The legality of owning/selling counterfeits

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by TypeCoin971793, Mar 21, 2019.

  1. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    I’m currently debating with some people who have differing ideas on how legal counterfeits are in the US. Several say that owning any counterfeit, regardless of manufacuring date between 600 BC and 2019 and intent, is illegal to own and sell. Others, like myself, say that they are legal to own and sell as long as you do not intend to deceive. The former bases their stance on what Secret Service agents say. The latter group forms their stance on the text of the laws themselves.


    Here is the text of the Hobby Protection Act:

    http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid:USC-prelim-title15-chapter48&edition=prelim

    It opens up the discussion about counterfeit numismatic items with:

    “The manufacture in the United States, or the importation into the United States, for introduction into or distribution in commerce, or the sale in commerce of any imitation numismatic item which is not plainly and permanently marked "copy", is unlawful and is an unfair or deceptive act or practice in commerce under the Federal Trade Commission Act [15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.].”

    This clearly implies that the intent to distribute into the market/sell a counterfeit determines whether the ownership/action regarding the counterfeit numismatic items is in violation of the act.

    And six times it states:

    Pub. L. 93–167, §8, Nov. 29, 1973, 87 Stat. 687, provided that: "This Act [enacting this chapter] shall apply only to imitation political items and imitation numismatic items manufactured after the date of enactment of this Act [Nov. 29, 1973]."

    This clearly states that the requirements of the HPA (eg. COPY stamp) does not apply to pre-1973 counterfeits. That implies that pre-1973 counterfeits can be traded as-is just as post-1973 counterfeits stamped COPY can be traded. This protects contemporary counterfeits and the like.



    Here is the text of US code dealing with counterfeits:

    http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title18/part1/chapter25&edition=prelim

    Section 471:

    “Whoever, with intent to defraud, falsely makes, forges, counterfeits, or alters any obligation or other security of the United States, shall be fined no more than $5000 under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.”

    Section 472:

    “Whoever, with intent to defraud, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or with like intent brings into the United States or keeps in possession or conceals any falsely made, forged, counterfeited, or altered obligation or other security of the United States, shall be fined no more than $5000 under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.”

    Section 473:

    “Whoever buys, sells, exchanges, transfers, receives, or delivers any false, forged, counterfeited, or altered obligation or other security of the United States, with the intent that the same be passed, published, or used as true and genuine, shall be fined no more than $5000 under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.”

    Each of these clearly states that the intent to deceive is what is required to be in violation of these codes regarding owning/buying/selling.


    So now I open the floor to the lawyers in the house. Which interpretation of the law is correct? @Sallent @imrich @V. Kurt Bellman @EyeAppealingCoins
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2019
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  3. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    You'll wait a long time for a reply here from Kurt, I'm afraid. :(
     
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  4. Dougmeister

    Dougmeister The Coin Scavenger © ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    I'm not a lawyer and look forward to hearing more informed opinions.

    I just can't get past the fact that the group that disagrees with you "... bases their stance on what Secret Service agents say."
     
  5. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    What happened? :(
     
  6. baseball21

    baseball21 Well-Known Member

    Banned
     
  7. C-B-D

    C-B-D U.S. Type Coins or death!

    Ya. Permanently.
     
  8. ilmcoins

    ilmcoins Well-Known Member

    He had been around for a while. Wonder what he did?
     
    serafino likes this.
  9. baseball21

    baseball21 Well-Known Member

    Any time a law enforcement officer hears the word fake or counterfeit they are going to say it's illegal largely to protect their own career but also because they may not know the actual laws for that specific item. There are far too many laws for them to know everyone. Even the Secret Service that deal with money spend the overwhelming majority of their time hunting fake bills that are being used and put into commerce.

    For well known issues LEOs can be a good source of information, but for fringe issues like this you'll almost always get a canned type response and a lawyer would be much better to consult.

    The major area where you could run into trouble would be a fake ultra modern that's a currently circulating coin. You could make the argument that has to do with the money supply if you had a fake 1999 quarter or something like that. As far as numismatic fakes, ICG openly advertises they'll slab them and the other TPGs return them to the customer, they're displayed at coin shows, grading courses have been known to use them etc. That said nothing is stopping an overzealous agent from seizing it, but just because something is taken doesn't mean a court will necessarily agree.

    A specialist lawyer would be where people need to consult for concrete answers.
     
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  10. Evan8

    Evan8 Old Soul

    My understanding has always been that you can possess counterfeits whether contemporary or modern as long as you dont try to pass them off as the real thing.

    If I'm wrong then... black cabinet? I dont have a black cabinet:lock:
     
  11. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    PM coming up. Discussing bans in public isn't well-received.
     
    ilmcoins likes this.
  12. C-B-D

    C-B-D U.S. Type Coins or death!

    Someone sent you a PM
     
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  13. EyeAppealingCoins

    EyeAppealingCoins Well-Known Member

    There is so much to unpack here.

    The Hobby Protection Act is a civil statute that applies to manufacturers, importers, or others who distribute non-compliant pieces into commerce. It does not say anything about simple possession of non-compliant pieces.

    The use of the word "ownership" here may be causing some issues as the general rule is that title to counterfeits does not pass. I think what you are really asking is whether simple possession of a counterfeit coin without intent to defraud is itself illegal in a criminal sense, and the answer to that is no. The relevant coin criminal statutes 18 U.S.C. 485 and 18 U.S.C. 490 require an intent to defraud as an element to a criminal prosecution. Note, however, that 18 U.S.C. 492 coins that were made in violation of that chapter are subject to forfeiture and failing to surrender when demanded is a minor offense. Also note that the prohibition against the counterfeit of foreign coins is limited to those that are current in the United States.
     
  14. EyeAppealingCoins

    EyeAppealingCoins Well-Known Member

    Being a hot head got him in trouble. Someone made a parody account of him with an image and he purportedly sent a DMCA notice to the site owners and threatened a copyright suit against the owners of Coin Talk who had nothing to do with it. They rightfully booted him as a result. He could have simply sent a polite PM to an admin or Peter asking that the image be removed.
     
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  15. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    Well darn. He was going to get me P&D of the new American Innovation dollar :(.
     
  16. jwitten

    jwitten Well-Known Member

  17. CoinBlazer

    CoinBlazer Professional Teenager

    I would like to make note of something here-

    “Whoever, with intent to defraud, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or with like intent brings into the United States or keeps in possession or conceals any falsely made, forged, counterfeited, or altered obligation or other security of the United States, shall be fined no more than $5000 under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.”

    Does this refer to only current obligations or securities? If so, then the Trade Dollar and other demonetized coins would not be admissible under this section.
     
  18. NLL

    NLL Well-Known Member

    I too wonder what he did. I really liked him.
     
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  19. Evan8

    Evan8 Old Soul

    Ive been keeping an eye out for an omega countefeit. I enjoy seeing yours.
     
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  20. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    Eyeappealingcoins brought up Sec 492 before I could but I do have one comment on something he said

    Sec 485 limits it to those foreign coins current in the US. but Sec 489 extends it to "any token, disk, or device in the likeness or similitude as to design, color, or the inscription thereon of any of the coins of the United States or of any foreign country issued as money, either under the authority of the United States or under the authority of any foreign government shall be fined under this title." Which seems to include ALL foreign coins.

    And one other thing, Sec 492 also has provisions for how you can petition to have the counterfeits returned to you if there was no willful negligence or intention to violate the law.


    There are no demonitized US coins. Coinage act of 1965 made all US coins, whenever made, legal tender.
     
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  21. dwhiz

    dwhiz Collector Supporter

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