Imitation flattering, but banned on ebay
This spring and summer, tourists across the country will have one thing in common — gift shops. So many of us are addicted to acquiring impulsive trinkets on vacation. After the trip ends and our attention is diverted to something else, those souvenirs likely will be relegated to a box or junk drawer.
At sites in New England, we’ll satisfy our urges with pouches of Colonial coin reproductions or reprints of Colonial currency. Out West, vacationers will snap up replicas of San Francisco gold rush coins. In Florida, imitation restrikes of silver Spanish galleon “treasure” coins — direct from China — will line the shelves of souvenir stands.
Of course, not one of these will contain any actual silver, gold or other precious metal. They also won’t be worth a fraction of what we pay for them.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t discourage purchasing these. I’ve done so in the past for fun. I realized their resale value would be little, if any. Now, though, comes something of a game changer. Beginning in February, ebay banned the sale of any and all replica or counterfeit coins and similar items. The situation is, what was “fun” has been replaced by far too much illicit profit.
Naturally, counterfeit coins shouldn’t be allowed anywhere. The U.S. Mint has a serious consumer advisory about pre-1950 U.S. counterfeit coins from China. Evidently, counterfeiting valuable U.S. coins has become a major industry for the Chinese. Substantial numbers of what appear to be highgrade, rare U.S. coins have turned up and have been traced to China. Many people purchasing them online eventually find they own very good, but worthless, fakes.
Between DVD bootlegs and fake designer handbags and fashion accessories, and now coin counterfeiting, it reminds me of a line teachers and law enforcement officers have used forever: “If they could only channel all that effort and energy toward doing something good, imagine what they could accomplish.” Yeah, I won’t hold my breath.
What’s interesting is, on ebay, there is now no wiggle room for facsimile coins — meaning even the types sold at souvenir stands. Those have been allowed for decades because of the Hobby Protection Act. It requires any replicas to be clearly stamped with the word “copy” or “facsimile.” More often than not, even with such words stamped on them, the mediocre quality of the reproductions made it clear the coins were not genuine.
It will be interesting to see just how much the new ebay rule truly affects things. For instance, it’s not entirely different from the countless autographs sold online. It’s well known that 80-plus percent of those are fakes. But it will continue. What seller is going to let it be known upfront they’re selling something fake?
The same goes for “quality” counterfeited coins. New rules or not, by the time it’s discovered they are fake, the sellers will be long gone. All the more reason to buy only from a known source you can trust.
On the subject of buying from someone you know, consider a temporarily successful burglary in Northern California last month. From a major exhibit at a goldmining museum, two thieves made off with about $600,000 worth of gold nuggets — a hefty 351 ounces. That’s a lot of gold — nearly 22 pounds.
Here’s the catch: Gold nuggets, similar to collectible coins or stamps, are like fingerprints. No two are alike. Each is unique. They also are rare enough to have been photographically documented.
It’s not as if you can stand on a street corner and sell them. And if you advertise them online, they will be immediately disclosed. If you’re talented enough or have connections, you could melt them down, but that destroys a big chunk of their value. Of course, you can try to sell them overseas. The thing is, with a little organization known as Interpol, good luck with that.
In a nutshell, the thieves were most talented in their technique for acquisition. As for their followthrough of the disposition, probably not so much.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I’ll keep you posted.
South West North East
The most common form of defense against a suit contract is to force declarer to ruff at every opportunity. One advantage of this procedure is that it keeps the defenders from breaking new suits, but the primary purpose is to completely deplete declarer’s trumps, after which the defenders will be in position to cash whatever cards remain in their long suits.
When declarer has a plentiful supply of trumps, he usually can withstand this attack on his trump suit. But when he has only seven trumps divided 5-2 or 4-3, his situation often becomes precarious.
Consider this deal where South reaches four spades as shown. West leads a heart, and hearts are continued. Declarer ruffs, and if he now draws trumps, exhausting his trumps in the process, he goes down one. He finishes with only nine tricks — five spades and four clubs. When he leads a diamond at trick 11, the defenders score the ace of diamonds and two more heart tricks.
This result should not come as any great surprise to South. The 4-2 division of the opposing trumps is more likely than any other, occurring nearly half the time.
To defuse this potential threat to his contract, declarer should adopt a more cautious approach. After trumping the heart at trick two, he should lead the jack of diamonds. If the jack holds the trick, he then can draw trumps and romp home with 10 tricks.
If the jack of diamonds is taken by the ace and a heart is returned, South must be careful not to ruff, which would reduce him to three trumps and leave him prey to a 4-2 trump split. Instead, he discards a club or a diamond, leaving his trump holding intact. A heart continuation then can be ruffed in dummy, after which he has the rest of the tricks and his contract.