Internet-based Authentication

Every numsmatic field is plagued by counterfeits. The advent of the worldwide web and online auctions, with their characteristics of anonymity and direct, immediate participation, have weakened the role of traditional gatekeepers such as dealers, legitimate auction firms, and acknowledged experts, in identifying and suppressing the sale of counterfeits. The web's own antidote has been several sites or portions of sites whose laudable object is the exposure of counterfeits though the posting of images and descriptive comments. However, these very aspects of the web, combined with its lack of physicality, create unique problems for this topic which have so far not been successfully addressed. Efforts to date tend to be poorly organized and without standardization, passively or lightly moderated, allow anonymous posting, fail to distinguish amateur from expert opinion, and encourage reliance on images rather than physical examination. Existing sites are thus untrustworthy as to their basic purpose, and dangerous to the reputation of certain numismatic series and sellers which suffer false positives from inexpert or malicious participants.
As such, the following set of standards is offered for discussion.

Site Purpose

(1) To educate users on basic methods of counterfeit detection, (2) To display verified counterfeits in such a manner as to permit the broadest range of users to distinguish from genuine specimens. It is also a legitimate purpose to publish the names of sellers of counterfeit items.

Sponsorship

Ideally, the site should be run by a respected numismatic organization. It should not accept advertising. Those moderating or involved with the site should be at least "knowledgeable" if not "expert" in the series covered, and in forgery detection, and of good reputation in numismatic community.

Content

(1) The site should include basic information on the different types of coin manufacture technology, categories, and basic techniques of forgery, and salient points for determining authenticity for each relevant series. (2) The site should be organized so that entries are logically indexed and, within series, organized in historical order or according to standard references for the series. The default display mode should include all posted examples of a given type rather than a single item. (3) Assuming a gallery format for postings, the input form should enforce or encourage uniformity in the parameters and descriptive terms used. The moderator should review all posts for conformity. (4) All postings related to a given poster, expert, or provenance should be easily assembled via search.

Poster integrity

Every posting should be reviewed by a moderator before appearing on the site. All postings should be signed with a true name, and verified by the moderator. Acknowledged experts who wish to remain anonymous may be assigned pseudonyms linked to a brief outline of the expert's credentials or other information allowing users to judge their status as expert.

Data integrity

The site should emphasize and actively solicit input from known experts, or limit postings to series for which expert opinion is available to the moderator. Inexpert posters should be discouraged, and posters with a history of false or malicious postings blocked. Criteria to weigh or jury the relative merit of experts, or particular opinions, must be developed to deal with conflicting or disputed opinions.

Images

Any opinion posted which is not based on an actual physical examination of the coin must so note, and be given lower emphasis than those resulting from physical examination. The format should make clear that subsequent comments (if any) from site users are based solely on the image(s) provided at the site. Images not created by the poster must note source.

Provenance

Posters must include all provenance known to them, and must certify that they have made an attempt to contact all known previous and current owners and sellers of the item to ascertain whether expert opinion exists. Full provenance and any existing opinions must be included with the basic posting. If inquiry to a seller results in withdrawal from sale, date of withdrawal should be noted.

Accountability

Persons listed as sellers of items identified as suspect or counterfeit must be given opportunity of rebuttal at the site regardless of expert status. Subject to legal opinion, criteria should be developed to distinguish between or rate sellers who take affirmative steps to avoid the offering of counterfeits and offer mitigation, and those who do not.