The old advice that says if something is too good to be true, it usually is still applies. There is a new-old scam going on in Los Angeles and probably other cities as well that people need to be aware of. If some guy who appears to be down on his luck offers to sell you a rare silver coin really cheaply, there's a good reason why it's cheap.
It was a pretty good deal, too, but only for the sellers. The coins they were peddling turned out to be as worthless as three-dollar bills.
"They're such blatant counterfeits that all you have to do is give them a once over with your eyeballs to know they're fakes," said Ron Guth, president of Professional Coin Grading Service in Irvine.
In the case of the rare 1796 silver dollar — worth perhaps $3.5 million if it was real — there were 13 stars around Lady Liberty's head, representing the 13 original U.S. colonies. Only problem was, the real coin contains 15 stars.
Then there was the 1832 George Washington quarter, a rare find indeed, seeing as how Washington didn't start appearing on the quarter until 1932.
"I keep getting calls from experts saying things like, "The Indian head was only on the penny from this year to this year; all kinds of technical stuff that a person in the know would recognize as a fake," Montoya said a day after police put the coins on display.
Investigators are still trying to find the source of the coins, which were confiscated from two street peddlers this week. Montoya said he has heard they are sold in nearby novelty shops where they are packaged in the same kind of protective wrapping that coin collectors use, but marked as "replicas."
The coins are reportedly being minted in Asia. Police do not know where the street people are getting their supplies, though. It is possible that they are just buying the replicas and being enterprising. But they are apparently catching a fair number of people who have more greed than sense.