a significant financial threat to unsuspecting consumers, according to leaders of five of the country’s most influential rare coin organizations. They warn the public is spending millions of dollars on fake U.S. coins offered in online auctions and elsewhere, such as flea markets and swap meets.

fake_1915-D_5In a jointly-issued consumer advisory (below) the groups caution the public not to purchase any so-called “replica” coins because they may be in violation of federal law. They also urge consumers to only purchase genuine rare coins from reputable, professional dealers or face the risk of losing money on copies that are illegal to re-sell.

Below is the consumer protection warning issued by (in alphabetical order) the American Numismatic Association (, the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (, Professional Coin Grading Service ( and the Professional Numismatists Guild (

Hobby periodicals report that more than a million counterfeit coins manufactured in China have been fraudulently sold in the United States posing a significant financial risk for unsuspecting consumers. Buyer beware! Consumers who buy an item based only on its perceived rarity and who have no knowledge as to how to determine whether the coin is genuine subject themselves to great risk of losing their money

The American Numismatic Association (ANA), the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA), Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), Professional Coin Grading Service ( and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) urge consumers to educate themselves before making purchases: know what you are buying and purchase only from reputable, experienced rare coin dealers (professional numismatists).

“We believe many of these counterfeits subsequently are being resold as genuine rare coins in online auctions and at flea markets and swap meets,” said Clifford Mishler, ANA President.

“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.

Hobby Leaders Discuss Anti-Counterfeiting Actions

(Long Beach, California) – Leaders of five of the hobby and profession’s most influential organizations are launching a multi-pronged consumer awareness and protection campaign against counterfeit numismatic items sold and imported from China and elsewhere. The organizations in alphabetical order are the American Numismatic Association (ANA), the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA), Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG).

Leaders of five major numismatic hobby and professional organizations met in Long Beach, California on May 27, 2009 to discuss possible consumer education and law enforcement actions to curtail imports and sales of counterfeit coins. From left to right: Scott Schechter, CCG/NGC; Armen Vartian, PNG; Don Willis, PCGS; Jeff Garrett, PNG; Diane Piret, ICTA; Raymond Gregson, Jr., retired I.R.S. criminal investigation special agent; Fred Weinberg, ICTA; Barry Stuppler, ANA; Robert Brueggeman, PNG; and Gary Adkins, PNG. Not pictured: meeting moderator Donn Pearlman. (Photo credit: Donn Pearlman.)

Representatives of the five groups participated in a preliminary teleconference call on May 7, 2009, and then met in Long Beach, California on May 27 to discuss a coordinated plan of action. The groups recognize that counterfeiting can’t be completely stopped, but that efforts can be made to reduce the easy availability of fakes and to educate coin buyers about common sense ways to avoid unwittingly purchasing them.

They agreed to pursue a three-part strategy as a group and/or as individual organizations: initiate consumer education and protection programs including online resources to reach the casual coin-buying public who are not part of the mainstream numismatic community; aggressively attempt to compel online auction sites to be more responsive to complaints about fraudulent listings of fake certification services’ holders and replica coins that are in violation of The Hobby Protection Act; and utilize ICTA’s extensive experience in Washington, DC to explore possible criminal actions by federal law enforcement agencies against importers and sellers of illegal numismatic items. (more…)

Dies used to make counterfeit coins - From About.comMark Naber, founder of, answers a few questions about collectable coin forgeries and the purpose of

How bad is the risk of buying counterfeits?

This really is quite a complicated question, depending on what you buy, what venue you buy through and your expertise in the area you collect and your ability to identify the tell tale signs of counterfeits. The dealer and geographical location of where your buy your coins will also impact the risk of buying a counterfeit. For example, if you are inexperienced collector looking for bargains on EBay from unknown dealers, in places such as China, you will almost certainly purchase counterfeits. On the other end of spectrum if you are experienced and buying from reputable dealers whom are experienced in that area, your risk is very low. Knowledge of what you are buying and whom you are buying through is the key to lowering risk. This is nothing new to most seasoned collectors, but it is unfortunate to see new collectors falling into these traps.

What would you advise new collectors to do?

The best advice I would give new collectors is to start small and slowly gain the knowledge as you go. By small I mean don’t spend much – let your spending habits slowly increase along with your expertise. Buy from reputable dealers whom specialise in what you wish to collect, join relevant clubs and discussion boards on the internet and learn; there is a wealth of information nowadays thanks to the internet. There is also a rule of thumb that one should spend 5%-10% of your annual collection budget upon books about coins and coin forgeries. The most risky thing a new collector can do is look for bargains without adequate knowledge. The old saying applies – If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. (more…)

Too Good to be True

By Len Ratzman – The California Numismatist – CoinLink Content Partner

The high only lasted a couple of hours.

Counterfeit 1795 DollarIt took only that long to find out that my friend’s 1795 Flowing Hair 3-leaf dollar in MS-55 (my estimate) that had been left to her by her greatgrandfather was, sadly, only a good counterfeit.

When Sarah called me from work that day, she didn’t even say hello. Her fi rst, excited words were, “Len, what do you know about old dollars?” I told her my thirty-plus years in numismatics coveting only buffalo nickels didn’t include silver dollars of any age. But, since she knew nothing about coins, she knew from 20 years of friendship that I could research the coin for her.

When she told me over the phone that the dollar was dated 1795, it didn’t take a specialist in the hobby to know instantly what potential value laid waiting to be realized.

I jumped into the car and made it to the restaurant where she worked in 11 minutes—normally a 20 minute drive. With my loupe already in hand, I said, “Hi,” and with indescribable anticipation asked her to show me the coin.

Although my grading skills only covered buffaloes from 30 years of studying them, I could still tell from the fi ne detail that, if genuine, the grading companies would probably register the dollar as an MS-55 or better. Cha-ching!

The next two hours were a blur of researching the Internet, visiting coinrelated Web sites, phone calls to local dealers and opening that latest Red Book to a section I hadn’t ever paid attention to.

But wait! A $30,000 coin just popping up out of nowhere? If it’s too good to be true, it usually isn’t. So, before I started making plans to send in the coin to be registered, I dug a little deeper and learned from a prominent expert on dollars that countless counterfeits from a foreign country had reached the states and there were two ways to tell a fake from the real thing: (more…)


Experts at SPPN meeting settle four decades of uncertainty

Franklin Hoard $20 1853 US Assay Office ForgeryA panel of leading numismatists determined the questionable 1853 United States Assay Office of Gold $20 proof, prooflike, and similar coins to be forgeries produced from transfer dies. The panel’s discussion was the main program at the annual meeting of the Society of Private and Pioneer Numismatists (SPPN) held in Baltimore, Maryland Saturday, August 2nd, 2008 as part of the American Numismatic Association’s World Fair of Money.

The Transfer Die Forgeries first appeared during the late 1950’s, “discovered” by Paul Franklin through a bank teller in Arizona. Franklin and John J. Ford Jr. sold hundreds of these pieces throughout the 1960’s as genuine pieces struck in San Francisco by the U.S. Assay Office in 1853. An arbitration hearing of the Professional Numismatists Guild in the late 1960’s ruled that the pieces were not proof, but could not come to an agreement on the authenticity or vintage. For the next forty years the authenticity of the Franklin Hoard pieces lay in question.

In 2006 Donald Kagin, Ph.D. and David J. McCarthy of Kagin’s, Inc. of Tiburon, Calif. were processing images of one of Kagin’s client’s collection for the upcoming 2nd edition of Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States. McCarthy noticed that the client’s unquestionably authentic 1853 Assay Office $20 bore bag marks in the same location as repeating depressions on the questionable Franklin Hoard coins. The marks of the original coin appear on all of the Franklin pieces, despite the best efforts of the forgers to evidently hide them with die polish. The panel agreed that the discovery of this authentic coin and the matching of the marks was the “smoking gun” in the case, condemning all of the Franklin pieces as the products of a one-to-one transfer die made from this authentic host coin.

Genuine At the conclusion of the discussion moderator Kagin asked the panel to accurately and succinctly title the coins in question. The experts unanimously agreed these pieces are best described as Transfer Die Forgeries. The panel also agreed efforts need to be taken to educate the numismatic community about these false coins.

The approach and decision of the panel is historic, creating a model for future forums to discuss other numismatic controversies. The SPPN would like to seek answers to other mysteries and controversies in the field of pioneer numismatics and is soliciting future topics for discussion.

The Society of Private and Pioneer Numismatists has been a non-profit organization since 1992. Membership is $35 per year and includes a subscription to the Brasher Bulletin, a thrice annual publication featuring articles by leading Private & Pioneer coinage experts and historians. S.P.P.N. is operated from the offices of Kagin’s, Inc. in Tiburon, CA. For further information, please contact Kagin’s, Inc. at 888.8KAGINS or 415.435.2601.

NGC Unveils New Holder Design

New NGC HolderNGC has unveiled the design of its newest holder at the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money. The holder will be used for encapsulation of NGC-certified coins beginning late-August 2008. The most visually significant change is the incorporation of NGC’s EdgeView® design which suspends a coin within four prongs, allowing for clear view of the encased coin’s edge. This feature will be available for nearly all coin types 40mm and smaller.

The newest generation of NGC holder is made from the same preservation-grade materials as the holder developed by NGC to house the 200 most rare, unique and famous American coins in the Smithsonian’s National Numismatic Collection. The Smithsonian conducted rigorous materials analysis and testing to confirm the long-term safety of all of the components used in the manufacture of these holders, further verifying their inertness and stability.

Several state-of-the-art anti-counterfeiting features have been integrated into the holder’s design. These include a high security label incorporating microprinting, UV-light responsive watermarking and an embedded holographic layer. A second hologram is fused to the back of the holder and was developed with new methods that make it virtually impossible to reproduce.

“Our newest holder satisfies NGC’s combined objectives of exceptional visual display, security and long-term preservation,” comments Steve Eichenbaum, CEO of NGC. “To achieve this, we relied on technology that quite simply did not exist when the last generation of our holder was released in 2001. It is without question the most extensively tested and technologically advanced coin holder ever created.”

Australian Coin forger’s Charlotte Medal fetches a pretty penny

By Miki Perkins for THE AGE

The medal showing the Charlotte in Botany Bay. Photo: John WoudstraTHE crowd of medal collectors breathed a collective sigh and craned in their seats as Australia’s first piece of colonial art sold for $750,000 at auction to a beaming mystery buyer seated in the third row.

Minutes later, it was revealed that the National Maritime Museum had bought the Charlotte Medal — a silver disc engraved by the convict and expert forger Thomas Barrett when the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay. Even the most hardened medal collectors paused in their bidding to clap.

Very little material survives from the ships of the First Fleet, so the Sydney museum sent its assistant director of collection and exhibitions, Michael Crayford, to Melbourne to secure a seminal piece of Australian history.

“It is also one of the best artworks for that period (so) we’re absolutely thrilled to have it and it will be on display to the public within weeks,” Mr Crayford said.

The silver disc was sold by John Chapman, a retired dentist, who bought it at auction in 1981 for $15,000.

The rest of his extensive collection of Australian medals, coins and banknotes, valued at $1.6 million before auction, also went under the hammer at the Noble Numismatics auction yesterday. (more…)

Noe appeal calls trial, 18-year term unfair

Coin dealer in prison fights 2006 conviction for $13.7 million theft


Tom Noe to appeal sentenceThe coin dealer convicted of stealing state money in a scandal that helped Democrats recapture most statewide offices in 2006 has appealed, arguing in part that he didn’t get a fair trial.

In the appeal filed yesterday, Republican Thomas W. Noe’s lawyers argue that his conviction should be overturned or that he should be resentenced because his 18-year prison term is too harsh.

They allege that his rights were violated because, among other things, the trial was not moved out of Lucas County, where Noe faced an “overwhelmingly negative media onslaught” before and during the trial.

The appeal filed with the state’s 6th District Court of Appeals in Toledo lists seven major grounds for vacating Noe’s conviction and sentence, including that prosecutors failed to prove each element of each specific charge.

Tom Noe conferring at his trial in 2006Lucas County Prosecutor Julia R. Bates said yesterday that she had not yet read the appeal, but she insisted that Noe received a fair trial. Although it was a high-profile case, most of the prospective jurors didn’t know many of the details, she said.

Noe, 53, managed a $50 million investment in rare coins and other items for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The investment was shut down in May 2005, and Noe was found guilty of stealing $13.7 million for personal use.

Read full article Here

North Korea and the Supernote Enigma

by Gregory Elich

North Korea Connection to Counterfeit US Currency?North Korea, it is often said, is a criminal state. One of the more persistent stories supporting that allegation is that the North Koreans are counterfeiting U.S. currency. Through repetition, the claim has taken on an aura of proven fact. This in turn has been cited as justification for everything from imposing punitive measures against North Korea to suggesting that the nation cannot be trusted as a partner in nuclear negotiations.

The evidence against North Korea is widely regarded as convincing. “The North Koreans have denied that they are engaged in the distribution and manufacture of counterfeits,” says Daniel Glaser of the U.S. Treasury Department, “but the evidence is overwhelming that they are. There’s no question of North Korea’s involvement.”1 There is no denying that North Korean citizens have been caught passing counterfeit currency in Europe and Asia, and some defectors from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK — the formal name for North Korea) claim to have first-hand knowledge of state-run counterfeiting operations. In Western media reports the case is treated as proven. Yet the closer one examines the matter, the murkier the picture becomes.

Counterfiet $100 SupernoteCounterfeit currency attributed to North Korea raises deep concern due to its extremely high quality. Dubbed supernotes, their production process closely matches that of the genuine article, and the engraving is so fine it rivals that of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.2

Unlike most of the world’s counterfeit currency, which is printed on offset presses or through digital processes, supernotes are printed on an intaglio press. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing uses Giori intaglio presses for the engraved portions of its bank notes, and an offset press for the background colors. Supernotes use the same technology. An intaglio press operates by applying ink on its plates and then wiping them clean, leaving ink only in the engraved lines. The plate is then pressed against the paper, depositing the ink in ridges. The result is raised printing that ordinary counterfeits can’t duplicate. Supernotes have the same look and feel as U.S. currency. (more…)

Fake €50 notes being sold on the internet

Fake 50 Euro NotesThe European Central Bank has launched an investigation after counterfeit €50 notes were advertised for sale on the internet.

The notes are being offered in bundles of 21, for a price of €50, by a British printing company.

The website in question claims the fake notes were ordered for use in a Hollywood blockbuster movie that has since been abandoned.

It is selling 2,000 bundles, each comprising of 21 counterfeit notes, for €50. A disclaimer on the website says the notes should only be used for entertainment purposes. This follows a claim that the counterfeit currency is so good, some banks could not spot them as being fake.

The European Central Bank says it is treating as very serious the possibility that counterfeit notes are being sold online.

It has launched an investigation as to whether the strict reproduction rules governing euro banknotes have been broken and says it will follow up its enquiries by contacting the relevant national authorities. Full Story Here

Dealer Identifies Fake Morgans

Fake Morgan Dollars UncoveredFake Morgan dollars identified by Montgomery, Ill., dealer Tom Campbell of Tom’s Fine Coins led to an April 4 arrest of an individual who was attempting to sell them through online classified ads.

“About half were common date,” Campbell said. “All weighed 18-19 grams and were attracted to a magnet, some weak, some strong.”

Approximately 20 coins ultimately were involved, though Campbell initially attempted only to buy two 1885-CC dollars for $280. He asked the seller to bring them in person and he would pay $40 per coin more. They arranged to meet in a public place in Plainfield, Ill.

When Campbell realized they were fake, he contacted the Lansing, Ill., Police Department, where the seller was from.

The seller later contacted him offering an 1893-O, 1892-O and an 1886. Campbell worked with the police to set up a sting in a local business in Lansing. When Campbell signaled that the offered coins were fakes, the police moved in and made an arrest of the suspect and his wife, who was waiting in a car. Read Full Numismaster Article

Inside a Chinese Coin Counterfeiting Ring

Chinese Counterfeit Morgan Dollars - Photo courtesy of Jinghua SheiHave you ever wondered what an illegal coin minting operation looks like? Are you curious about how the Chinese are making all of those fake coins we have been seeing recently? If so, the Chinese Coin Counterfeiting photo gallery will interest you. There are photos of the coin presses they use, the fake coin dies they make, and the actual coins they strike. I have added some commentary where I was able to get information about the processes, but as you can probably imagine, my sources aren’t exactly being forthcoming about this information.

Counterfeit Dies- Photo courtesy of Jinghua SheiSome of the photos in this gallery surfaced in coin collecting discussion forums earlier this year. I would like to acknowledge the anonymous owner of the Web site for leading me to these photos, and for providing information that got me started tracking them all the way down to their Chinese sources. It is obvious that this Chinese counterfeiting operation is a large scale endeavor that is flooding thousands of fake coins into our coin collecting marketplace every month. As the photos will reveal, these fakes are dangerous, high-quality specimens that will fool all but the most observant collectors. Read full article by Susan on

Ethiopia’s fake gold – 26 Arrested

By Elizabeth Blunt BBC News, Addis Ababa

Fake gold in EthiopiaTwenty-six people are under arrest over the discovery of 90kg (14 stone) of fake gold in the vaults of Ethiopia’s central bank, a senior official says.

The fraud was discovered after some of the supposed gold was sent to South Africa, where it was found to be gold-plated steel. Those held are expected to be charged in the next couple of weeks.

Rumours have been flying around the capital Addis Ababa about what happened to the real gold and who was to blame. Those being held include officials of the national bank, said Berhanu Assefa, a spokesman for Ethiopia’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. The commission has been investigating the case for three months along with Ethiopian police and intelligence officials.

“Around 26 are under arrest – seven from the national bank of Ethiopia, four from the Ethiopian Geological Survey and 15 businessmen and their collaborators have been arrested,” Mr Assefa said.

“No-one has yet been charged – we expect that… our prosecutor will charge them.”

The value of the missing gold was around 158m Ethiopian birr, or $16m for just one of the missing cases, he said, adding this was a huge amount for a poor country such as Ethiopia.
Read Full BBC Story


The following announcement/alert was posted to the PCGS Website :

Counterfiet PCGS Holder from ChinaConsumer AlertIn recent days, counterfeit coins in counterfeit PCGS slabs have begun to appear on eBay, the online auction site. All of the counterfeit coins/holders seen so far are coming out of China. Alert members of the PCGS Message Boards were the first to notify PCGS of the counterfeit coins/holders.

The coins themselves range from poor-quality counterfeits to well-made fakes. The counterfeit PCGS holders are well-executed, but with minor differences from a genuine holder. PCGS anticipates that authentic coins will eventually be placed into counterfeit PCGS holders in the future, perhaps with elevated grades and/or inappropriate designators (Full Bell Lines, Prooflike, etc.), although none have been seen to date.

The on-line PCGS Certificate Verification is a method for confirming that a particular certificate number matches the information in the PCGS database, but the counterfeiters are aware of this detection method and are now using valid certificate numbers (see below).

PCGS has contacted U.S. governmental agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Customs, the Secret Service, and US Postal authorities, to enlist their assistance in pursuing enforcement or legal remedies against these counterfeiters. Also, PCGS is a member of eBay’s CCW Group, which monitors eBay for fraudulent listings and asks eBay to discontinue auctions of suspicious coins and/or suspend violators.

PCGS has called for eBay to stop accepting listings of any rare coins from Chinese sellers. Ebay recently pulled several auctions of counterfeit coins/holders at the urging of PCGS. (more…)

Tips on How to Avoid Fraud on Collectible Coins

By Gary Eggleston – BellaOnline’s Coin Collecting Editor

Many people enjoy shopping online where there are great buys of coins that can be found. A person may prefer do his shopping while he is at home because it is convenient and time-saving instead of going out looking for stores that sell collectible coins and other souvenirs.

A person can differentiate between a live auction and an Internet because an online auction can take several days to complete. They entertain bids for the highest price up until the time the auction is about to close.. Many people that are bidding online enjoy the experience and they may be familiar with the strategies to use to win an online auction.

There are also online sites where a person can buy any item that may capture his interest. This is where most coin collectors purchase their desired coins. By searching and finding the item that they want, they can actually negotiate and make the payments through the Internet. This can be very risky as you are dealer/seller that is unknown to the buyer, yet many people are still making transactions and payments through this kind of online auction. Read Full Story

Examining an Added Mintmark

Although counterfeiting techniques keep improving, mintmarks are still added to coins using the same two methods. Skip Fazzari describes how to spot these fakes.

Added When many things get old, they are discarded and new things, perhaps better made, take their place. Not so with old counterfeit and altered coins. Although some fakes are taken off the market each year and are either put into reference collections or destroyed, others remain to plague another generation and are passed on to one unsuspecting collector after another.

Most will agree that coin alterations consist of the addition or removal of parts of a coin’s design. Interestingly, although techniques of fakery have improved over the years, a majority of the coins with added mintmarks are still made by two methods. For the most common type of alteration, a numeral or letter is applied directly to the surface of the host coin. The micrograph taken at 20x shows an example of a coin altered in this way. In this case, a “D” mintmark has been placed on the reverse of a genuine 1916 Mercury dime to produce a coveted 1916-D coin. Read Full Article

Fake Silver Pandas Continue to Emerge: 1995 “Large Twig”

Jay Turner, NGC Grader and Attributor, examines the latest Silver Panda counterfeit that has been uncovered within the numismatic world and describes the various ways one can spot it.

Counterfeit 1995 PandaThe Chinese Panda has only been around since 1982 but, surprisingly, it has become one of the most widely counterfeited World coins. In previous articles, we wrote about counterfeit 2001-D and 2003 Silver Pandas. In this article, we’ll examine the diagnostics of a counterfeit 1995 “Large Twig” Silver Panda.

NGC certifies a lot of Panda coins. The series is as popular as ever with collectors. It’s especially popular among collectors participating in the NGC Registry. Each piece that NGC certifies is not only graded but checked for authenticity. Recently, a counterfeit 1995 “Large Twig” Silver Panda with unusual finish and tooling marks was submitted for grading.

In 1995, the Chinese Mints put out different varieties of Panda designs. The Mint State issues were struck at two different mints with subtly varying designs or varieties. The Shanghai Mint issue featured a panda with a “Large Twig” branch extending upwards from its hand. The Shenyang Mint had a “Small Twig” version with no branch extending beyond the panda’s hands. The Shenyang Mint or “Small Twig” also comes in Large and Small Date sub-varieties. To date, NGC has not received any submissions of counterfeit 1995 “Small Twig” Silver Pandas, and the “Large Twig” described here is the only counterfeit we have received that is dated 1995. Read Full Article