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Tough Times for Oregon: Russia, Beer Tax and Obama Coin Fakery

February 18, 2009

This time tomorrow, I predict Oregon gets so pissed that  it floats off into the Pacific to hang with Hawaii. Things are getting ridiculous over there. First, they deal with Russia taking over their steel industry by means of a bailout from the Kremlin itself. Then, they find out that their beer is going to be taxed 1900%. So, they’ve got angry steel workers and angry drunks. GREAT. But that’s not all… Remember those beautiful one-of-a-kind commemorative Obama coins? The ones everyone went crazy for?

Well, they’re big fat fakes. Stickers and paint, to be exact.

Jerome Polk was so impressed with the special edition Obama coins he saw television star Montel Williams hawking in an infomercial, he ordered six sets for himself and some of his grandkids.

Instead of coins engraved with Obama’s face, as Polk athought he’d orderedt $18 a pop, the Northeast Portland retailer received four actual U.S. coins — a silver dollar, half dollar and two quarters — featuring painted-on Obama images.


“This isn’t an Obama coin, it’s a 50-cent piece with a picture glued on,” says Polk, who paid the U.S Coin Network $145.78 for five four-coin and one three-coin sets, including $25.98 in shipping.

The U.S. Mint doesn’t mind if companies decorate its coins and sell them — in this case — for nine times their worth. However, the federal agency doesn’t like it when companies offer authenticity certificates, as the Coin Network did, that may confuse consumers about who issued the coins.

The Coin Network’s certificate assures, “This is to certify and authenticate that the coins used in the Barack Obama Inaugural Collection are genuine and made by the United States Mint.”

Michael White, a Mint spokesman, says the agency has asked some companies to drop its name from certificates. Citing privacy, he wouldn’t say whether such a request was made of the Coin Network.

Painted coins, such as Polk’s set, which included a Silver Eagle dollar and a JFK half dollar, rarely hold value for collectors, said Paul Rigby, owner of Coin Cottage in Southwest Portland. In fact, he said, altering the otherwise sought-after Silver Eagle dollars detracts from their collectible value.

“Even with President Obama’s picture, it won’t help,” he said. “They usually end up sold as junk silver.”

Polk’s not surprised. “I knew it right away: I got bumped,” says Polk, whose mother also bought a few sets.

He’ll pay for what he’s got, but wants his $100 back for the sets he hasn’t received. He called up the Coin Network this week and says he asked for a refund on the sets he was told wouldn’t ship until Feb. 24. But, he says, the operator told him that wasn’t policy — even though the company’s various Web sites —, and — all promise money-back guarantees.

An operator, who identified herself only as Stephanie, confirmed Polk’s order and told The Oregonian that her records showed he’d asked for a refund. That’s fine, she said, he’ll just have to mail back the coins and pay the $26 for shipping.

No other company officials returned calls to various offices associated with the Web sites.

The Oregon Attorney General has received one complaint against U.S. Coin Network for lack of delivery. Spokesman Tony Green encouraged Polk to file a complaint if he felt the company misrepresented its product.

Polk says he plans to complain. But, he’ll keep the coins.

With or without Obama, they’re still worth $2.

— Laura Gunderson

I don’t know what Oregon did to deserve all of this, but DAMN. Terrible luck, guys.

Get well soon.

One Comment leave one →
  1. MuzikPhreak permalink
    February 18, 2009 10:53 am

    “We certify that this coin was, in fact, made by the United States Mint. We also certify that we put a two-cent sticker on it and sold it to you for $24.99. Sucker.” This is fraud at worst and deceptive at best. These hacks at the Coin Network ought to be shut down and sued by whomever they defrauded. And come on, Montel. You’re going to tell me you didn’t know what you were pitching when you held that 50-cent piece up to the camera? It has a sticker of Obama covering the imprint of JFK’s head! You ought to be ashamed for being a spokesman.

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