The Mining Claim and Gold Scam Hits Just Keep Coming (Part 3)
Yep, the gold scam hits just keep coming. I'll be talking about "gold ores" and gold and non-gold numismatic coins in this post, so pay close attention to avoid being burned in these scams and semi-scams on eBay and other online sites.
3. Be very wary about buying numismatic coins online. This warning applies to all sorts of coins: foreign, domestic, and ancient. It is also relevant to coins comprised of gold, silver, copper, and even base-metal coins. The term "numismatic" simply means coins that are considered or graded as rare and/or collectible. I will let you know right off the get go that I am pretty well-versed in numismatics and grading standards, including the American Numismatic Association (ANA) guidelines for evaluating and grading type and privately minted coins from the United States. As I've stated before in Bedrock Dreams, the two main factors governing the numismatic value of all coins are 1) rarity, and 2) condition. The rarity factor is typically straightforward in that it's primarily based on how many coins of a certain type were minted or put into circulation, what mint produced them, or whether they were produced by private mints as many gold coins were during the California Gold Rush, for example. It also includes how many individual coins of a certain type have been found or recovered in archaeological digs or recovered by treasure hunters. You get the idea.
However, there is a great deal of subjectivity involved when it comes to grading coins for their condition, especially when it comes to U.S. coins. This is where the potential for scams or semi-scams becomes a factor, aside from the age-old scam of counterfeiting valuable coins, which is a no-brainer of sorts. The price variance in condition between a rare or even common coin can be huge as far as dollars go. Here's an "unspecified" example. A semi-rare U.S. gold coin in extra-fine (EF) condition might sell for, let's say, $1,000 while the same coin in about-uncirculated (AU-50) condition might sell for $3,500, and the same coin in mint-state 60 (MS-60) condition could go as high as $10,000 or more! So the better the condition, the more that coin is worth on the market to collectors. However, rarity can often overshadow a coin's condition if that coin is considered rare enough. Confusing? You bet it is.
Too Many Variables
So when you consider all these factors you can easily see how buying numismatic coins online could be risky business. Or even buying those same coins at pawn or coin shop. The seller might be hawking a coin at a higher ANA grade than the coin really is unless he or she has ANA documentation to back up his or her condition evaluation. Conversely, when you try to sell a numismatic coin the buyer may dig his or her feet in and say that the coin you've evaluated as AU is, in fact, only in EF condition. Again, there's a significant amount of money in the difference between those two coin grades as far as rare (or even non-rare) coins go. There are just far too many variables in the numismatic coin realm. And if you don't know your shit you're gonna get burned on eBay or anywhere else, for that matter. (Note: And I'm not even talking here about mint error coins...a whole other ballgame.) So my advice? Only buy or sell numismatic coins if you have or can get ANA (or other valid) certification for them, or are so well-versed in grading and rarity standards that no one can throw the wool over your eyes. Be very wary buying such coins on eBay or at other online sites. And don't think the pretty pictures on eBay that the seller puts up are always accurate reflections of the condition of the coin he or she is selling.
(A certified five-dollar American gold piece in about-uncirculated [AU-50] condition.)
The "Gold Ore" Hustle
I've talked quite a bit in the past in both general and specific terms about types of gold ores, where to find them, and how to identify them. One thing I haven't talked about, however, is that so-called gold ores are being sold on eBay and other online sites. Whether the selling of these "ores" constitutes deliberate scamming in certain instances or just people trying to unload rocks for cash on the unsuspecting is up for grabs. I'll include a number of photos pulled from eBay after this section so you yourselves can decide. Anyway, what constitutes "gold ore?" Free-milling ore where gold is easily visible? Yes, that's one form of ore. But do oxidized rocks that show the presence of sulfides constitute gold ore? Perhaps, but the only true way of knowing that is if those rocks have been assayed or crushed and panned to determine the presence of gold. Then we have refractory ores that may contain gold in chemical form that requires specialized treatment to extract the gold contained within them. And this sort of thing goes on and on. Just because certain rocks have been gathered from an old mine area, or from coarse tailings doesn't necessarily mean they contain gold or that they are "gold ore." Those rocks ended up in a tailings pile because the miners who mined those rocks found little or no value in them. They are the cast-away rock, not the rock that was crushed, milled, and any gold in them recovered.
So I am amazed at the number of sellers vending what they call "gold ore" by the pound on eBay and other sites. Prices for a few pounds of "gold ore" on eBay tend to vary from a low of eight or nine dollars (plus shipping) up to $150 or more. The question again is whether those rocks actually contain gold in any amount or size. If this isn't a full-on scam in many instances it sure rides the razor's edge. Maybe "hustle" is a better word to use in this regard...again, you decide. But I will tell you this, just as I recommended you DON'T buy gold bullion, nuggets, coins, bars, etc. on eBay or other online sites, I also recommend you bypass this "gold ore" hustle entirely unless you're a gold or mineral specimen collector and even then...use great caution. Most of what I've seen tagged as "gold ore" on eBay is total bullshit based on my 40 years as a small-scale gold miner, prospector, and treasure hunter. Unadulterated crap for the most part with very few exceptions. And I pity the poor fools who spend good money for rocks that some hustler picked up and advertises as gold ore. Even if that rock these hustlers are vending has visible gold in the photos these dudes put out there, be cautious. Be very cautious. Always ask this question..."If these rocks DO contain gold in any appreciable amount why are you selling them?" Aside from that question, if you're interested in turning a quick buck or two, why not gather up some rocks from your driveway and sell them as "gold ore" on eBay?
(Two pounds of "genuine gold ore" from Colorado for $28.75.)
(Described as "high-grade gold ore from Colorado" by the seller for $15.00. All I see here is quartz with iron pyrite.)
(Advertised as "gold ore display piece" on eBay. $12.00 plus nearly $15.00 for shipping.)
That's about all I have this time around. In the last post of this series I'll talk a bit about PayPal scams and provide a couple of scam examples...one I experienced and one from Tom V., a Bedrock Dreams reader.
Until then, stay smart!
(c) Jim Rocha 2019
Questions? E-mail me at email@example.com