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XXI

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How to Sell Fakes on eBay

(or How Not to Buy Fakes on eBay)

By Fyoder Larue (fyoder on eBay)

The first thing we need are some fakes to sell. I won 't go into how to get them, since this isn 't really about how to sell them, but how not to be taken in by them. So 'somehow ' we have 4 fake denarii of Marc Antony, Nero, Vitellius and Pupienus (see below).

   

   

Great. Now, if we were an honest eBayer we wouldn 't be doing this, so assume we don 't already have an account. It is easy enough to set one up, but then we are a seller with zero feedback and a pair of sunglasses icon by our name -- very 'shady '.

Before we sell our 'choice ' denarii, what we 'll do is sell some low cost, actual real coins. It doesn 't even really matter what they are, could be pretty Australian coins or other aesthetically appealing moderns, or if we wanted to establish the theme of 'ancients ' we could get a bunch of uncleaned ones cheap and apply a bit of spit and scrub, whatever -- the important thing is the feedback.

We list these on eBay over a couple of weeks, leaving a couple of weeks to deliver the coins and collect feedback (it will be 30 days before the shades go away regardless of how much feedback we get). We state that shipping is included. Aren 't we nice? People can place very low bids on our stuff, lower even than the cost of shipping, and get whatever little thing we 're selling nice and cheap. We ship quickly and in all ways are a good seller worthy of glowing feedback. That 's all we 're really interested in, the feedback, no big deal if we take a small loss, as we anticipate cleaning up later.

Once we have the feedback we list our fakes. We also change our policies as follows if we 're not doing this already. We don 't accept PayPal or credit cards or anything easily reversed, just checks (which we can wait to have clear to avoid stop payment) or money orders, preferably mailed to a PO Box. We make the auctions private, bidder handles not listed, so that no one suspicious of our offerings can contact bidders to alert them. We make the auction of short duration, say 3 days -- long enough to attract some suckers, but fast enough for what is essentially a grab and dash.

As it turns out, we might not need to dash. People who know enough to be suspicious of our offerings won 't bid on them in the first place, and what we may discover is that those who win our auctions will be taken in by our fakes even when they have them in hand. They may even leave us more glowing feedback! If so, we can repeat the process with more fakes from an even stronger position with more glowing feedback to attest to our credibility.

But won 't those who are suspicious be good eBayers and report us? Probably not. eBay doesn 't want to hear from anyone, and makes it very difficult to wend your way through all their automated help to find a form that will allow you to actually contact a human being, especially if you 're not directly involved in the transaction in question as a buyer.

Now, lets switch sides to that of the buyer. How can we avoid being taken in? I suppose the easiest thing is to only buy ancient coins from reputable dealers with positive feedback in the thousands, or to only purchase from established reputable online dealers like Forum Ancient Coins which offer unconditional return privileges. One thing you should always look for at very least is unconditional unlimited return privileges if the item is found to be not authentic, though a statement to this effect is no substitute for an established track record and reputation, as people can say whatever they want.

Judging the authenticity of a coin from an image on an auction page can be very difficult, but there are things that should set off your radar. As mentioned in Walter M. Shandruk 's article, A Case of Counterfeits, cast counterfeits tend to look soft -- do our examples look a bit soft to you? Shandruk 's article also mentions color -- what do you think of the color of our examples? Also consider the appeal of the coin. That 's not to say that all appealing, desirable coins are fakes, but certainly good candidates for fakes are those emperors who are hard to find or very popular like the '12 Caesars '. Fakes, while probably looking superficially somewhat 'worn ' are still going to aim for eye appeal, well centered both obverse and reverse on relatively even, fairly problem free flans.

Taken individually when judging an image one can see that none of these points automatically dismisses the piece as a 'fake '. Silver coins may be 'toned ' or even stained in a wide variety of ways, so color alone doesn 't make an absolute determination. Ancient coins may be softly struck, or struck from dies that were past their prime, resulting in softness of appearance. And there are wonderful authentic coins which are desirable, well centered obverse and reverse, and struck on problem free flans.

Likewise just because a person has feedback under a hundred doesn 't mean that they 're a crook. They could be a private individual selling their collection or pieces from it. And eBay didn 't add the 'hide bidders identities ' feature to protect con-men from disclosure, but to protect the identity of bidders.

There can be legitimate reasons for our danger flags, but especially when they occur in conjunction we ignore them at our peril. Before bidding on some rare or wonderful wonder coin, do some background checking. Do all the seller 's items look like they came from the same workshop even though they 're allegedly from different centuries? That alone would be cause for serious suspicion. Ultimately you aren 't going to be able to make a really good assessment until you have the coin in hand, there are limits to what can be determined from a low resolution image on the web. But by that point the conman has your money and good luck getting it back.

Especially when it comes to large dollar amount purchases, you are so much better off dealing with a reputable established dealer, whether on the eBay, at an online store, or actually in person, than taking a risk on anything that smells remotely bad from a seller who is an unknown quantity. A 100% positive feedback rating on single or double digit feedback means very little.

For a list of eBay sellers to avoid see FORVM 's NOTORIOUS FAKE SELLERS LIST (NFSL).

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