The Ship Noble
Volume 46, Number 12, December 2009
We have the power . . . A RECENT TRIP to my local antiques fair left me in shock—I discovered a veritable hoard of rarities—a pile, literally a pile, of 1804 silver dollars on one dealer’s stand. My goodness, what a find! Here was I in the middle of Devon and I’d discovered a hitherto unknown source of one of the world’s rarest coins and they were all reasonably priced too! Thoughts of the riches to come buzzed around my head and I was giddy with excitement, until I picked up one of the rarities and reality crashed back in. They were of course fakes, copies, probably emanating from China and, to the trained numismatist, not even very good ones. They were too light, didn’t feel right and it didn’t take a genius to work out that with a pile of them on offer these weren’t going to be the real McCoy. I’d known this of course but you can’t blame me for getting a little carried away . . . I didn’t bother talking to the dealer. I cannot be bothered to waste my breath on those pedalling such trash, but it did make me think—I wasn’t fooled and the chances are the seller (who wasn’t specifically dealing in coins) wasn’t intending to sell these as anything other than “replicas”. But we all know that people are taken in, every day, and that there are many who will happily sell on such rubbish as original. Therefore I am using this “Comment” to once again jump on my soap box and talk about the problem that faces us all—and ask everyone of you, dealer and collector alike to help do something about it. Whilst the problem of fakes is real, and the threat posed by the copies coming out of the Far East has to be tackled, the number of “copies” out there is still relatively small—we just don’t want it to get any bigger! A number of influential American organisations, including the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) are already on the case. In a recent press release they state that more than a million counterfeit coins manufactured in China have been fraudulently sold in the States and that this poses a “significant financial risk for unsuspecting consumers”. Well of course it does—if there are fakes out there (and we know there are) then someone is going to get stung—the secret is to make sure it isn’t you. Unfortunately, it is a fact of modern day life, with computer-aided manufacture, that anything, anything at all, can be and is being forged, and yes, it seems that China is one of the main culprits, with the Chinese authorities either unwilling or unable to act and the western authorities powerless. The fact is that the manufacture of these coins as replicas is not illegal—what is against the law, certainly in Europe and the USA, is the selling them on as original and, sadly, that is what is happening on various internet sites and indeed at markets everywhere—with the poor unsuspecting buyer soon finding his “rarity” is nothing of the sort but is, in fact, just a cheap copy. But hold on a minute—I use the term “unsuspecting buyer” too loosely—if we look carefully at those who do buy from anonymous sources on-line or manage to discover a fabulous rarity at a local boot sale, we will find they are not, in fact, “unsuspecting” at all—rather they are doing it in the hope of turning a quick profit. They think they know exactly what they are doing and are hoping to cash in on a mistake or oversight to make a fortune. We can’t blame them of course. How many of us don’t relish the thought of picking up a rare date or variety nestling unspotted in a junk tray? But ask yourself this: if you see something like an 1804 dollar on the stand of a dealer who doesn’t specialise in coins, isn’t it worth just wondering for a second where he got it from? Isn’t it worth asking how he came by such a delight? And isn’t it worth asking whether or not he doesn’t have one or two just like it under the counter? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there are no bargains to be had any more, but let’s be honest about it, such things happen very, very rarely and to believe that you’ve struck it rich by buying a 1933 penny from somebody on an internet auction site whose previous sales have been fake perfumes and dodgy handbags is naivety in the extreme. The answer of course is simple: if you see something a little bit suspect then walk away—because you can guarantee if it looks too good to be true, it will be. It’s easy really, just steer clear of the cowboys and those whose reputations leave something to be desired. Get to know, and buy from, only the regular, bona fide dealers and above all get to know your coins—only by handling real coins will you ever truly be able to spot a fake. Yes, there are fakes out there, as there are with everything valuable from paintings to watches to designer shirts, but they will only really become a problem in this hobby if people keep buying them, and people are only buying them in the hope of getting rich quickly by getting a bargain and selling it on or because they aren’t prepared to pay the “going rate” for something they want in their collection. If you value your hobby, indeed if you value your collection, you won’t buy this tat; you won’t succumb to the lure of the easy money or the cheap option; you’ll buy only from those dealers that you, and everyone else in the trade, trusts (and it doesn’t matter which medium you use to buy—bona fide dealers are selling on-line too—just because something is on the internet doesn’t make it bad, just be sure you know who you’re buying from) and you will shun those who peddle such rubbish. If there isn’t a market for fakes those making them will soon move on to something else but for as long as collectors want something for nothing, want to make that fast buck, then these things will still be around. We have the power to do something about this situation—let’s start now.
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