Let's make a start to stop
Volume 43, Number 5, May 2006
I read with disappointment, but no real surprise, that the much loved television programme Blue Peter was suspending its Blue Peter Badge scheme because it was being abused. For those who don’t know the scheme allowed winners of the badges (awarded by the programme for fundraising, “good deeds” or for winning competitions) to visit certain countrywide attractions free of charge. Now it seems that fake badges are being sold on the internet to allow groups of people who had never earned a badge to take advantage of the free entry system enabling them to have cheap days out. The BBC had no option but to suspend the scheme and as a consequence the whole thing has been ruined for those who earned their badges by few greedy individuals (and the tight fisted buyers) who will “do anything for a quick buck”. Now you might wonder what relevance this has to coins but there are direct parallels; somebody decided they wanted to make some cash, they didn’t care how they did it, didn’t care about the wider consequences all they were in it for was money today and who cares about tomorrow, as a direct result there are many disappointed people who won’t get the chance to enjoy what they should. Ringing any bells yet? I’m talking of course about those who are profiting from the sale of “copy” coins that they know full well are being sold on as genuine but simply don’t care, and of course those breaking the law by knowingly selling as genuine something they know not to be. Now we all know there is a fine line between “replica coins” and downright forgeries but I’m not talking about those items that are either fantasy pieces (i.e. never issued coins, or even notes, or those issued as commemorative pieces that might bear some resemblance to a proper coin) or indeed proper “copies” (with that fact clearly marked on them in some way either with the word copy or a distinctive trade mark). What I am referring to is the kind of coin that you read about in last Month’s News and Views the kind of coin made with no marking to indicate that it is a copy, the kind of coin that can be and is passed off to the unwary as genuine, the kind of coin that has had cast marks filed away from its edge with the sole intention of deceiving those who might come across it. We’ve all seen them, they’ve been filed, aged, toned and turn up on the internet auction sites as “rare” finds, not everyone is fooled of course but many are, only discovering their mistake when they later come to sell on their wonderful collection and find that many of the better items are in fact nothing of the sort. Admittedly I am over egging things slightly, the problem isn’t that widespread yet but sadly we do here of such incidences happening time and again – the recent “copies” coming out of the North East as reported last month are just the latest in a long line. A couple of years ago we made a stand regarding the advertising of copy coins, we decided that those not properly marked up as such could not be sold through the pages of our magazine – well now we’d like to go a step further, we would ask that all involved in the hobby, dealer and collector alike turn their backs on these coins – if it isn’t clearly marked as a copy don’t touch it, walk away and don’t be tempted. Certainly you might know it’s a copy and think it would look good in your collection to complete a run date but one day you won’t be around and your collection will be sold, what then happens to that “copy”? It gets sold too and so enters the mainstream hobby – being pushed from pillar to post by those in the know until one day some poor unsuspecting soul, probably a beginner, gets lumbered with it, thinking they’ve got a bargain only to discover later their rarity is worthless. Once that happens you can bet that that beginner will be put off for life and so another is lost to the hobby. This may seem melodramatic but it’s happening, right now, so called copy coins, fake coins, are being sold on as real ones to fledgling, and in some cases experienced, collectors and that will damage the hobby beyond repair. Of course no reputable dealer or collector will ever sell such coins as “genuine” but two or three transactions down the line that coin, once clearly described as a copy, has somehow lost that tag and has gained a few noughts on the end of the price. The only way to stop this happening is to stamp out the market for such coins in the first place, and to do that collectors have to stop buying them. So my plea this month is that from now on if you desperately need something to complete a date run and can’t afford or find the real thing then only buy a “filler” if it’s clearly marked as a copy in some way. If coins so marked are the only ones that sell then maybe the manufacturers will realise that to stay in business that’s what they need to put on their wares – then and only then might we see a change to this worrying trend – a trend that could destroy our hobby if we don’t make a stand now. If it isn’t real and doesn’t say “copy” on it in some way then it’s a fake, fake coins will damage numismatics forever, let’s do our best to get rid of them once and for all. – and lets start now.
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