By Richard Schwary - California Numismatic Investments
How many times have you seen this disclaimer on those cheesy TV ads selling something which looks like a 1929 proof $5 Indian gold piece? And don’t laugh I get a call on something like this once a week.
For the record there were never any proof $5 Indians struck in 1929 and while this coin looks like it’s made out of gold it is actually a gold plated clad proof fantasy piece. But if you are a beginner and did not read the ad print carefully you might be fooled (limit 5 per household). Especially because these guys have the temerity to show a current gold graph going through the roof even though this metric has nothing to do with the product they are selling. Or run across a similar statement when reading a magazine and find that you are just lucky enough to take advantage of a hundred year old find of real US silver dollars (sure to sell out soon so call now)?
If you have a coin background you could just smile at these common offers but believe it or not someone is getting rich by mass marketing this crap to the public. And you might also ask why anyone would go for such an obvious trick. And the answer will teach you something about why mass marketing in coins should be watched carefully and taken seriously.
These ads are designed to be deceptive and to target a person who knows little about coins but the telemarketer is betting on the newbie’s interest having been peaked about precious metals because of media attention. These phony coin substitutes sabotage the rare coin trade by looking legitimate and valuable but are designed to trick the buyer into believing they came from the US Mint.
And before you say this is just silly nonsense and the cost is small and really hurts no one understand that the reason these ads contain the Not Affiliated with, licensed or endorsed by the US Mint is because someone thought them dangerous enough to sue over this deception. It is a shame this ubiquitous disclaimer is the best the Feds can do to protect the public especially because they make such a big deal over counterfeit currency and coins produced in places like China.
So what is to be learned from this fine kettle of fish? At the very least look for these small warnings in the most obscure places and use this red flag to educate yourself and those who may just have a passing interest. I have thrown up this flare before and still get calls from more sophisticated people, including one from a retired business friend wanting to know if the $50 Gold Union clad proof is a good deal and is there really only one in the Smithsonian Institution? I am not kidding and expect this type of deception to get more creative and rob more people as media continues to draw attention to the precious metals.