Author Topic: The legal ramifications of fantasies  (Read 513 times)

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Offline <k>

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The legal ramifications of fantasies
« on: December 08, 2016, 05:00:11 PM »
We have a seen a case where somebody issued what appeared to be collector coins of the British Virgin Islands. In fact, they were not authorised by the BVI, so they are now being regarded as fantasies. These fantasies were intended to mislead, but in fact most fantasies do not intend to mislead. However, they may eventually mislead collectors, who may not be sure of the provenance of the fantasies and then mistake them for genuine numismatic issues.

Many fantasies are struck and sold purely for commercial reasons, because some people like collecting them. There are "sets" for the Galapagos Islands and various other exotic locations, which in fact are under the jurisdiction of legitimate existing states and whose circulation coinage looks very different from the fantasies. It is of course a crime all over the world to counterfeit money, but if the fantasy set issued with the name "Galapagos" or "Greenland" looks nothing like the coins that circulate in those places, then it cannot be said that the fantasy issuers are attempting to counterfeit coinage. The fantasy purveyors, therefore, manage to stay within the law, and in any case they are presumably not trying to break it. However, it must surely irritate the legitimate authorities that such fantasies exist, but it is presumably a grey area within the law. I do wonder if this will begin to change, particularly in the light of the recent "BVI" issues.

Years ago, a reader wrote to Coin News (UK) about a piece he had purchased that showed a portrait of Mussolini. He wondered if this could have been a trial or a pattern from the rump Fascist regime of 1943 to 1945 - the so called "Italian Social Republic". In fact, the piece was a fantasy, made to satisfy neo-fascists of the 1970s. So, you can see how deceptive some fantasies can prove to be. However, it would be one thing for a state to legislate against anybody producing fantasies in their name and bearing current dates. It would be quite another thing for them to attempt to ban pieces that use dates from the distant past. Or would it? What do the members think?

Offline THCoins

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Re: The legal ramifications of fantasies
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2016, 08:28:59 PM »
Well worded ! Gives food for thought.
I generally just find these issues annoying, but i do not collect anything even remotely related.
My biggest ethical problem with these fantasy issues is that they often suggest to the buyer that they have a solid value. Leaving many buyers disillusioned once they try to sell the objects and only get silver value.
It will be difficult to correct sellers who consciously try to make their profits at the fringes of the law.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: The legal ramifications of fantasies
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2016, 11:22:11 PM »
In some jurisdictions it is not even allowed to make a picture of national banknotes without permission from the Central Bank, which is given only if the size of the note is significantly incomplete, smaller or overprinted with the word specimen or the like. If that is workable for notes, it should be workable for coins.

I always defended that states should use copyrights to defend the integrity of their coinage, because copyright law is well established and sort of works across borders. If the UK mint had taken copyrights on all portraits of Elizabeth R, it would have been in a better position to compete with the Pobjoys and Towers and what have you, working at lower cost because they simply copy designs they didn't have to make. In fact, I think signed portraits may well be protected by copyright law already, except if they are already widely copied without protests from the copyright owner. It doesn't take rocket science to go further, like taking out patents on the combination of the words India (or the Ashoka column) and rupee (or the rupee sign) on the same piece of metal and calling it a coin.

A precedent for legislation that comes to mind is EU legislation that says chocolate must contain a minimum percentage of cacao powder to be sold as such. Stuff with lower content is now sold as chocolate fantasy. There is comparable legislation for the fruit content of jam. Similarly, you can legislate minimum standards for coins, one of these standards being approved by the powers that be. All stuff not meeting that standard cannot be sold as coins. They can be made and sold, but under a different name and without suggestive or misleading texts.

Another legal precedent is the copyright protection given to the distinctive old Coca Cola bottle. Likewise, the look and feel of national coins can be given protection, so that copying a coin in badly coloured light plastic for a key-hanger or making a one-sided copy for advertising would be OK, but making a close copy with only a few details changed would be a no-no.

Of course there would be grey areas, but that's what you have judges for.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline <k>

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Re: The legal ramifications of fantasies
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2016, 11:47:41 PM »
Beyond all that, we have difficulties caused by the policies of official governments. Look at this topic:

Cook Islands: Series of coins 2010.

Much time was spent discussing this set: a circulation-like set, i.e. a set that looked like a circulation set but did not circulate. The suspicion was that it was a fantasy, but eurocoin researched it and eventually discovered that the Cook Islands had indeed authorised it. At the time the Cook Islands no longer had its own current circulation coinage, but it reintroduced such a coinage in 2015. Other territories, such as TDC, BVI and the Pitcairn Islands, have also issued non-circulating circulation-like sets. In the 1970s Guyana and Belize each had a rather plain circulation set but also non-circulating sets with completely different designs that were designed to appeal to collectors. These last were produced by the Franklin Mint. So, there are lots of confusing "sets" out there.


Offline Figleaf

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Re: The legal ramifications of fantasies
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2016, 11:58:56 PM »
Your question was about unauthorised sets and "coins", though. Why would a state want to fight the silly stuff it authorised?

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline <k>

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Re: The legal ramifications of fantasies
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2016, 12:03:01 AM »
OK, I went off-topic in my own topic, which is allowed, because I say so.  :P  No, states wouldn't want to fight their own silly habits, but they do make things more complicated for collectors. So, it is as well to be aware and to be wary. It sometimes takes research to ascertain just what is an authorised set and what isn't.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: The legal ramifications of fantasies
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2016, 12:12:17 AM »
Very much agreed. Research and correct information on the status of numismatic items is vital to counter uncouth marketing pressure and misinformation. WoC is wide open to research and its result.

Also, going off-topic is fine on this site. Lateral thinking can be quite helpful and give new insights and if it doesn't, moderators can split the thread.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline eurocoin

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Re: The legal ramifications of fantasies
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2016, 12:28:42 PM »
There is no need at all for fantasies to exist. Either you do a lot of effort to get permission from a government to issue coins in their name that show things that are important to the particular country, or you mint medals. It is that simple. Fantasies are the creme-de-la-crap of numismatics.

These fantasies that deceive collectors are the worst of all but unfortunately even European mints think it is a good idea to mint these (e.g. Royal Dutch Mint and Tower Mint) and seem to get away with it. In most cases the pieces are being issued in name of poor or powerless countries (e.g. BVI, Solomon Islands, Somalia,..) that can't do anything against it at all. Of course there is also exceptions. Tower Mint dared to accept money from a wealthy collector who wanted to issue his own coins, resulting in the minting of commemorative 2 pence and 2 pounds coins to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II for Gibraltar. The Government of Gibraltar didn't do anything against Tower Mint when they years later found out what had happened. Tower Mint is a fantasy-parasite anyway because they also issued fantasies to deceive collectors for the Bahamas and Maldives (based on Weltmünzkatalog 1901-2000 Edition 2017 by Dr Gerhard Schön). Royal Dutch Mint inter alia issued fantasy coins for Russia in 2013 and 2014. A few years ago I told the Dutch mintmaster that the pieces he is minting are likely illegal, I had the impression that he couldn't care less. As long as collectors keep buying the crap, nothing will change.