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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 44, October 29, 2006, Article 23

REPLICA RUCKUS: BEWARE THE SWITCHEROO ACCUSATION

Following up on our discussion of the pros and cons of numismatic
replicas, Bob Rhue writes: "I'd like to make my fellow E-Sylum
members aware of a remote yet potentially serious risk that can
arise around them.  I understand that perhaps 15 years ago someone
called a major coin firm claiming to have some extremely rare
colonial coin.  The dealer said to mail it insured for whatever
the owner thought it was worth.  Upon receipt the dealer immediately
determined that it was a replica, of "no value", & said so in a
note to the owner, which accompanied the return of the coin.

The dealer's  shipping dept saw that it was of "no value", and
returned it to the owner without insurance or a request for proof
of delivery. Of course it became "lost" in the mail, the customer
insisted in his claim that HIS coin WAS real, and demanded payment
accordingly.  After protracted negotiations the coin company
settled with the owner of this 'rarity' for a large sum of money,
learning a BIG lesson in the process.

After hearing that story, I could see the possibility of the
obvious next extension to that scenario: An unknown person calls
me claiming ownership of a 'rare' whatever.  I tell him there are
a lot of replicas of that particular piece out there, but he's
sure his is genuine since it's been in the family for so long,
or because of whatever other delusion he's operating under. So
I tell him to ship me the piece insured for whatever he thinks
it's worth.  Upon receipt I see it's an obvious replica, return
it to him properly insured with a note to that effect.

The next week I receive a letter from his attorney alleging that
this doesn't even look like the same coin his client sent me,
demands that I immediately return his client's rare "original"
specimen or he will sue me for the $50,000 that the Redbook says
his A.U. coin was worth when I 'switched' it for this worthless
replica.

Nuf Sed?  Don't ever acquiesce in someone sending you one of
these 'rarities'.  Have them send it first to a grading service
or to the ANA or whatever - just not to YOU.  For that matter a
risk always exists that you'll be accused of having 'switched'
his 'superb gem' whatever for the piece of 'nominal value' that
you returned to him. Just be aware."

[This is an age-old problem of dealing by mail; as Bob notes, it
can involve any type of numismatic item, not just replicas.  In
my own experience with examining items, I always do it in person
or not at all.  Like most experienced numismatists, I can usually
tell by the verbal description that the piece in question is likely
a replica.  But I describe to them the procedure I'll use to
confirm my suspicion - I have a scale and books that tells me how
much the genuine piece weighs.  When we get together I let them
put the piece on the scale and show them what the book says.  If
a common fake is listed in the Hancock-Spanbauer book, I show
them that, too.  The scale tells them the bad news, not me.  I
make a point of going through these theatrics even when I can
tell from across the room that the piece is a worthless cast copy.
-Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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