More sizzle than steak in new law

The new Collectible Coin Protection Act, signed into law just before Christmas, promises to give the numismatic community in the United States more powers to fight counterfeit coins and fake third-party holders.

Frankly, I’m not that impressed.

The new law does back up the already existing Hobby Protection Act, and it is hard to speak against any new law, but if we take a peek under the hood we find little that will change the world. The new law addresses the practice of producing fake holders, but essentially just reaffirms that owners of trademarks, such as PCGS, NGC, and PMG, which are already protected as trademarks, have the right to protect their name. It also addresses the issue of distributors of counterfeit coins, as well as importers and manufacturers.

The Hobby Protection Act basically said it was okay to sell copies of coins, if they were labelled as such.

That’s all well and good, but it seems to do little better than aid injured parties in undertaking litigation against people breaking the law.

Stealing someone’s trademarks is already against the law, and last time I looked, counterfeiting was a criminal offence in the United States. Both these laws really turn a crime into a civil action between two parties. In a backwards sort of way, it could almost be seen to decriminalize the act of producing counterfeit coins.

Here in Canada, we don’t have a Hobby Protection Act. We almost did years ago, but a Canadian law, based on the U.S. law, died in the House of Commons when the government at that time fell.

Word of this new law could very well start talk of getting a similar law passed in the country.

Currently in Canada, if someone produces, sells, or even owns a counterfeit coin they are breaking the law and can be charged with a criminal offence. If someone appropriates a firm’s trademarks, they can be held accountable in court. I think the current laws are enough.

It doesn’t matter if the item being faked is a 1921 five-cent piece, or a current issue $20 note, Canadian law sees both as counterfeits. Fakes of numismatic items which are not considered legal tender would be considered frauds, also a criminal offence.

Part of the problem authorities south of the border have had in stemming the flow of counterfeits is getting law enforcement officials interested in taking action under the Hobby Protection Act, rather than pursuing counterfeits as criminal acts.

What the hobby needs in Canada is not more laws, but more thorough, visible enforcement.  W


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