Counterfeits and coin doctoring: Two threats to long-term rare coin market

By Steve Roach
First published in the Feb. 13, 2012, issue of Coin World

The problems of counterfeit coins and “coin doctoring” are two issues that have the potential to harm the coin market in the long term if not properly addressed.

For replicas, eBay sellers typically pictured coins marked COPY in accordance with the Hobby Protection Act. However, buyers reported receiving coins without the required clear markings. To average collectors, many of these coins were good enough to pass as legitimate; especially with copper and copper-nickel coins that did not require precious metals to fully replicate the originals. For example, replica large cents in circulated condition were highly deceptive.

A long-term effect of the sale of these replicas marked with COPY is that these “coins” will eventually get passed down to future generations, and those who will receive them, likely unaware that they are replicas, could sell them as coins, whereby the pieces might trickle into the marketplace, casually included in collections of genuine coins.

Now that eBay has placed restrictions on the sale of replicas, a major supply point into the United States has been cut off. Especially when one considers that the sale of low-level forgeries potentially funded more advanced studies for counterfeiters for high-end coins, the new eBay policy should prove beneficial to the market in the long-term.

The ongoing discussion of “coin doctoring” continues to bring this problem to the attention of the hobby, and the multi-year struggles of the Professional Numismatists Guild to adopt a definition shows the problematic nature of the topic as the line between conservation and deceptive surface manipulation is often a fine one.

Like with the counterfeiting problem, as technology improves and the techniques of coin doctors improve, the potential for coin buyers to be harmed expands.

The long-term threat to the hobby is that once a coin buyer is burned, he or she may never return to buy another rare coin.

Steve Roach is a Dallas, Texas, based rare coin appraiser and consultant. He also works with 19th and 20th century European and American paintings is an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers and sits on its board of directors. Steve is also the associate editor of Coin World. Visit Steve online at

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