Attempted sale of fake $300,000 antique gold coin

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Attempted sale of fake $300,000 antique gold coin
The counterfeit $300,000 coin is a replica of an 1879-dated U.S. $4 denomination “Coiled Hair” design gold coin known as a “Stella,” of which only about a dozen genuine examples are known. Image courtesy of Ryan Moretti.

TEMECULA, CA.- Acting on a tip from the Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation, federal and local California law enforcement agents now are investigating the attempted sale of $400,000 of counterfeit antique coins including a fake example a rare gold coin that brought $300,000 at auction last year. The seller also is a suspect in an earlier case in Minnesota involving fakes, according to Doug Davis, Director of the ACEF Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force (ACTF).

Davis, a former Texas Police Chief, has alerted the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) and is assisting investigators in this case.

“The seller of these counterfeits is on our radar and we’re after him no matter how long it takes. In the meantime, these latest fakes are off the market. They were turned over as evidence and are now in the custody of detectives at the Irvine, California Police Department,” Davis stated.

The counterfeit $300,000 coin is a replica of an 1879-dated U.S. $4 denomination “Coiled Hair” design gold coin known as a “Stella,” of which only about a dozen genuine examples are known.

That coin and three other fakes were housed in counterfeit encapsulation holders that resemble those issued by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), a respected rare coin authentication and grading company.

“We were alerted to this case by Ryan Moretti of Orange County California who is the senior numismatist of Colorado-based American Rarities. He was contacted by an individual offering to sell several expensive coins allegedly certified by NGC,” said Davis.

When he received the coins, Moretti suspected based on his years of experience as a professional numismatist that they and the holders were counterfeit. The suspicions were confirmed after inspection by other numismatic experts including NGC representatives.

“When we entered the suspect’s name into our crime and intelligence database it linked him to another case in which he reportedly attempted to sell counterfeit coins to a Minnesota dealer in December 2019. Those coins were seized and a joint investigation is currently continuing by the U.S. Treasury OIG and the Minnesota Department of Commerce,” explained Davis.

Federal and local investigators are reviewing both the Minnesota and California cases to determine appropriate jurisdiction to initiate prosecution against the suspect for possession and distribution of counterfeits with the intent to defraud.

“Well-made fakes are flooding the U.S. If you don’t know antique coins or precious metal bullion coins, you’d better know a reputable seller, such as experts affiliated with the Professional Numismatists Guild ( and its Accredited Precious Metals Dealer program (,” advised Davis.

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