Another Cautionary Tale

Years ago, more than I care to count, a high school history teacher asked for a show of hands of those who believed people were inherently good. She was dismayed that I chose not to raise my hand in response to her question. As a result, I was chastised for thinking bad of people.

Now, I don’t really believe people are, at their core, ruthless and corrupt. On the other hand, being somewhat of a skeptic in nature, I prefer to hesitate and learn more before trusting people unquestionably.

President Reagan’s comment, “trust, but verify,” applies much more appropriately than that long ago high school history teacher’s right-versus-wrong-with-no-shades-of-gray question.

OK, so what does this discussion have to do with coins?

Well, it seems, once again, someone trusted a coin seller on the internet (Craig’s List) only to receive a counterfeit coin in return for their payment.

This coin was a beauty – a 1901 New Orleans Morgan dollar graded MS-63 in a PCGS certified holder.

As a professional organization, PCGS offers a cert verification service on their web site for customers to research and verify PCGS slabbed coins. One simply enters the certification number from the slabbed coin, and the PCGS web site returns information about the coin. They provide general information about the coin’s characteristics including denomination, date, mintage and mint facility. Plus, they provide details about the coin such as the grade, the PCGS coin number and the estimated value of the coin. 

If there is a picture of the coin on the internet and the buyer used the PCGS web site to verify the coin, why did they still get bamboozled into buying a counterfeit coin?

Have you ever noticed that some criminals are very smart and go to great lengths to deceive people into buying counterfeits? Frequently criminals go to greater lengths than would be necessary in an honest undertaking.

In this case, the criminals purchased the real 1901-O coin that PCGS graded and placed in their protective slab with the PCGS identifying numbers, hologram and bar code certifying the coin. The criminals then duplicated their real 1901-O coin along with the PCGS holder and information. Their copies will be sold as many times as possible before the certifying numbers become identified as likely being a counterfeit coin in numismatic circles.

The 1901-O dollar is a nice coin but not terribly expensive. Therefore, people will get angry at receiving a counterfeit coin, but they will decide the time and cost to chase the criminals will be more than the money already lost on the counterfeit coin. Had the counterfeiters copied a much higher value coin, people would pursue the criminals more diligently.

When buying coins on the internet, choose to purchase from reputable dealers. Yes, we would like to think everyone is trustworthy and above reproach, but the internet makes it too easy for criminals and less-than-honest individuals to take advantage of unwary buyers.

As President Reagan cautioned, “Trust, but verify,” especially when parting with your hard earned money.