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All Posts Tagged With: "Coin Doctoring"

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The PCGS SecurePlus Program, Part 1: An Explanation

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #28

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

On March 25, 2010, David Hall and Don Willis, the top officials at the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), announced and explained the PCGS SecurePlus™ program, known for weeks before as “The Big One”! For most grades between EF-45 and MS-68 inclusive, the PCGS begin assigning plus grades when warranted, such as 45+ or 63+. As the rival of the PCGS, the NGC, incorporated plus grades into their system two months afterwards, and the PCGS later allowed for standard submissions to be eligible for plus grades, not just coins submitted via the SecurePlus tier, plus grades now seem to be a secondary aspect of the program. In my view, the emphasis should always have been, as it is now, on the ‘Secure’ aspects of the SecurePlus program, which are truly revolutionary and have tremendous implications for the future of markets in rare coins.

I hope that those who are not entirely familiar with the PCGS SecurePlus program find this column (part 1) to be very clear and educational. In my opinion, the explanation of the PCGS SecurePlus program on the PCGS website is not extremely clear and, over the past six months, I have found that many collectors are confused about this program.

Collectors who are already very familiar with the PCGS SecurePlus program, and with PCGS policies in general, may wish to wait for part 2, next week. In part 2, Don Willis, the president of PCGS, responds to my explanation and a proposal for the reform of PCGS submission policies is put forth. The views of John Albanese, Mark Feld and Ira Goldberg are included.

In the first section, I provide a definition of the SecurePlus program. In the second section, I explain the benefits of the coin identification part of the SecurePlus program. In Section III, I emphasize that submitters of coins to be graded by the PCGS may choose between the SecurePlus program and standard submission options.

I. The PCGS SecurePlus Program

The SecurePlus program brings three new technologies to coin grading. (1) The introduction of a new technology for scanning and coin identification, through the use of CoinAnalyzer devices that are produced by Richard Haddock’s CoinSecure firm. An image and data from each scanned coin is entered into a database, and, if the same coin is scanned at the PCGS in the future, it will be identified as a coin that was previously scanned.

(2) The use of ‘Sniffer’ technology to detect added foreign substances and changes in the surfaces, the metal, on coins that have been deliberately harmed by coin doctors for the purpose of deceiving experts and others into believing that doctored coins merit higher grades than were (or would have been) assigned before such coins are doctored. Additionally, the adding of metal to the surfaces and/or the deliberate heating of the metal on the surfaces of a coin will, hopefully, be detectable by ‘coin sniffer’ technology as well. The PCGS has already begun using ‘sniffer’ technology to an extent, and will be phasing additional sniffer applications into the PCGS SecurePlus grading program over time. I will devote a future piece to coin sniffer technology. The subject is so complicated that it must really be treated in a long article.

To gain some understanding of coin doctoring and the urgent need to contain the coin doctoring problem, please read five previous pieces of mine. Last year, I devoted a series of three articles to the reasons why naturally toned coins are preferred and the topic of coin doctoring is discussed at length therein (part 1, part 2 and part 3). This year, I wrote two columns that address the PCGS lawsuit against alleged coin doctors, on June 3rd and on Sept. 8th. In these two columns, coin doctoring is defined, the lawsuit is analyzed, and the seriousness of the matter is emphasized.

(3) The third ‘Security’ issue relating to the PCGS SecurePlus program is the anti-counterfeiting technology incorporated into the new inserts. In each PCGS holder, there is a paper insert that provides information about the coin contained therein. A gold eagle with a shield is pictured on an insert in the PCGS holder that houses each coin that has been graded under the PCGS SecurePlus program. Unethical businesses in China have produced forgeries of PCGS holders with misleading grades printed on fake inserts. New anti-counterfeiting features are important, though less so than the coin identification and sniffer technologies that constitute the core of the PCGS SecurePlus program. (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…)

PNG Adopts Coin “Doctoring” Definition

The Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) has created a definition of coin “doctoring” and now officially included it as one of the prohibitions in the organization’s By-Laws.

“The deliberate and unacceptable alteration of a coin in an effort to deceive is a complex matter. Everyone seems to know what coin ‘doctoring’ means, but it’s a difficult thing to concisely and substantively define,” said Paul Montgomery, PNG President.

“After extensive discussions and consultation with both Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), the official grading service of PNG, and with executives of the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), the PNG has created its first formal definition of coin doctoring,” Montgomery added.

PNG already required disclosure of information about altered coins.

“Section seven of the PNG Code of Ethics specifically states that PNG member-dealers must refrain from knowingly dealing in counterfeit, altered or repaired numismatic items without fully disclosing their status to their customers. Section four of the Code prohibits misrepresenting the quality of a coin,” said PNG Executive Director Robert Brueggeman.

“Adding a more specific definition of coin doctoring is a major step toward helping the PNG review any complaints against members accused of compromising ethical standards established by the organization. We now have an enforceable criterion for our membership.”

The PNG Board of Directors has adopted this initial definition:

Coin doctoring is the action of a person or the enabling of another to alter a coin’s surface or appearance, usually to diminish or conceal defects, and thereby represent the condition or value of a coin as being superior to its actual condition or value.

Among the practices defined as doctoring are effacing hairlines by polishing or manipulating the surfaces of proof coins, applying substances to the surface of coins to hide marks and defects, hiding marks or otherwise changing the appearance of a coin by adding toning, adding chemicals or otherwise manipulating the surfaces to create “cameo” frost on the devices of proof coins, and making a coin appear more fully struck by re-engraving portions of the devices, such as re-engraving bands on the reverse of a Mercury Dime or adding head detail to a Standing Liberty Quarter.

Altering dates or mintmarks or other struck portions of a coin to make it appear to be from a mint date or type other than that of origin, and altering business strike coins to make them resemble proof issues are also examples of coin doctoring. This definition is not intended to be all-inclusive, but only illustrative of forms of coin doctoring.

“As of today, no one has filed any formal complaints with PNG or presented evidence directly to the PNG of alleged coin doctoring by any of its members. However, we have been closely monitoring developments, and are taking action regarding a civil court lawsuit over alleged coin doctoring that was filed by PCGS in May of this year,” said Brueggeman.

Founded in 1955, the Professional Numismatists Guild is a nonprofit organization composed of many of the top rare coin and paper money dealers in the United States and other countries. PNG member-dealers must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics in the buying and selling of numismatic items. For additional information and the locations of PNG member-dealers, call (760) 728-1300 or visit online at www.PNGdealers.com.

Laura Sperber Meets with PNG Board to Discuss Coin Doctoring

The Following is taken from Laura Sperber’s Hot Topics concerning her invitation to meet with the Board of Directors of the Professional Numismatists Guild [ www.pngdealers.com ] on June 2nd in Long Beach, CA., to discuss the issue of “Coin Doctoring” in light of the PCGS Lawsuit filed against 6 coin dealers, three of which are PNG Members.

First, I would like to thank the PNG Board of Directors for giving me the opportunity discuss my grievances direct. They seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say, however that is where it ends.

To make sure I am not overreacting, I waited until I was back home to write this. Plus, I wanted to see what the PNG press release had to say. Unfortunately my gut instinct was correct.

THE PNG MEETING I ATTENDED WAS A SLOW MOTION TRAINWRECK. EVERYONE ON BOARD HAD THEIR HANDS OVER THEIR EYES.

Even though the board was attentive, they were highly combative. MULTIPLE times they told me they are a REactive group, not a proactive one. They proved to me with out a doubt they do not have a grasp on the situation and no matter what rhetoric they release, they will do very little about it.

The most damning statement they said: “WE HAVE NEVER HAD A COMPLAINT ABOUT COIN DOCTORING FROM ANYONE”. Ok, so in their eyes there had been no problem? Adding to that, they dwelled on the fact “people knew we were here”. Who the heck is going to complain to them? Collectors had to go to the services to be made whole. Besides, according to the PNG, just having an altered coin is proof of nothing. Still, I freak when I think about how no one at the PNG knew there was this horrible abuse happening-some of it created by their own membership. Talk about denial.

They did ask me what I would do about the 3 members in the lawsuit. Of course I said “suspend them”. They hammered back with “we can’t suspend the members in the lawsuit. Its a complaint. There has been no trial, they are not guilty”. Another member said “we’d love to take action, We can not do so on hearsay”. Unless the PNG learns to stop living in fear of being sued by its members and take the actions it should, they will NEVER be able to effectively control them.

The best one was when the board challenged me. They dragged a name of a coin doctor from me acting like they would take action (stupid me). I told them I saw him put putty on a coin at a show. They charged back: What proof do you have? Do you have photos, what solid proof?” One member wanted me to go start my own lawsuit. Give me a break.

Here is the ultimate proof they do not have grasp of the situation: one member said to me: “You sell puttied coins”. My response,: “so do you”. He failed to understand the problem is with coin doctoring. We do NOT intentionally sell puttied coins-ever, nor does he. Its the coin doctors who fraudulently try and get this crap by the grading services who are the problem. They couldn’t even grasp that-one member said “aren’t the grading services supposed to catch this?.

As the meeting went on, I was called a hypocrite yet also was asked to help them. It ended up exactly how I knew it would-they would have a debate to decide the definition of coin doctoring before moving on. I asked them, “being so quick to take NGC’s money as the preferred grading service, why did they not know any of this and why do they have to debate the definition?”. Their state of denial is unbelievable. These guys are dealers, dealers who do shows, dealers who do retail, how the hell can they not know about coin doctoring? In my opinion, this is far worse than a case of selective retention. (more…)

PNG Praises Efforts to Combat Coin “Doctoring,” Monitors Suit Against Three Members

[ CoinLink News ] The Board of Directors of the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) met in Long Beach, California on June 2, 2010 and issued the following statement.

The Professional Numismatists Guild Board of Directors applauds the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) in its efforts to battle the deceptive practice known as coin “doctoring.” The deliberate, deceitful alteration of a coin can pose an egregious financial consequence to individual collectors, investors, dealers as well as the general public. PNG believes the unconscionable practice of “doctoring” is an enormous detriment to the numismatic marketplace.

We congratulate and support both Numismatic Guaranty Corporation and Professional Coin Grading Service for their diligent work to detect ‘doctored” coins, and encourage both organizations to continue to aggressively combat this assault on the hobby.

“Doctoring” of coins is a definite violation of the PNG Code of Ethics, Section 7, that prohibits members from “knowingly dealing in counterfeit, altered or repaired numismatic items without fully disclosing their status to my customers.” “Doctoring” is also a violation of Section 4 of the PNG Code of Ethics that prohibits “misrepresenting the quality of a coin.”

The PNG Board regrets that three of its member-dealers have been named among the defendants in a Federal Court Complaint filed May 28, 2010 by Collectors Universe, Inc., the parent company of PCGS. The PNG takes allegations such as the ones made by PCGS very seriously. The board will monitor the progress of the complaint and react promptly, appropriately and in accordance with the organization’s bylaws.

Furthermore, in response to the recent influx of fraud related hobby concerns, the PNG board has pledged to revisit, review and update each and every ethical standard adopted by the PNG over the past 55 years. In particular, the board acknowledges the need to clearly define the term “doctoring,” in order to establish an enforceable criterion for its membership. The PNG board is unified in its resolve to nurture and maintain the PNG member-dealers’ standards of excellence through a more proactive posture regarding egregious acts of fraud in the numismatic marketplace.

Founded in 1955, the Professional Numismatists Guild is a nonprofit organization composed of many of the top rare coin and paper money dealers. For additional information, visit online at www.PNGdealers.com or call (760) 728-1300.