Beware of buying 'gold' coins on eBay which are not gold, just gold-plated, particularly German coins from German dealers.
We sell a limited range of items on eBay, less than 4% of our turnover, but many of the items we offer are gold. As a result, we happen to notice a lot of the other gold coins listed by other people on eBay. We have been astounded at the high percentage of items falsely, misleadingly and fraudulently described as gold, which are clearly only gold plated.
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A few months ago, every time we searched the "Coins" category for "Gold", it seemed as though half the listings were for gold-plated coins being fraudulently passed off as gold. Over a period of a few week, we sent a number of reports to eBay "Safety Center", we also placed a few of the items on "Watch This Item". Nothing seemed to happen. We got the distinct impression that eBay never took any action, as none of the listings we reported ever got removed, and we noticed the same sellers week in week out, offering the same crap.
When we looked today, we had mixed feelings. We were quite pleased to see that the percentage of false listings appeared to b much lower than previously, and we did not recognise any of the eBay user IDs. It is likely that eBay have had enough complaints about these people, and have eventually stopped them or closed their accounts, or perhaps this was done by the equivalent of our Trading Standards in the relevant country. On the other hand, there were still quite a few active dealers offering the same stuff. Perhaps these are "wannabees", who have seen the original listings, and decided that they would like to join in, perhaps they are some of the previous dealers trading under a changed or new identity. We reported a couple more today to see what happens, if anything.
Gold One Mark, Two Marks, Five Marks, 1, 2, 3, 10 Reichspfennig
Many of the "fools gold" items are one or more or the above coins, all of which are only base metal.
Gold One Euro, Two Euros
The other type of "fools gold" coins are €2 and €1 coins which have been gold plated.
Of the eBay members currently offering similar items, we noticed at least German dealers.
One of these had 141 items listed, a feedback of 307 (99.4% positive).
Another had 197 current listings, a feedback of 2,977 (99.9% positive), with all sold item numbers shown as "Private", so not available for viewing. There are a number of reasons this can be done, one is so that crusaders cannot easily contact the buyer to advise him he has been conned.
Yet another one of these had 116 items out of 159 listed, a feedback of 2,543 (99.7% positive).
The day after we wrote this guide, we noticed another dealer, in the UK this time, with 26 similar items, described as gold in the title, and only saying gold plated in the listing description, feedback 444 (98.9% positive)
We found one Canadian dealer, offering just 12 out of 459 items, with a feedback of 3,124 (98.9% positive). We did not check any of his other items.
We did notice a few other offerings of similar items, but in many cases, the seller had only one "gold" item listed, so we have ignored them.
It is extremely likely that the gold plating on these items is very thin, and of poor quality, so that it will easily wear off. We do not notice any of the sellers offering any kind of quality guarantee.
Gold Plated in Small Print
Some but by no means all of these listings have the description gold-plated (or similar in German), shown somewhere in the small print of the listing. None of them stated so clearly in the item title. We firmly believe this is misleading, and therefore is intended to defraud any potential customer. Many also had the word "Gold" in the heading surrounded by an asterisk at each side. We guess that this is an attempt at a dodgy legal get-out, and they would argue that the asterisks indicate that the word is not intended to be taken literally. This is a typical Barnum and Bailey move.
Prices & Value
The prices asked for these items vary, but many are between £5 to £10 per coin. These coins are worth only a few pence each, and the gold plating can be done for a similar amount in bulk. £1 per coin might be more like a reasonable selling price, and should still leave the sellers with a 50% profit after eBay selling fees.
How Do We Know?
We recognise many of the coins offered as common base metal coins. They do not exist in gold, and were never made in gold. Any potential buyer would be well advised to buy or borrow a suitable coin catalogue ( e.g. Krause World Coins), where they can find a specification for the coins.
Waste of Time
Even when the sellers actually state clearly in the description that the items are gold plated, and many fail to do so, the fact that the item title states "Gold" rather than "Gold Plated" wastes the time of any potential buyer, insults their intelligence, and is misleading. Many eBayers fail to read all the small print. Also misleading practices like this make it more difficult for other, honest, dealers, who try their best to give accurate descriptions, because it creates an atmosphere of distrust where all sellers are automatically treated with suspicion and caution, and where all buyers have to read all the small print carefully.
We can only guess, but it seems that eBay have eventually stopped many of the previous dealers from fraudulently and misleadingly offering gold plated items as gold. They do not appear to be very quick or responsive however.
Whenever some dealers get stopped, others copy them, and carry on until they also get stopped.
Some dealers seem to get away with a lot of sales (3,000+ feedback) before they get stopped. What's more, as their positive percentage is so high, it appears that very few of their buyers realise they have been conned, and complain.
We estimated that some of these crooks are making several thousand pounds per month profit selling fraudulently mis-described goods.
We believe eBay should take a more pro-active stance in monitoring many of these dealers.
As leading dealers in gold bullion and collectors coins for over 40 years, we believe we are quite well qualified to offer some advice about buying gold coins on eBay, especially as we also sell a small proportion of our stock through eBay.
If you are not sure about the seller, read the small print. If the item looks too cheap, or the offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
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Author & Copyright Notice
This page was written by Lawrence Chard of Chard Coins, and is extracted from our "Gold Sovereigns" website. We hope you find this page useful and informative, please feel free to use the information we have provided, but please note we retain copyright on all contents including both textual content and images. Please do not copy our text or images without our prior written permission.