Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts on Chinese medal counterfeiting and copyright laws.
I received an email this week from the widow of a sculptor who died recently. She forwarded an email from China she did not know how to answer, wanted my advice.
The writer from China was so knowledgeable about the sculptor and his medals I assumed he was one of the sculptor's former students.
He wanted a medal the sculptor had created of Chinese interest. He said he even wanted 300 to sell to American tourists who came to China. If he could get at least one medal he could have it cast in China. Cast in China? Read that he wanted to counterfeit it to sell to naive tourists.
The widow called me after I sent a long email explaining that her husband's medal was an issue that had sold out. Further that it was copyrighted. Also that American medal collectors had feared that this very situation would happen.
The Chinese had copied U.S. coin rarities so closely it was nearly impossible to detect them from the originals. Now that some 20th century American medals are reaching the $1,000 price range these become attractive to the Chinese counterfeiters.
I pleaded with the widow to refuse to supply him with the medal and note the issue was sold out and that it was a copyrighted design. Instead of copying an American medal, Chinese artists should create their own medal to sell to tourists. She informed me she had no idea how he learned of her, or of her husband's creation. And he certainly was not one of his students.
It does point out the Chinese have no respect for American copyright. They have a mindset that they can copy anything they wish.
For American collectors it means vigilance in what you acquire and who you acquire it from. Overseas sellers are suspect. Prices far below current market value is also a red flag.
Medal collecting had generally been free of counterfeits in the past. Olympic and U.S Presidential Inaugural medals are the only ones that come to mind. Now it is evident any numismatic item more than $100 must be examined closely and guaranteed genuine by the seller. Protect yourself!
Wayne Homren, Editor
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