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Buyer Beware! Coin Scams!

If you've already read the Buying Coins» section, you've seen the plethora of warnings about almost every way to buy coins. Whether you are buying or selling, there are more people that will take advantage of you than will take care of you. As depressing as that is, it shouldn't stop you from collecting coins! Simply educate yourself, be careful, and buy wisely. Be smart and be informed when you're buying!

 

Common Coin Scams

* Fake Coins / Counterfeit Coins (key dates)

There are many fake / counterfeit coins floating around out there. Key dates are the most commonly made, because it yeilds the most profit. If you are unsure about buying a high dollar coin, please only purchase a coin that has been certified by one of the top four grading companies. Nothing will sour you on this interesting hobby faster than paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for a fake coin.

* Coins on TV

I have a general rule regarding coins on TV. If a coin is offered for sale on the TV, change the channel. If you don't believe me, buy the coin, walk into a coin shop, and ask how much they will give you for it. Point proven.

* Newspaper Ad

Much like TV, the newspaper is filled with 'deals'. These are in fact, not deals. (This does not necessarily include advertisements in coin publications.)

* Dealers

There are dealers that would be more than happy to take you for a ride, do your research and find a dealer you can trust. This will make a world of difference down the road when if you ever want to sell your collection.

* "Legal Tender" from Liberia / Marshall Islands / etc...

Perhaps one of the biggest scams of our time. These coins are privately minted as 'legal tender' in some country you will probably never visit. And more than that, they are virtually worthless to the majority of collectors. Save your $20.

* Private Minted Coins

Privately minted coins rank right up there with the coins listed directly above. The vast majority have some image meant to appeal to the patriotism of a person, but how patriotic is a hunk of metal that nobody will pay more than 10% of the original purchase price?

* BU Roll / OBW Roll

I'm leery of ever buying "BU BANK ROLLS", as more times than not, a talented and well educated coin guru has dove into the roll, taken out the few oustanding beauties inside, and replaced them with average specimens. I know BU Roll collectors, and while it is a rewarding collection, please be aware of the significant risks and costs.

* Fake Commemorative Coins

There has recently been a growing number of fake commemorative coins on the market. Please make sure any commemorative coins you buy were issued by the US MINT.

* Uncleaned Ancient Coins

I have personally fallen victim to this more times than I care to admit. You see that auction for uncleaned coins that are thousands of years old for just a few dollars per coin. Let me tell you now, the guys that dig these up in Europe and the Middle East know EXACTLY what to pull out before sending the rest to a middleman in the US. I encourage you to pick a few up, and try your hand at cleaning them, but just know, if you're looking to strike gold or clean up a valuable Greek coin to retire on, you're better off buying a lotto ticket on your way home from work.

* Craigslist.com (CL) Scams

CL is gaining popularity, and it deserves mention that you should use the same caution when buying coins on CL as you do anywhere else. Remember, CL is free to post on, so anyone can post almost anything. I have routinely found that well over half of the 'coins for sale' advertisements are ridiculously overpriced. Please buy with caution. (On a side note, always meet someone from CL at a very public place, never give out your home address, and never feel like you HAVE to buy something just because you met them.)

eBay Coin Scams

There are so many scams on eBay, it deserves a seperate sub-heading. (*Not all coins for sale on ebay are a scam, but this section should be used as a caution)

* Unsearched coins

It is every coin lovers dream to find a giant hoard of unsearched coins and dive in... This is part of what makes us all coin nerds, that inherent desire to find a gem in pile of forgotten metal. So let me ask you this.. IF you actually found a tub of old coins, would you dig in? or would you auction if off. UNSEARCHED AUCTIONS ARE GENERALLY NOT UNSEARCHED. I can not stress this point enough. Even if by some miracle the seller didn't search the coins, the previous 25 coin collectors have, and trust me... you don't throw a 1909 S VDB penny into the jar. The statistical odds of finding a rare coin in an eBay 'unsearched' coin lot are staggering if not astronomical. Sorry to beat it to death, but do you get the point here?

* Rare!!!

Ebay is redefining the word RARE. Go ahead, type it into the search box. I just did this and got 1.5 MILLION options. Please do your own research (with the help of this site!) to find out what exactly is "rare" and what is an overused word to fill space and attract innocent buyers.

* "Dealer" lot

"Dealer" lots are more times than not, garbage that the 'dealer' couldn't sell. If they can't sell it, do you want to buy it? (Sometimes the answer is yes, but buyer beware!)

* Bad Grading

If you haven't read the Grading Coins» section of this site, do so now. There are some VERY fraudulent coin grading 'companies' out there. An example is the yellow tagged holders that always seem to come back as a perfect coin, regardless of the condition. Another scam is putting 19 "graded/certified" coins on an auction, and then placing a PCGS BOX in the title, so people are mislead to think the coins have something to do with the top grading service. Please don't give your money to people trying to scam you.

* Fake Coins / Counterfeit Coins (key dates)

Ebay is a breeding ground for counterfeit coin makers. Pay attention to return policy, especially on key dates. And again... if you don't know what you're doing, only buy it in a holder (certified).

* Common Lies

People begin their ads with: I'm not a collector / These were my neighbors old coins / I'm not an expert but in my opinion these are condition X / blah blah blah... I hate to generalize, but the vast majority of the time, after saying why they don't know anything about coins, they start throwing around coin jargon that would confuse Q. David Bowers (bigtime coin nerd). Take a look at the other auctions they have and have had listed and watch the language. It could give you a little insight as to whether or not they know what they're doing.

* Seller's choice

When the seller has a choice of dates and mintmarks, look up in your Red Book the highest mintages and lowest prices for the coins offered... That is what you will be getting.

* Shipping charges

Pay special attention to how much a seller is charging for shipping. A coin may be a steal at $1, but add on the $5 - $8 for shipping, and it may not be looking so great.