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You've heard stories of some of the amazing items that have been collected over the years, and often sold for fabulous amounts of money: stamps, coins, Faberge eggs, cars, comic books, salt shakers, you name it. And naturally, that means there are some vultures out there who revel in the creation of "collector's items" that will gladly cheapen and desecrate a respected figure or event in order to make a buck. Want a "commemorative" coin, plate, or portrait of Princess Diana? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of them for sale out there. How about a pewter replica of the sixty-foot high college football rally bonfire that collapsed in 1999, killing twelve people? You can have it for a small price.
So it is with the National Collector's Mint. These guys have made money ripping off genuine collector's items, and producing "commemorative" coins depicting tragedies of all sorts…especially the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Among the "commemorative" items we've had the opportunity to purchase from them are an exact duplicate of the famous 1933 Double Eagle gold coins (after the US government threatened them with legal action, they re-issued the coin with the word "COPY" stamped on the back in tiny letters). NCM produces a whole series of "Tribute Proofs" that recreate actual coins of the past and present – all of which are worthless as collector's items. (The silver content of the coins is questionable, too. Don't forget that the "gold coins" produced at NCM are merely gold-plated, not true gold-cast coins.)
But the most infamous of their works is their annual "commemorative" coin produced for the "anniversary" of the 2001 terrorist attacks. How do you feel about spending $30 to purchase a "commemorative" World Trade Center coin? As the Web site says: "The World Trade Center skyline [printed on the coin] is lavishly clad in gleaming silver that was miraculously recovered from a bank vault found under tons of debris at Ground Zero." (If you're especially lucky, maybe you'll get one with microscopic bits of flesh and bone embedded in the silver.) But don't worry - the company says it will donate part of every coin purchase to "official 9/11 family charities and memorials." However, they don't tell us exactly which charities and memorials the money will be going to. If this is indeed a 9/11 "memorial" coin, does that mean they might be allowed to donate the money to themselves?
One of their favorite tricks is to make a deal with a foreign country such as Liberia, so that their coins are actually legal tender in the other country (but not in the United States). For instance, in 2008 they struck a "9/11 silver collector's plate" with a $20 emblem, that is (allegedly) $20 in Liberian currency. The rate of exchange ($1 US = $64 Liberia) means that in America, this $20 "plate" is worth 31 cents. Therefore, if you order the plate for $20 plus shipping and handling (but remember, only a maximum of five plates per caller are allowed!), the majority of the money paid goes right into the Mint's pocket as pure profit.