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Laura Sperber On Coin Doctoring - Will We Ever Win?

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 Posted 07/09/2012  11:27 am Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add Admin to your friends list Get a Link to this Message

The following is a commentary from Laura Sperber of Legend Numismatics

The images you see to the left are that of a puttied coin - a badly doctored coin. This is perfect example of what is seriously hurting EVERYONE in the hobby. Apparently this coin was being sold by a vendor on Ebay.


Most likely when the coin was sent to the grading service the putty was freshly applied and blended in. At the time it woul have been impossible for PCGS or any grading service to know the coin had been messed with. It is NOT true that using a black light would have discovered the putty. The substance took a few weeks for it to turn. Apparently this coin was in an older holder and has been turning for some time.

What is even sadder (and one of my biggest problems) is how people react to seeing it. Many dealers just shrug their shoulders and say "pass" on the coin and walk away. And that's "if" the dealer can tell (most can't because they are not really coins dealers, they just buy and sell plastic). The grading service won't buy it back, they just dip it and unless its horrific, just put it back in the holder. Collectors don't really react or know much about puttied coins-until they happen to own one.

The attitudes about this subject are horrific. No one made ANY effort to report or STOP the auction this coin was in. There is so much coin doctoring going on this was 'just another coin". For the record, Legend DID inform PCGS about the problem. We also have sent an email to the seller. PCGS DID A GREAT JOB STOPPING THE SALE.

Collectors have to react when they see these situations! I applaud the collector who did post it on a chatroom. VERY educational indeed. But the fact not much was done is pathetic. This is why I am running for the ANA-I am going to get this organization whipped up to guard and protect its collector base from the evils of things like this-coin doctoring. Sad to say, the grading services need to do more-much more to really eradicate this problem. They have made SOME in roads, but lately they seemed to have become quiet. The problem has not stopped. While sitting in major auction recently two coin docs sat next to me discussing what they were going to do with the coins they were trying to buy.


The coin posted above affects us all. Any one who owns an 08D $10 now has suffer with lower prices because dealers won't make bids knowing dreck is out there. You have no idea how ANGRY I was about the recent Stacks auction because I saw so many coins I had orders for but could not buy because they were doctored. Thats lost revenue for me, lost coins for the collectors-and BAD coins someone somewhere will own.

Yes, the bad coins DO hurt the good ones. Only on the rarer coins do they stand alone and are not necessarily harshly affected.

EVERYONE has to keep the pressure on. This almost like a death match. Both sides are in an epic fight. I just can't believe how lethargic the dealer community is to all this. I was going to write a HOT TOPICS twice before this, but got stopped and harassed about my subjects. I did least warn some dealers that what I want to say will NOT be held in forever. They have to suck it up and stop their games.


I'm not done with the PNG. They cried all the way through adopting the definition of coin doctoring. They think they are home free. Recently, I tried twice to bring cases against their membership for doctored coins. BOTH times I was stonewalled for different reasons (not just by the PNG) and I failed. I promise to bring a case to PNG monkey court soon. There are so many doctored coins to choose from that some of their posse did. Its such a nasty 'old boy" network to fight against. I do admit, on one coin I didn't for got there could be technical grounds they could win on-and they did. I had to drop my pursuit as fast as I started it.

As you know, if I win election to the ANA board, I am going to shake up that organization. The ANA has to be come more protective of its membership. The ANA hierarchy is so out of touch, they probably do not know that there were at least TWO well known coin doctors (or dealers who work for a major firm that is a known doctor) teaching at the summer seminar this year. No, these guys weren't teaching how to spot their work. In their lowly brains they are trying to go to heaven when they die by being good now. A little too false. Let me know when they want to start making restitution for all the damage they have caused. Playing teacher is a chickens way out for them. That certainly won't happen under my watch. I also promise the PNG will NOT be doing anymore PNG days at ANA Shows until they really meet what their false advertising claims. Yeah, call me Miss Angry Bird! I am a collector too. The difference is, I see the inner workings of the hobby. I know who is and isn't real. Even if I am alone on trying to clean this mess up, I will not quit. I do nto blame collectors, I blame the dealers and the people who run the organizations and even the grading services for the mess we have today. So much to do.

If you attend the upcoming Phili ANA Show lets send a message to the ANA board. Come by my table and pick up a VOTE FOR LAURA button. in the future I hope to hold a question and answer session at a major a show.

This HOT TOPICS has upset at least one coin doc. NO APOLOGIES FROM ME! I do not see them buying back or apologizing for what they did to coins. I do agree having them teach would be good-BUT ONLY if they have made up for what they have done. The ANA is NOT rehab. The ANA won't change what they have done to coins. The ANA won't pay for all the losses caused to innocent people so they could make a corrupt living. And last, the ANA has no reason to reward these guys with a teaching role giving them an easy way out. Time to take a real stand here. Shame on the ANA!

You can always email Laura direct with any comments or questions. This week I will be traveling so response could be slow. Her email is:
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 Posted 07/09/2012  12:00 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add ArrowsAndRays to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Is this 'commentary' or a press release from Laura's campaign for a spot on the ANA board?


"there were at least TWO well known coin doctors (or dealers who work for a major firm that is a known doctor)"

That's quite an accusation. Names please, Laura? If she's claiming collectors should be protected from these "well known" terrible people why isn't she telling us who they are?
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 Posted 07/09/2012  12:14 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Susanlynn9 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
She would be opening herself up for slander lawsuits if she mentioned actual names. Also, she would hurt her own chances for a position on the ANA board.

Personally, she is saying what I have believed all along. The ANA has a responsibility to its membership and the numismatic community as a whole to speak up and protect its members and the numismatic hobby.

While Laura is very outspoken and has ruffled a lot of feathers, I think the ANA could use some shaking up and she would certainly accomplish that. I plan on voting for her and I hope that she is able to fly in the face of popular practices and succeed in bringing improvements to this great hobby.
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 Posted 07/09/2012  12:37 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add biokemist6 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I think the ANA board could definitely use someone like Laura Sperber, she would get my vote
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 Posted 07/09/2012  12:57 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add larsdog to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Where can someone learn more about common doctoring techniques and how to spot them?
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 Posted 07/09/2012  2:08 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add macmercury to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I think going to the ANA show in Philly should be educational!

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 Posted 07/09/2012  4:43 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Penny Guy to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Probably the best place to learn how to spot coin doctoring would be to attend the two sessions of coin grading at the ANA Seminar. I suggest that given that two of the recent sessions instructors were un-named doctors according to the OP's article.
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 Posted 07/11/2012  12:12 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add larsdog to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Going to Philly is out of the question. Are there any books or web sites that discuss it? Red Book mentions it briefly, and since I don't collect gold that rules out a lot of the better Chinese fakes. I know to look at a rare mint mark under high magnification to make sure it wasn't glued on or altered. It would be nice to know when to use a magnet, when weight is the best screen, etc.
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 Posted 07/11/2012  6:39 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Moe145 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I personally would like to know more about the "Putty" process.

I don't think I've ever heard anything about it...
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 Posted 07/11/2012  8:15 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Parklane64 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Dang, Philly is sounding like a whiz bang 'must do'!
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 Posted 07/11/2012  8:22 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add 1893S to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
She wouldn't get my vote. In the end everything usually "comes out in the wash". She constantly sounds as if she's got an axe to grind.
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 Posted 07/11/2012  10:29 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add SsuperDdave to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

I personally would like to know more about the "Putty" process

It's simple, in definition. You apply some sort of filling substance to remove dings and bagmarks from the surface of a coin. In practice, though....

Well, it's like this: As you may know, a couple years ago PCGS filed suit against a group of coin doctors, seeking lost revenue from PCGS having to make whole buyers of PCGS-slabbed coins which turned out to be doctored. At the time, it was estimated that there weren't more than half a dozen people in the country who could doctor a coin at the level of sophistication required.

There are people out there who can putty, whiz or re-frost a coin at a level of quality which easily gets past professional graders. Many (most?) of these operations are never detected, netting five-figure profit increases for the doctor. It's the players who are doing this, the people selling $50,000 coins. The puttied Eagle above probably netted the doctor $5000.

She constantly sounds as if she's got an axe to grind.

Yes. Yes, she does, and that's not going to endear her to everybody. She is a bull in a China shop, and does not have a political bone in her body. I can easily understand how she might turn you off. But the axe she grinds has always been on this one topic: coin doctoring.

Consider. Last year, Legend sold $45 million worth of coins directly to collectors, not counting auction or wholesale trade. They've handled some staggering stuff - two of the five known 1913 Liberty nickels, for instance - and coin doctoring hits them directly in the wallet. In-grade populations get artificially skewed, resulting in lower prices for those extant. And heaven forbid they should sell a coin which then becomes known as doctored - in this business, reputation is everything.

Numismatics has always been an "old-boy network" kind of operation, especially near the top. There's very little room there, and some will do whatever it takes to keep their position. Doctoring coins helps keep you there. Turning a blind eye to what your peers are doing helps keep you there. Consider it wasn't until this year that the PNG - the actual dealers' association - adopted a definition of "coin doctoring," and then only in response to public pressure (Laura amongst that).

It doesn't hit guys like you and me, 1893S. But the guy who just saw his $10k Eagle, above, become a $5k or less coin is *not* gonna be happy with the dealer who sold it to him.

Laura is not for everybody, that's for sure. But she's a unique combination of industry clout, outspoken opinion and sheer chutzpah which makes her quite possibly the only person in numismatics who is personally capable of making a dent in this practice. For that reason, in Philadelphia you will see me wearing one of her buttons. I understand and respect your right to feel differently for the same reasons which motivate my opinion.

Frankly, she's gonna be just as much a pain in the butt in or out of the ANA Board.
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 Posted 07/12/2012  12:02 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add 1893S to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Yeah Dave I can see what bothers her for sure and I personally hate the idea of "coin doctoring". I guess my problem with her is as you said "a bull in a China shop", I guess I beleive change comes slow and orderly in the coin business (well, hopefully), as I said above "comes out in the wash" meaning that the doctorers will get theirs and pay dearly in the end!, albeit probably profitting quite handsomely. I just don't think she's ANA Governor material, maybe lobbyist of some sort but hopefully more diplomatic in her efforts.
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 Posted 07/12/2012  09:19 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add just carl to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Would be nice if people like her would put all those types of articles in a phamphlet or small book. Short exposures in a newspaper, newsletter or coin forum sort of vanishes after a while.
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 Posted 07/12/2012  11:01 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add trdhrdr007 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Her passion for this cause makes her come across as borderline obnoxious. IMO it takes someone likes that to get something done about an issue like this. The people that are profiting are not going to stop until forced to.....& anytime there is a "good ol' boy" network things get swept under the rug.
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 Posted 07/12/2012  12:42 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Broken-Coin to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Just last week I posted a comment on one of the forum threads where I mentioned that some dozen years ago when I was selling at the coin shows, I was turned on to a coin doctor that can repair my 1795 Dollar that had a somewhat large hole in it... I don't remember what exactly I paid for this repair back then, but do know that the work was done at a expert level (right down to the gray toning) and was placed in a TPG holder without the notation that it was a repaired coin... I was also advised that since the coin had details removed when it was holed, the repair was done with a original 1795 dollar that is used for future repairs, just not sure how he could match up the exact details, or how it was mounted to my original coin... The drawback was the grade went down two grades due to the added bag marks to blend in the repair... When I sold the coin, I did list it as a repaired coin on eBay, and when I add the original cost, repair cost, the drop in value two grades lower, and selling costs, I'm not sure if I broke even (seriously)... The real *** Edited by Staff | The bad word filter is in place for a reason. Bypassing the filter and making the intended word obvious anyway is completely unacceptable. *** is that the TPG service will find & note coins that have been cleaned (that I didn't know were cleaned), yet let a repaired coin go through...
Now that I no longer buy & sell coins, I enjoy sharing what I have learned in the past 35+ years I was active in numismatic collecting with others...
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