House Weighs Bill to Crack Down on Coin Counterfeits

Coin collectors are being conned by Chinese counterfeits, according to trade groups and congressmen.

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The George O. Walton Specimen 1913 Liberty Head Nickel was sold at auction for more than $3 million in April. Counterfeits of rare coins are tricking collectors, according to supporters of a proposed crackdown.
The George O. Walton Specimen 1913 Liberty Head Nickel was sold at auction for more than $3 million in April. Rare coin counterfeits are tricking collectors, according to supporters of a proposed crackdown.

Coin collectors are being conned by Chinese counterfeits, according to trade groups and congressmen behind legislation up for a vote in the House Tuesday.

The "Collectible Coin Protection Act" will make it a crime "for a person to provide substantial assistance or support to any manufacturer, importer, or seller if that person knows or should have known" that the coins are not authentic.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., is the primary sponsor of the bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Reps. Steve Scalise, R-La., Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

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Smith was the sponsor of a previous version, also introduced this year, which would have criminalized providing assistance to a counterfeit coin-seller if the person "knows or consciously avoids knowing" about the coins' authenticity.

In a letter to colleagues in May, Smith pitched the bill as a necessary legal update to the Hobby Protection Act, which in the 1970s made it a crime to import non-authentic collectible coins unless they were stamped with the word "copy."

The bill "adds the 'teeth' of stronger enforcement and penalties," Smith wrote to colleagues.

If enacted as law, the bill would also make the fabrication of authentic coin-grading trademarks - already a crime - an offense under the Hobby Protection Act.

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Professional Coin Grading Service President Don Willis said in June 2012 that his company detected a rise in counterfeit coins, saying 5,500 were identified in 2011.

PCGS provides tip sheets for collectors and dealers suspecting a counterfeit.

"Counterfeit coins are costing unsuspecting buyers millions of dollars," said Barry Stuppler, chairman of Gold & Silver PAC, in a May statement urging passage of the bill. Three of the five bill sponsors received donations from the PAC.

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