I was recently turned on to a news article in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Don Williams because he was intrigued by its’ title about the U.S. government going after coin recyclers. Since technically I am a coin recycler because I buy old U.S. silver coinage, he thought that it might have some impact on my business and that I should read the article.
At Don’s suggestion I logged into philly.com, the Philadelphia Inquirers’ web page and found the article in question, and what an interesting article it was. The article wasn’t about people such as myself who buy old silver coins, but rather about a Chinese businessman’s’ recycling of damaged and mutilated current coinage. It seems the U.S. Mint for years has been buying damaged and mutilated coins that cannot be used in vending machines, something I was not aware of.
It seems the businessman has been sending millions (that’s millions with an “M”) of dollars’ worth of damaged coins back to the Mint for recycling, coins purportedly recovered as a result of all the scrap metal that has been sent to China, think scrap cars, etc. Now I may be a skeptic, but those cars are compacted into very small blocks of metal, and I know the workers in the scrap yards do go through those vehicles before they are
compacted, so how millions of dollars’ worth of change can end up in China is beyond my comprehension.
It seems a light bulb ultimately went off in some ones’ head in the government and they did an analysis of those coins and found metal and material that shouldn’t be there, indicating they may have been counterfeited. Since the cost of making dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollar coins would cost less than the face value, and since quality is not an issue because these are already deemed damaged, it would seem a profitable endeavor to counterfeit these coins, and because of the low value would fly under the radar. That businessman’s’ U.S. assets (including his Porsche) have been seized pending the outcome of the government’s investigation.
Chinese counterfeits have been a problem in the numismatic industry for years. I’ve written in the past about how they have counterfeited everything from low value common collector coins up to rare and valuable numismatic items and gold coins. The problem also includes not only counterfeiting coins but also placing them in counterfeit third party holders that are meant to be independent authentication and grading. Pleas from people in the industry for the government to put some teeth into laws designed to protect them from this problem have largely been ignored, but maybe now that the government itself has been affected to the tune of millions of dollars, maybe they will address the problem. My solution, if anyone asks (and they haven’t): since the Chinese are the major purchasers of our Treasury Bonds, why not sell them a few billion dollars worth of counterfeit bonds, and when they try to redeem them just say whoops, sorry, they’re no good. They must be counterfeit.
A good thing for me that came about as a result of the article in the Inquirer was the fact that the Mint buys back damaged and unusable coinage, something I was not aware of. As everyone knows, I enjoy metal detecting as a hobby, something I have done for over 45 years. Many coins that I find, especially ones I find on the beach are corroded and unusable. Guess who’s going to get a huge care package from me.
Douglas Keefe is the president of Beachcomber Coins, Inc. He and his wife, Linda, operate Beachcomber Coins and Collectibles, formerly in the Shore Mall, now located at 6692 Black Horse Pike in the old Wawa building just past the former Cardiff Circle. They have satellite offices in Brigantine and Absecon. Between them they have more than 70 years experience in the coin and precious metals business. They are members of the American Numismatic Association, the Industry Council of Tangible Assets, the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation, the Certified Coin Exchange and the Professional Coin Grading Service.