eBay agrees to take copied coins off site
gets counterfeit Canadian coins removed from
An Eastern Ontario man is rejoicing in the
recent success of his two-year campaign to get
counterfeits of classic Canadian coins dropped
But it was a long and often frustrating haul for
Mike Marshall, a collector and military retiree.
Marshall, 48, first faced a wall of disinterest
and dismissal from police, plus officials in
Ottawa, he said in an interview from Trenton.
And he said several “unscrupulous secondary
sellers” who knowingly bought the made-in-China
fakes then offered them for resale as genuine
rarities, tried to undermine his attempt to
alert officials, the public and collecting
“I even had someone threaten me on an eBay chat
line,” Marshall said.
What he and the RCMP got removed over the past
week are not poorly moulded lead quarters,
half-dollars and even the occasional dime and
nickel that crooks duped the public with in the
first half of the last century.
Instead, they are die-struck fakes of older
Canadian and Newfoundland coins from large
copper cents to gold spheres.
Six Chinese firms still produce them and
legitimately sell their product in China, but
they’re no longer listed on eBay, said Bret
Evans, managing editor of the Canadian Coin
Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, but
its old coins remain valid as pocket change, so
fakes -- not marked as being copies -- fall
under federal anti-counterfeiting laws.
The RCMP counterfeiting investigator, who backed
Marshall and joined his campaign, said eBay will
issue a statement today about banning sales of
Chinese-made so-called “replica” and “copy”
coins which were advertised with warning marks
but were rarely counter-stamped as such.
Toronto-based eBay Canada Ltd. did not return an
interview request made last Friday.
But earlier this week, RCMP Sgt. Tony
Farahbakhchian praised officials at the
California-based internet auction firm’s
“It is a big victory,” he told the Sun from his
Surrey, B.C. office. “We’ve had the utmost
co-operation from eBay.”
They were not aware of the situation,”
Farahbakhchian said. “They didn’t think they
were doing anything wrong and we have thousands
of these coins out there.”
Thanks to Marshall, the RCMP will have one of
each -- a reference collection of 117 fake coins
which, he said, cost $1,200.
He paid $221 for a complete set of 80 coins
still available for direct purchase from one
Beijing firm. If genuine, they would list in the
trends column of the Canadian Coin News, a St.
Catharines-based hobby paper, for $296,312.
“Mr. Marshall played a huge part of it,”
Farahbakhchian said of his efforts. “He
Collectors can pay big bucks for rare coins.
Not all replicas were of key coins, Evans said.
But even those that appeared shiny and new
appealed to collectors who could normally only
afford a low-grade worn coin.
The problem is not just the buyer who wanted a
good-looking coin, Marshall said.
It is also an unknowing estate seller or, worse,
fraudsters who list them on eBay as genuine
rarities worth hundreds, even thousands of
dollars, Farahbakhchian said.
A knowledgeable collector can spot most copies
by their metal content and slightly larger size,
Closer examination reveals mistakes such as
incorrect typefaces and other flaws.
But Marshall said “unless you engrave them or
mark them as copies, they’re going to find their
way on to the market.”
“People would lose faith in the integrity of
Canadian coins,” Farahbakhchian said.
Ironically, Marshall said, a U.S.-based eBay
executive told him sales of Canadian coin copies
would be halted if a police or government agency
alerted them that making, selling or possessing
fakes is illegal under federal laws.
“I begged local police to seize the ones I
bought,” to get the story out as a warning, he
said. “They just laughed at me.”
A senior official at the Royal Canadian Mint in
Ottawa appeared interested during initial
discussions, “but I haven’t heard back from him
in quite a while.”
Federal officials took notice after
Farahbakhchian alerted investigators two months
ago at an anti-counterfeiting conference in
Niagara Falls, showing them detailed articles
Marshall wrote in the paper.
“Technically, you cannot possess any counterfeit
coin,” the Mountie said. “It’s subject to the
RCMP seizing them.”
The RCMP, however, is kept much busier chasing
mass counterfeit currency crooks, plus importers
of often-shoddy foreign-made fake commercial
To prosecute someone even with a small
counterfeit collection, “you have to prove the
person knew they were fake,” Farahbakhchian
In the U.S., collectors can legally own a small
reference collection of forgeries.
China permits production of coins pre-dating
1949. In addition to having an RCMP computer
link for collectors to view the fakes Marshall
donated, Farahbakhchian plans to have the
force’s liaison officer appeal to its government
to have companies cease making Canadian
As a collector, “I can tell the difference, but
these are dangerously close,” he said. “People
inheriting such coins may not know they are
Examples of fakes that could fool an uninformed
buyer include copies of a 1921 50 cents silver
coin which fetches up to $100,000 if real.
Since beginning his appeal, Marshall said, “I
get at least two calls a week from people who
have been duped.”
In one classic case of money not well spent,
Edmonton collector Neal Shymko paid $4,000 for
made-in China copies of Canadian coins he later
learned were fakes.
A senior who lives near Trenton recently
contacted Marshall about an 1894 50 cents piece
which the buyer thought was worth thousands of
dollars. He was left broken-hearted that “he
spent a great deal of money on a $3 piece of
One Hong Kong firm even tarnished some copies of
its “key date” 1948 silver dollars – rarest of
the large coins circulated from 1935-67 – to
appeal to collectors who knew top-grade versions
had been faked.
For more information about real and fake
Canadians coins, Marshall recommends a website: