ICTA declares war against counterfeits infiltrating hobby
Enlists aid of federal law enforcement to combat hobby threats
This article was first published online May 5, 2017 on Coin World and is available here.
The Industry Council for Tangible Assets Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force has gained the attention of federal authorities and may be prompting them to take a more aggressive role in combating the infiltration of counterfeit coins into the United States and the numismatic hobby, says Beth Deisher, ICTA’s director of anti-counterfeiting and spokesperson for the task force.
During an April 28 public meeting held in conjunction with the Central States Numismatic Society 78th Anniversary Convention in Schaumburg, Ill., Deisher said educating law enforcement on the federal, state and local levels about the threats from counterfeit coins is paramount. Deisher retired in 2012 after 27 years as editor of Coin World.
The task force traces its genesis to a 2016 CSNS convention effort to draw numismatic professionals and others into a concentrated effort. The task force is operating solely on donations, Deisher said.
The task force comprises an 11-member steering committee with eight work groups of three to five people each to address specific issues.
Reaching out to agents
While the U.S. Secret Service has traditionally been legislatively empowered to pursue anti-counterfeiting investigations and prosecutions, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks changed those responsibilities, Deisher said.
Enforcement of counterfeiting violations has fallen into the hands of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection to stop the distribution of counterfeit coins and paper money before they enter the country, Deisher said.
Deisher said she and some members of the task force have met more than once with Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection officials to educate them on the threats to collectors and the general public that the counterfeits pose.
Deisher said that during one of those sessions, federal authorities indicated their efforts were focused on stifling the dispersal of counterfeit $100 Federal Reserve notes because of their high face value. During that same meeting, Deisher said, she showed investigators an example of an American Eagle 1-ounce gold bullion coin struck by the U.S. Mint.
Not only did those authorities not know the coin was struck by the nation’s coin bureau, they also believed the coin’s actual value was its $50 legal tender face value, Deisher said. Deisher said that she explained to the agents that, based on the spot price at the time for the 1 ounce of gold in the coin, plus the added premium, the actual value of the coin was $1,300.
Seeking trial experts
Deisher said federal law enforcement officials have asked for participation of dealers and other numismatic experts in each state who can be vetted and are willing to testify at trials, if prosecutions from investigations reach that stage of the legal process.
Deisher noted that the counterfeits, many of which are imported from China, replicate U.S. and world collector coins, bullion pieces, and commemorative issues. Most of the issues are made of plated base metals, with tungsten the metal of choice to be plated, especially for bullion issues like the American Eagles and issues from Canada, South Africa, Australia, Great Britain and Austria.
The quality of the counterfeits has greatly increased in recent years compared with the crudely executed issues that appeared in abundance almost a decade ago, Deisher said.
Some of the counterfeit production is created on coinage presses that once served U.S. Mint production but were scrapped for metal salvage, she said.
Deisher talked about Alibaba.com, the online website that some have referred to as the “Chinese eBay” over which many counterfeit items, including coins, are offered.
Deisher said ICTA’s Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force has identified a number of opportunities to combat counterfeit coins and other numismatic items:
➤ Providing information about foreign counterfeiters, their products, capabilities, production locations, and business processes.
➤ Providing information about suspect distribution networks in the marketplace.
➤ Providing local expertise to law enforcement officials conducting current investigations.
➤ Providing expert witnesses to testify in counterfeiting cases.
➤ Reimbursing travel expenses for expert witnesses.
➤ Providing specialized training for local, state and federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
➤ Identifying and revising law enforcement and prosecutorial policies that are impediments to the prioritization of coin counterfeiting cases.
For more information, visit ICTA’s website.