US Mint Warnings: Fraud Surrounding Fake George Washington Dollar Coin Errors

To date, my posts on the new Presidential $1 Dollar Coin series have been some of my most popular. In particular, the posts about the two confirmed errors found on these new George Washington dollar coins have been off the charts most days:

In several of these posts, I’ve offered caution to buyers that these errors are relatively rare, and to be careful of fraud around sellers passing off “upside down lettering” as an error, and other unscrupulous tactics.

The US Mint today published specific warnings on their website today on these issues, and specifically about the issue of people grinding the edge lettering off dollar coins and passing them off as errors. The following is quoted directly from the US Mint Hot Items page on their website:

Fraudulent Presidential $1 Error Coins Being Sold

The United States Mint has recently learned that some individuals are grinding the rims of Presidential $1 Coins to remove the edge-incused inscriptions and then marketing these altered items as error coins. This practice not only exploits unwary consumers and collectors, but also is a Federal crime.

The United States Mint recently announced that an undetermined number of George Washington Presidential $1 Coins were minted and issued without the required edge-incused inscriptions, “E Pluribus Unum,” “In God We Trust,” the year of issuance, and the mint mark. Because true error coins such as these can be rare, they often become very attractive among collectors, many of whom are willing to acquire them at a premium above their face value. Apparently, some individuals are exploiting this situation by altering the rims of perfectly good Presidential $1 Coins to make them look like the recent error coins.

Although altering and defacing United States coinage generally is not illegal, doing so violates a Federal criminal statute (18 U.S.C. § 331) when the act is accompanied by an intent to defraud. Accordingly, a person is committing a Federal crime if he or she intentionally alters an ordinary Presidential $1 Coin to make it look like an error coin for the purpose of selling it at a premium to someone who believes it to be a real error coin. Under this statute, it is also a Federal crime to sell at a premium an ordinary Presidential $1 Coin that one knows has been altered so it looks like an error coin to someone who believes it to be a real error coin. Penalties include a fine and up to five years in prison.

The United States Mint has no Federal enforcement authority. Rather, it refers such matters to the United States Secret Service, which is lawfully authorized to detect and arrest any person who violates a Federal law relating to United States coinage.

Also note this warning about the upside-down lettering error scam:

Presidential $1 Coins With “Upside-Down” Edge-Lettering Are Not Errors

It has come to the attention of the United States Mint that some people are offering to sell so-called George Washington Presidential $1 “error” coins with “upside-down” edge-lettering on on-line auction sites. These coins are not “error” coins. The Presidential $1 Coins are inscribed on the edge without regard to their “heads” or “tails” orientation.

The edge-incused inscriptions on Presidential $1 Coins are the year of minting or issuance, “E Pluribus Unum,” “In God We Trust” and the mint mark. The United States Mint incuses these inscriptions on the edge of each coin at the second step of a two-step coining process. In the first step, the blanks are fed into a coining machine which impresses the obverse and reverse designs onto the coins, and dispenses the coins into a large bin. In the second step, the bin is transported to the edge-incusing machine, into which the coins are fed at random, without regard to their “heads” or “tails” orientation. Therefore, statistically, approximately one-half of the coins produced will have edge-lettering oriented toward the “heads” side (obverse), and approximately one-half of the coins will have the edge-incused inscriptions oriented toward the “tails” side (reverse).

Take care, and please pass on this information to other collectors as broadly as possible.

Sarah Culberson Has a Blog, Too!

With all due credit to Preston Smalley, for officially outing Sarah’s new blog recently.

Sarah Culberson is an interaction designer at eBay.  Although she doesn’t hang out with me as much any more, now that we work in separate buildings, she has always been extremely patient as I walk her through my latest set of baby pictures of my two boys.

You learn a lot about people by reading their blogs… on Sarah’s I find immediately pointers to her online portfolio, and the more famous Sarah Culberson who shares her name.

When Sarah first joined eBay, she was assigned to a very difficult project called Flexible Categories where I was assigned as the product manager. She may not have realized it at the time, but that was a bad sign.  You see, in my first few years at eBay, I had a particular gift for taking on features and concepts that had been debated internally for years without resolution.  This was one of them, and I think she always blames me just a little for that project.

She did a great job on that project, though, and the design was so elegant that most users didn’t even realize we were running the test.

In any case, here is the link to Sarah’s blog, dubbed “Taste Tester”.  Enjoy.

Mobile Search: What are People Looking For?

I feel like I’m perpetually behind with my blog lately.  This tidbit is from a few days ago, but I think interesting enough to still warrant a post.

JumpTap has a nice chart out on their breakdown of search queries from mobile phones.  Turns out 12% of the queries can be classified as “adult” in nature.

A few years ago, I worked on the Search team at eBay, specializing in popularity data.  As a result, I was able to really go through the data to see what people were searching for, and in what volume.  It’s really an amazing insight to see the aggregated searches of millions of people together, ranked.  Even on this blog, I still get a kick out of seeing what searches people use to find these articles.

In some respects, I’m a bit surprised that the number is only 12%.  I’m not sure I know whether that is low or high.  Does anyone know the rough breakdown of adult queries for major search engines like Google or Yahoo?

So, I’ll leave this one with a question to my recently acquired friends at TellMe:

When mobile search moves from text to voice, are people as comfortable making adult queries?  Is there an equivalent to these search lists in the voice search space?

How to Set Up an Anonymous Proxy Server on Mac OS X

Several years ago, a good friend of mine worked as an electrical engineer for a company here in Silicon Valley. It was a pretty cool company, and they made pretty cool chips for networking applications.

Ironically, they were incredible tyrants internally when it came to “personal internet usage” – which meant they monitored and/or shut off common ports at the workstations of individual engineers. So while you could be designing a microprocessor capable of routing Gigabit traffic, you couldn’t actually use any of it for common applications like accessing My Yahoo or eBay.

At the time, I wanted to help my friend set up an anonymizing proxy server so he could still access personal email at work. Unfortunately, at the time, it seemed like too much effort.

Well, it’s a few years late, but here is an excellent post on how to set up an anonymous proxy server on your home machine running Mac OS X, and then use it at work to avoid internal monitoring and/or blocking.

Please note, before you click the link, the blog that has the article features some unsavory language in its topics and related posts.  I’m rating it “AL” for adult language.  It’s still a really useful post, however.

There is something still very cool about Mac OS X being unix at heart. Little tricks like this just remind me of that fact.

The US Mint Crawls into the 21st Century: RSS Feeds

This will be interesting only to a minority of readers, but it was a small highlight of my day, so I’m going to share it.

The US Mint has now published RSS feeds for their regular product announcements and press releases.

If you are a coin collector, this is an absolutely painless way to get updates when new coins and programs are announced. Just click and add to your favorite RSS reader.

Press Releases and Public Statements

Product Announcements