Whenever buying and selling coins, it is always recommended to be aware of potential counterfeits or fake items. With fake coins becoming more prevalent in the industry, it is crucial to have experience when dealing with high priced items.
According to Doug Davis, Director of the ACEF Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force (ACTF), “well-made fakes are flooding the U.S. marketplace and the integrity of the numismatic community is under attack”.
One such case is when an 1879 Coiled Hair gold $4 “Stella” was listed for $300,000 at auction last year. Several members of the coin community were suspicious of this auction listing.
This bogus Stella coin was housed in a counterfeit Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) holder. It had a fake insert label containing the same NGC PR63 grade and certification as the original, genuine coin.
Ryan Moretti of Orange County, California is the senior numismatist for Colorado-based American Rarities. Moretti was contacted by the individual attempting to sell several high-priced coins allegedly in NGC holders. This includes the previously mentioned 1879 $4 Stella, of which only a dozen genuine examples are known. The individual who contacted Moretti also offered a 1793 AMERICA Chain cent, an NGC VF20; an 1800 Draped Bust dollar, an NGC AU58; and an 1871-CC Seated Liberty dollar, NGC AU55. The attempted sale of these items was around $400,000 worth of counterfeit coins.
Based on his years of experience as a professional numismatist, Moretti concluded that the coins were counterfeit and that the NGC holders were false. As soon as Moretti became suspicious of potential counterfeit coins, he alerted the detectives at the Irvine, California Police Department. Upon an investigation by authorities, Moretti’s suspicions were confirmed.
Once the counterfeit coin evidence was turned over to authorities, detectives were able to confirm that they were fake. When ACTF agents alerted the Minnesota Department of Commerce and U.S. Treasury OIG, the coins were seized, and a joint investigation was launched.
When the suspected counterfeit seller’s name was entered into the ACTF crime and intelligence database, the suspect was linked to another case. In this other case, the suspect attempted to sell counterfeit coins to a Minnesota based dealer back in December of 2019. According to Davis, “the seller of these counterfeits is on our radar and we’re after him no matter how long it takes.”
Meanwhile, the fake coins have been removed from the market.
At this point, federal and local investigators are reviewing both cases in Minnesota and California to determine the appropriate jurisdiction to start prosecution against the suspect. The suspect could face charges related to possession and distribution of counterfeit coins with the intent to defraud buyers.
Davis warns that “these recent cases spotlight the significant technological advancements of counterfeiters and their agents as well as the all-too-easy availability for the sale of fake coins and precious metals housed in counterfeit third-party authentication and grading holders.”
“The Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation (ACEF) and its Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force will continue its vigorous commitment to protecting the numismatic profession and collectors from adversaries who manufacture and sell counterfeit coins and precious metals. And, we’ll continue to educate the public to encourage them to only work with reputable dealers,” said Davis.
For more information or to support the Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation, please visit their website. If you would like to support the ACEF, it is a 501(c)(3) corporation and any donations are tax-deductible.
The ACEF can be contacted at:
28441 Rancho California Road, Suite 106
Temecula, CA 92590