The United States Mint has received numerous inquiries regarding replicas of the new American Buffalo Commemorative Silver Dollar now flooding the numismatic and collectors markets. The replicas are not authentic U.S. coins and are not sponsored or endorsed by the United States Government. You may be entitled to a refund or redress from the firm that sold the replica to you if you bought one of them, believing that you were purchasing a genuine U.S. Mint product.
The majority of current inquiries appears to stem from advertisements by the National Collector’s Mint, Inc., a private mint hosting a mail drop in Washington, DC. Consumers should know that the National Collector’s Mint, Inc. is a private mint not affiliated with the United States Mint. Its replica products are not authentic United States coins and are not sponsored or endorsed by the United States Mint.
Because the images on the American Buffalo Commemorative Silver Dollar design are not protected by copyright, these designs are susceptible to copying by private mints. Barring violations of U.S. counterfeiting and trademark laws, existing law does not prohibit reproduction of those U.S. coinage designs that fall in the public domain.
There is significant confusion stemming from the reproductions. In one instance, a U.S. Mint customer returned an authentic U.S. Mint Commemorative Silver Dollar for refund, claiming that the authentic U.S. Mint coin is grossly overpriced, mistakenly pointing out that the National Collector’s Mint is selling the “same” item for $9.95. Apparently, the advertisement for the replica was confusing and led the customer to believe that the product was a genuine U.S. Mint legal tender coin, rather than a cheap imitation.
If you are unsure whether the product you have purchased from a private mint is an authentic U.S. Mint American Buffalo Commemorative Silver Dollar, you should note that the authentic coin features the year (2001) and artist’s initial (“F” for “Fraser”) on the obverse and the denomination (One Dollar) and mintmark (“P” for “Philadelphia”) on the reverse. An image of the authentic American Buffalo Commemorative Silver Dollar can be found at the United States Mint’s website http://www.usmint.gov./mint_programs/commemoratives/buffalo
If you believe that you were unfairly treated, you are entitled to contact the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Hotline at 1–877–FTC–HELP or file a consumer complaint online at http://www.ftc.gov/consumer.