Please be very careful with promoted posts on Facebook

For “promoted post,” read “advertisement.”

I’m using as an example one that showed up in my newsfeed yesterday, from a company which calls itself “wewinns.”

They are offering a complete date set of Morgan silver dollars for $199.99 (reduced from $699.99!)

Beautiful, right? The Morgan really is a gorgeous piece, especially in uncirculated condition. Notice the first description:

Morgan Silver Dollars are an excellent way to own a piece of history, while concurrently investing in the physical precious metal silver.  Morgan Silver Dollars are composed of 90% silver and 10% copper.  They weigh 26.73 grams.  This equates to approximately .7734 Troy ounces of silver and approximately .1 ounce of copper per coin. Uncirculated collectible coins.

Next, we have coin highlights:

Coin Highlights:

Arrives inside of a protective plastic slab courtesy of the NGC or PCGS!

Struck from 1878 to 1904!
• Contains .77344 Troy oz of actual silver content.
• Bears a face value of $1 (USD) backed by the federal government.
Issued a Grade of Mint State 66 by the Professional Coin Grading Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.
• Obverse features the effigy of Liberty.
• Reverse includes the American bald eagle.

When I was a kid, collecting coins was much less complex. Coin grades were:

  • Cull
  • Fair (F)
  • Good (G)
  • Very Good (VG)
  • Fine (F)
  • Very Fine (VF)
  • Extra Fine (XF)
  • Almost Uncirculated (AU)
  • Uncirculated (Unc)
  • Brilliant Uncirculated (BU)
  • Proof (P)

“Cull” was a damaged coin with no value, and “Proof” – as today – are specially-created strikes for collector. In between, coins were graded largely based on the subjective opinions of countless coin dealers.

Now, things are a lot more complicated, but a lot more formalized. The PCGS that this advertisement invokes has a very detailed designation and a numerical grading system by which coins are qualified. According to their website, MS66 is defined as “Well struck with a few marks or hairlines not in focal areas.” In other words, a pretty, uncirculated coin.

The next statement from the “wewinns” website reiterates the condition of the coins you will supposedly get:

Each of the Morgan Silver Dollar Coins offered by us in this product listing is available to you in Mint State 66 condition from either the PCGS or NGC. Coins in Mint State 66 condition are five grades below the perfect grade of 70 on the Sheldon numeric scale. A coin with an MS66 certification has minimal, but apparent, detracting marks or hairlines.

Following more generic information about Morgan dollars, the sales website goes on to say:

In this product listing, we guarantee you a Mint State 66 condition Morgan Silver Dollar.

Now things get interesting. After some more description of the beauty and rarity of the Morgan dollars, we see this:

Each Morgan Silver Dollar is presented in circulated condition with most major design details visible, and is protected in an archival crystal-clear case that allows for easy and safe viewing of both sides.

“Most major design details visible.” To me, that sounds like an F-12: “About half of detail now worn flat. All lettering remains visible.”

But then in the next bit, we go right back to the shiny new coins you thing you’ll be getting:

Year: 1878 to 1921
Grade: Choice BU
Strike Type: Business
Denomination: $1.00
Mint Location: “S” – San Francisco
Metal Content: 0.7734 troy oz
Purity: .900
Manufacturer: US Mint
Thickness: 3.1 mm
Diameter: 38.1 mm

I have no idea what “Strike type: business” means, unless it just implies general circulation coins and not a proof.

I was curious enough to click the “Contact Us” link on the bottom of the page:

Email:[support@wewinns.com]
Phone: +86 181 2462 2758

Is anyone suprised that country code 86 is China? My email to the support staff read as follows:

I am interested in your offer, but I am confused.
Your ad says the following things:
“Uncirculated collectible coins.”
“Issued a Grade of Mint State 66 by the Professional Coin Grading Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.”
“Each of the Morgan Silver Dollar Coins offered by us in this product listing is available to you in Mint State 66 condition from either the PCGS or NGC.”
“In this product listing, we guarantee you a Mint State 66 condition Morgan Silver Dollar.”
“Each Morgan Silver Dollar is presented in circulated condition with most major design details visible.”
“Grade: Choice BU”
So, are these coins that you are offering uncirculated, with a grade of 66, or are they circulated and in generally poor condition? You are aware, are you not, that a full set of Morgan dollars in grade 66 typically sells for over $125,000?
I look forward to your speedy response.

But I will be surprised if there is any response at all. If you get anything at all from this outfit, I’m pretty safe in thinking it will be a collection of very poor-quality coins, and that their website will be gone – only to resurface the next day with a different name.

Now I won’t go so far as to say that every advertisement promoted by Facebook is painfully deceptive or outright dishonestly false… but in my experience, a vast preponderance of them are just that, and a large percentage of them come from China. And Facebook continues to happily take their advertising dollars, and countless people are defrauded by unscrupulous enterprises.

It is worth noticing that the current PCGS quoted price for a complete date set of Morgan dollars in MS-66 condition is $165,605.00, and a complete date set in F-12 condition (Fair) is quoted at $1,272.00… so heaven only knows what you might get if you drop $200.00 into this Chinese bank account.

Be very careful with these ads. Discuss this with vulnerable loved ones, particularly the elderly who might be more susceptible to greasy advertising techniques like this.

Edit: Another, very similar ad page is found at
https://www.silver-ccoins.com/products/1878-1921-morgan-dollar-silver-coin-lx-1, and it uses almost identical wording, with a lot of additional promotional fluff added. The company behind this one is Vankin Co. Ltd. in London. Beware.

Edit 2: This report focuses on an individual who was conned into buying counterfeit silver dollars (made of steel); the report ends by indicating that these bogus dollars were likely mass-produced in China. One more red flag that this particular deal and ones like it should be run away from at great speed.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Please be very careful ordering from Facebook ads

My wife passed me this item to look at – and it looks like a really good idea. We have a small flock of chickens so we don’t worry about composting much, but there are things like potato peelings and bones and such that the girls (and Pongo¹) won’t eat, so it would be nice to have something to reduce these scraps to something usable.

Amazing price, given that the most popular composter on Amazon runs for about $400.00.

I mean, who could turn down an offer like that?

Just for fun, I put one in my cart to see what shipping for a 22-lb (10kg) item would cost from California.

Any guesses?

$4.95.

Ok, with anything else discounted, this whole deal would fall into the “Too good to be true” category. So let’s do just a bit more research. Going to Scamadvisor.com, we find this summary:

Add this to a 1% trust score overall, and that’s more red flags than Tootle was confronted with when he jumped the tracks to play with the butterflies.

From “Tootle” – a Little Golden Book

Notice that the original ad claimed that there were only 65 left in stock. When I checked earlier this morning, it was down to 34. Now, it’s not beyond possibility that they got a new shipment within the last few hours, but the odds are better that these numbers are randomly generated to give the appearance of desirability and scarcity.

I suspect people who order this will never receive anything, or will be shipped cheap slum² that functions poorly and breaks quickly. Whatever the case,

“The bitterness of poor quality lasts long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

Source: Unknown. Attributed to Benjamin Franklin or Aldo Gucci without verification.

Who knows, I might be passing up on the deal of a lifetime, but this is not something I’m going to gamble $35.00 on.

For what it’s worth, a large percentage of ads that appear on your Facebook wall are put there by spurious companies for spurious merchandise. Stolen artwork and intellectual property are high on the list; teeshirt companies that pop up, sell stuff with Peanuts™ or Calvin and Hobbes™ or something else that’s not licensed, promoted by photoshopped images of Carl Sagan or Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson, vanish into the mist before they can be prosecuted, and pop up the next week with a different name (and most of these outfits are, predictably, in China).

The takeaway here is Be Very Careful when ordering merchandise from an ad on Facebook.There are legitimate concerns out there, but far too many of these ads (which Facebook is more than happy to accept advertising dollars from) will burn you badly. Do your research (that doesn’t mean watch some sleazy YouTube video) and protect your loved ones.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Footnotes:

¹

Pongo

² “Slum” is what carnival hucksters call the cheap trash that you win when you play their midway games. As opposed to the major prizes that are very difficult to get.