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Alleged Whistleblower


Dafydd

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I received the following email today which is quite extraordinary, however from some previous unpleasant experiences in another sector of collectables , does not surprise me.

[anonymous email from alleged former Katz employee accusing Katz of various wrongful acts has been deleted by Admin]

The email had several attachments supporting the comments above [attachments not provided - Admin]

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This is something many minor and major auction houses do. Some are perhaps more guilty than others. They shill bid to push prices up and relist items that aren't purchased by a legitimate buyer. Look at the lots repeatedly listed by Naumann and Leu, sometimes in back to back auctions. They will claim these are unpaid lots but in reality, their shill bids weren't able to push the prices past the secret reserve they want to sell the coin for. 

It's shocking to me how normalized it is for auctions to allow price manipulation through shill bidding. Its market manipulation pure and simple and its probably costing all of us money.

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About a year ago I thought I'd give Catawiki a try. 

A coin I was interested in was offered by a Spanish firm that seems to use that platform a lot. I bid, it was under the (apparently top secret) reserve. I bid again at a higher price, and again. No joy. After a while I thought oh well, and gave up. 

A little later I was emailed with the "GOOD NEWS!" that since the reserve had not been met they were willing to sell it to me at my highest bid...

This renders the so called auction a joke and while not illegal is in my opinion very sharp practice. If you wish to set a reserve, start the bidding at that and stop messing with the bidders.

I didn't darken their doorstep again! 

 

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LMAO, new week, new thread, regarding these darn auction houses and the drama associated with them.

I'm surprised Netflix or some other streamer hasn't picked this stuff up as a television show, plenty of material on here, cointalk, & PCGS boards, with all the B.S. that's associated with them.🤣

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5 minutes ago, Kali said:

LMAO, new week, new thread, regarding these darn auction houses and the drama associated with them.

I'm surprised Netflix or some other streamer hasn't picked this stuff up as a television show, plenty of material on here, cointalk, & PCGS boards, with all the B.S. that's associated with them.🤣

Excellent idea! A new blockbuster in the making. Leading parts played by Brad Pitt as the CNG ceo, and Nicholas Cage as the Roma ceo. Beats those million Marvel super hero movies.

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I think this has arisen since they started listing all their coins from EUR5, as Heritage now do. It must attract bidders, but of course the big risk is that there's only one bidder, and Katz probably don't have enough bidders to get away with it.

I believe I suffered from a hidden reserve at Katz a couple of years ago - I had the highest bid, but it was a very good deal for the coin. They emailed me afterwards to tell me they'd lost the coin. I didn't believe them. I imagine it's hard to use that story more than once.

I also don't think they're the only ones. I placed a bid at another smaller auction house one increment above the minimum. I won it. When the invoice came, it was at my bid price, not the starting price. I asked them why when there had been no other bidders, and they told me it was because the starting bid was below the reserve. I don't think they thought they'd done anything wrong in invoicing the higher amount.

It always struck me as odd that auctions with an auctioneer start at a low price and have to encourage bids just to get to the reserve. Why would you do that? But, apparently, we need warming up to reach it.

I'm not sure it costs us anything, though. If they're only doing it to get to the reserve, presumably we wouldn't have bid in the first place.

Edited by John Conduitt
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Perhaps what surprises me the most here is that Katz still receives business. They've been on my black list since I started collecting.

There is one other auction house I'm recently souring on. I won't provide their name since all I have to go by is auction patterns, but I believe what they do is the following:

Given a high bid of x, they'll bid some small amount lower than x to maximize the amount.

For example, there was one niche coin where the market value was 150-200. I bid 260 and someone outbid me so it was at 280. I didn't bid further, but the coin went for 380. My suspicion is there wasn't another buyer. The other guy really wanted the coin and bid 400, and the auction house placed a last minute bid so he would pay near his max.

Two other coins I won just below my max.

Another coin I didn't care so much about, so I placed a bid one above the minimum. WIth 30 seconds to go, my bid was matched, but the other bidder didn't go up. Since he must have bid the exact same as I, it would have been clear to him that he just had to increase his bid by 10 to win, but he didn't.

There was another coin I was intrigued about but I didn't bid. There were two similar coins with minimum bids of I think 200. The first went for something like 380, while the second didn't receive a bid. I suspect one buyer put a max bid of 400 for the first, while the second didn't receive a bid. If there were truly two buyers, I don't understand why the second wasn't picked up.

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The problem is, a lot of bidding behaviour is odd when you don't know the bidder's motivation, so everything looks suspicious. Thinking about bids I've placed in the past, the other participants must've been perplexed. I've placed incremental pre-bids just to test how high someone else's pre-bid is, which could look a lot like shill bidding. I've placed accidental bids. I bid at the last second even when it isn't a timed auction and never bid my maximum before that, which could look strange if I've placed other bids beforehand and might even be winning the coin - where did that high bidder come from?
 

31 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

There was one niche coin where the market value was 150-200. I bid 260 and someone outbid me so it was at 280. I didn't bid further, but the coin went for 380. My suspicion is there wasn't another buyer. The other guy really wanted the coin and bid 400, and the auction house placed a last minute bid so he would pay near his max.

Two other coins I won just below my max.

From another point of view, it would be odd if this didn't happen a lot. Two people fight for a coin, then someone else takes over nearer to the close. You see it happening when there's an auctioneer.

The same is true of winning coins just below your maximum. If you know the market price, so does everyone else, so they're more likely to bid a similar amount than something much higher or lower. They might give up if that bid doesn't succeed because they don't know they only needed another couple of bids. Or maybe the bid was already enough for them.
 

45 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

Another coin I didn't care so much about, so I placed a bid one above the minimum. WIth 30 seconds to go, my bid was matched, but the other bidder didn't go up. Since he must have bid the exact same as I, it would have been clear to him that he just had to increase his bid by 10 to win, but he didn't.

Following on from another thread, I think a lot of strange bidding comes from dealers. They don't really want any particular coin, so bid differently. They chuck a few low bids on coins that look like they might have a little profit in them. If someone else is there live responding to those bids, they stop, because they can't afford to fight.
 

51 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

There was another coin I was intrigued about but I didn't bid. There were two similar coins with minimum bids of I think 200. The first went for something like 380, while the second didn't receive a bid. I suspect one buyer put a max bid of 400 for the first, while the second didn't receive a bid. If there were truly two buyers, I don't understand why the second wasn't picked up.

This I can't explain, but there could be innocent reasons. Maybe the first coin had something the other one didn't. Maybe someone bid high on the first but wasn't actually watching the auction to change to the other coin. A few times on CNG's electronic auctions I've missed coins because I'm emboiled in a last-minute fight for a coin and so many seconds are added to the timer that the next few coins close before it does.

That's not to say one of the reasons isn't auction houses behaving badly. There's a certain auction house in Australia where my pre-bids always win at their maximum, so now I set my alarm through the night to try to bid live. I have to really want the coin to bid there anymore.

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7 minutes ago, John Conduitt said:

The problem is, a lot of bidding behaviour is odd when you don't know the bidder's motivation, so everything looks suspicious. Thinking about bids I've placed in the past, the other participants must've been perplexed. I've placed incremental pre-bids just to test how high someone else's pre-bid is, which could look a lot like shill bidding. I've placed accidental bids. I bid at the last second even when it isn't a timed auction and never bid my maximum before that, which could look strange if I've placed other bids beforehand and might even be winning the coin - where did that high bidder come from?
want the coin to bid there anymore.

I bid at a number of auction houses, which has caused me to strongly suspect this one. I'm pretty used to different bidding patterns, but this one house exhibits different ones from others. I always see last minute bids on my coins (compared to CNG this morning, where my coins received bids a few hours before but not afterwards) and they're always near my maximum. When I lose, I'm rarely the underbidder. Again, at other auctions I'll often see I'm upped by one increment because no one else bid.

I admit that those I've chatted with privately about this house don't believe my allegations, so perhaps I'm mistaken.

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45 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

I bid at a number of auction houses, which has caused me to strongly suspect this one. I'm pretty used to different bidding patterns, but this one house exhibits different ones from others. I always see last minute bids on my coins (compared to CNG this morning, where my coins received bids a few hours before but not afterwards) and they're always near my maximum. When I lose, I'm rarely the underbidder. Again, at other auctions I'll often see I'm upped by one increment because no one else bid.

I admit that those I've chatted with privately about this house don't believe my allegations, so perhaps I'm mistaken.

CNG add time to the auction if you bid under 8 seconds (or thereabouts), so last second bids aren't so worth it. But you're right, if they're always near your maximum and you're rarely the underbidder, that is suspicious. As far as I can work out, most lots only attract two or three bidders, so you'd have to always be going for popular coins for that to happen.

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In a moment of madness last month, I decided that every ancient Roman collection should have an Alexander the Great Drachm. As soon as I bid I wish I hadn't.

On the day , I was fairly relieved that my bid had failed at my bid amount of 150 Euros. I assumed the bidder had made an earlier bid and won on precedence.

Yesterday I happened to notice an unpaid invoice on Biddr which happened to be my failed bid!  I had not been advised of this invoice previously. There can be no reasonable explanation other than shill bidding if you look at the chronology. The invoice is dated 20th August but as I hadn't seen it before it could have been sent at any time over the past couple of weeks. I am reconciled to my Alexander Drachm as it is a good looking coin and can join many other "rabbit hole" coins I have.

Having actually checked the site on the auction date and seeing that another bidder had won I might have thought this was an oversight on my part but clearly something was amiss here. It's a disappointment as I've had some success over the years at this auction house but on reflection I have never had any low bid surprises. In this trail, I am Bidder 1 and the bidder who appeared to win the lot on the day was Bidder 2. On considering some of the other posts in this thread, I revisited this purchase today and checked the bid history. 

Date / time Bidder Bid
19 August 2023, 10:48:20 PM Bidder 1 150 EUR
20 August 2023, 05:04:44 PM Bidder 2 150 EUR
20 August 2023, 05:04:38 PM Bidder 2 130 EUR
14 August 2023, 09:11:32 PM Bidder 3 90 EUR
14 August 2023, 06:01:10 PM Bidder 4 80 EUR
14 August 2023, 02:07:15 AM Bidder 5 70 EUR
8 August 2023, 09:15:09 AM Bidder 6 55 EUR
9 August 2023, 03:50:05 AM Bidder 7

55 EUR

 

In a similar scenario to the experience of  @mcwyler in another sector in the UK there is a particular auction house in which you really have to be present as online bids cannot be trusted as the auctioneer takes imaginary bids in the room "off the back wall".  I have attended a couple of these auctions and witnessed it myself. The auction house is 250 miles from my home and on one occasion I had business in the area , attended the early morning viewing and placed my bid on one particular lot only. The person who took my bid commented that I had travelled a long way for one bid and I said nothing. At the end of the day I anticipated collecting the item  on my way home as I had bid over the odds and thought I would be successful. When I called ahead, I was told I was unsuccessful and outbid on the Internet. I was not devastated as I had made my best shot. 10 minutes later, the auctioneer called me to say that as the internet buyer was from the USA and unknown to him so I could have the lot at the high bid price which was around $700 higher than my bid. I could hear the gasp when I told him that I hoped his buyer would follow through as I had no interest in being railroaded into a sale because clearly he thought I was too invested in wanting to win the lot by what he considered was an exceptional journey. I have never bid at that auction house again. Needless to say the lot appeared in their next sale.

This is a coin forum so I won't dwell on my experiences elsewhere but whatever happens in numismatics probably happens everywhere else. 

 

Edited by Dafydd
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31 minutes ago, Dafydd said:

In a moment of madness last month, I decided that every ancient Roman collection should have an Alexander the Great Drachm. As soon as I bid I wish I hadn't.

On the day , I was fairly relieved that my bid had failed at my bid amount of 150 Euros. I assumed the bidder had made an earlier bid and won on precedence.

Yesterday I happened to notice an unpaid invoice on Biddr which happened to be my failed bid!  I had not been advised of this invoice previously. There can be no reasonable explanation other than shill bidding if you look at the chronology. The invoice is dated 20th August but as I hadn't seen it before it could have been sent at any time over the past couple of weeks. I am reconciled to my Alexander Drachm as it is a good looking coin and can join many other "rabbit hole" coins I have.

Having actually checked the site on the auction date and seeing that another bidder had won I might have thought this was an oversight on my part but clearly something was amiss here. It's a disappointment as I've had some success over the years at this auction house but on reflection I have never had any low bid surprises. In this trail, I am Bidder 1 and the bidder who appeared to win the lot on the day was Bidder 2. On considering some of the other posts in this thread, I revisited this purchase today and checked the bid history. 

Date / time Bidder Bid
19 August 2023, 10:48:20 PM Bidder 1 150 EUR
20 August 2023, 05:04:44 PM Bidder 2 150 EUR
20 August 2023, 05:04:38 PM Bidder 2 130 EUR
14 August 2023, 09:11:32 PM Bidder 3 90 EUR
14 August 2023, 06:01:10 PM Bidder 4 80 EUR
14 August 2023, 02:07:15 AM Bidder 5 70 EUR
8 August 2023, 09:15:09 AM Bidder 6 55 EUR
9 August 2023, 03:50:05 AM Bidder 7

55 EUR

 

In a similar scenario to the experience of  @mcwyler in another sector in the UK there is a particular auction house in which you really have to be present as online bids cannot be trusted as the auctioneer takes imaginary bids in the room "off the back wall".  I have attended a couple of these auctions and witnessed it myself. The auction house is 250 miles from my home and on one occasion I had business in the area , attended the early morning viewing and placed my bid on one particular lot only. The person who took my bid commented that I had travelled a long way for one bid and I said nothing. At the end of the day I anticipated collecting the item  on my way home as I had bid over the odds and thought I would be successful. When I called ahead, I was told I was unsuccessful and outbid on the Internet. I was not devastated as I had made my best shot. 10 minutes later, the auctioneer called me to say that as the internet buyer was from the USA and unknown to him so I could have the lot at the high bid price which was around $700 higher than my bid. I could hear the gasp when I told him that I hoped his buyer would follow through as I had no interest in being railroaded into a sale because clearly he thought I was too invested in wanting to win the lot by what he considered was an exceptional journey. I have never bid at that auction house again. Needless to say the lot appeared in their next sale.

This is a coin forum so I won't dwell on my experiences elsewhere but whatever happens in numismatics probably happens everywhere else. 

 

In the Biddr auction are you saying bidder 2 is a shill bidder? It would be odd to give you the impression you hadn’t won. Although I’ve had that problem with auctions that take bids from bidding platforms, the room and their own website, and the technology doesn’t line up.

Which auction house was that that called you? That’s quite unbelievable that they’d come up with a story like that.

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I also had bad experience with Katz.

I had one coin that never arrived and they were extremely awkward in dealing with the problem. The coin was returned to them, but they claimed that DHL was charging them very high postal costs which I had to cover. I checked with DHL and they said that such costs were implausible and not charged by them. 

Also, although I can‘t prove it, I also felt that they bid up coins in their own auction. 

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I have dealt with many physical general "non-coin" related auction houses for many years. These auction houses typically operate with hidden reserves and when they start a lot they open to the floor at what they hope is an acceptable opening price and may well drop this to temp bidders. These bids however are typically "against the book" which will continue until the reserve is met or otherwise. If the reserve is not met then the lot is typically announced as "unsold" unless the auctioneer uses discretion if the bid is close enough to the reserve.

The practices described above align with this behaviour other than the item being "SOLD" to a fictitious account.  

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I wouldn't be surprised if all the allegations were true. I bought from Katz only once and my experience implied just that: some coins on which I allegedly had been the underbidder reappeared in the next auction, and the two that I actually won sold at exactly my maximum bid. That was so suspicious that I never bought there again.

After a couple of similar experiences I now only bid at auction houses that fulfill the following four criteria:

1.) Bidding starts at what would be a reasonable bargain price for the coin (in most cases not 5€)

2.) Provenances are regularly mentioned at least for higher value coins. They don't need to be prestigious. A short note like "comes with French collector's ticket from the 1990s" is absolutely sufficient.

3.) Not everything in their auctions typically sells, and unsold lots are available at starting price in an aftersale.

4.) The owner and staff of the auction house are openly known. They are actual people with actual addresses and phone numbers, not a stock picture on a shady wordpress website. You can contact them easily and they stand in for what they do.

Edited by Ursus
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14 hours ago, John Conduitt said:

Which auction house was that that called you?

I don't see why we collectively are sometimes reticent to call out the names of  houses that were clearly misbehaving. Sorry  John, I know  it's not  you here! @Dafydd please could  you share? It's also a bit unfair on the  other  presumably  London  houses in that example, as it makes the  mind start wondering, was  it Roma, was it Morton, was it Spink...  If it's Timeline then no great surprise 🙂

I really think we should  be  more  blunt. It's not like we are libeling anyone. I understand a reluctance  to sometimes say if a  coin one  of us owns is fake, as it's a  horrible feeling to be the owner, and there's always a  chance it  isn't,  but  I do try when say Catawiki are pumping out  clear  die transfers, or Artemide are selling expensive altered  coins  to flag the house by name.

 

(As an aside there are pages and pages of Greek and  Roman fakes Katz has sold  elsewhere on the web, even disregarding  their shenanigans about  bidding for them. It's all the worse that they sell fakes and apparently shill them too ha!)

 

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7 hours ago, Deinomenid said:

I don't see why we collectively are sometimes reticent to call out the names of  houses that were clearly misbehaving. Sorry  John, I know  it's not  you here! @Dafydd please could  you share? It's also a bit unfair on the  other  presumably  London  houses in that example, as it makes the  mind start wondering, was  it Roma, was it Morton, was it Spink...  If it's Timeline then no great surprise 🙂

I really think we should  be  more  blunt. It's not like we are libeling anyone. I understand a reluctance  to sometimes say if a  coin one  of us owns is fake, as it's a  horrible feeling to be the owner, and there's always a  chance it  isn't,  but  I do try when say Catawiki are pumping out  clear  die transfers, or Artemide are selling expensive altered  coins  to flag the house by name.

 

(As an aside there are pages and pages of Greek and  Roman fakes Katz has sold  elsewhere on the web, even disregarding  their shenanigans about  bidding for them. It's all the worse that they sell fakes and apparently shill them too ha!)

 

Hi @Deinomenid,

I replied privately to @John Conduitt, the auction house has nothing to do with coins thankfully so not relevant to mention as the items they sell are way outside the interests of most on this forum. Nothing terribly exciting and I would be happy to let you know privately but they have no involvement in numismatics or antiquities.

I have  no problem naming and shaming bad experiences in respect of coins . If you relate the truth you are not libelling so that wouldn't stop me. Fortunately for me I have had some fakes kindly pointed out to me in the past by considerate and more erudite members than me and their actions has saved me quite a bit of money.  Some early bad experiences have encouraged me to buy from dealers with money back life time guarantees. I have returned four coins and was reimbursed as a result of posting them here and elsewhere over the past six years.

I have collected coins most of my life but for several years moved into other collecting interests as I was completely disillusioned buying coins at one grade only to find them downgraded when trying to improve them, often by the same dealers who sold them to me. As a result of my previous experiences, I can see some advantages of slabbing modern coins but I want to hold and connect with the artefact but that's another topic that has been well aired here and elsewhere over the years.

My ancients collecting  is not  too inhibited by condition as my interest is in the history not the condition although a nicely centred good condition example is always very welcome. I traded a fine coin collection once for military and explorers medals such as medals awarded for Polar exploration, because  the condition of them was not paramount, but the name of the recipient stamped on the edge was.  Condition was not the issue here but  forgery could present problems. To quote an example , a Crimean War Medal named to a regular soldier could be bought for say $200 but the same medal awarded to a someone who rode in the "Charge of the Light Brigade" would sell for $5000. During the 1980's some criminals actually replicated the stamping tools to make fake "Charger" medals. These were discovered and the culprits arrested. Sadly when there is money to be made, it can attract the unscrupulous. I've been a member of the Orders and Medals Research Society for 50 years and pre-internet, their journal was the main source for reporting fakes. Now we have great resources for coins and medals on line but of course those at fault are not going to publicise their nefarious activities and this is why this forum is so good but it is sad that scenarios such as Roma have to be reported and take up so much space. I started this post because it is somewhat sobering when someone advises you that you have been taken advantage of and I felt the email should be shared as it might save others some grief in the future and allow perhaps a different approach to bidding. I try to avoid live auctions because I don't have the discipline not to be impetuous and now I would be concerned that I would be bidding against the auctioneer.

In the final analysis it is a question of Caveat Emptor and fortunately advice is always available here and there seems to be no reticence in broadcasting bad experiences for the benefit of all. The danger is conveying an opinion which could be disagreed or misconstrued. If you seek the truth, you can't hold an opinion.

 

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Hi Everyone,

I want to first off say upfront that the position of NumisForums continues to be that we are a site where we, the members, can discuss any relevant numismatic topic freely, pursuant to the forum rules of course. 

I have received a request from Katz Auction House to have this thread removed. I want to first preface that as the founder & admin here, my goal in instances where allegations arise is to present a platform where all views can be discussed, while retaining the impartiality of NumisForums itself. I believe this is the best course of action to keep the forum open and not hit with any sort of legal troubles. As such, I believe it is correct that I post the Katz request in full, so that they may provide their side. Here is the full unedited text:

I am writing to formally lodge a complaint against a recent thread that has been posted on your forum, which concerns the Katz Auction House. It has come to my attention that the thread in question, authored by an individual identifying themselves as ''dafydd" contains false and damaging accusations against Katz Auction House, without any substantial evidence to support these claims. We kindly request the immediate deletion of this thread to prevent further harm to the reputation of Katz Auction House. The thread titled "Katz Whistleblower" accuses Katz Auction House of engaging in fraudulent activities within the numismatic world. The author claims to have worked for the auction house and alleges various illegal practices, including hidden reserve prices, fake sales, and market manipulation. While we understand the importance of transparency and accountability within the numismatic community, these allegations are entirely baseless and without merit. Katz Auction House has a long-standing reputation for integrity, professionalism, and fairness in its operations. We take great pride in providing collectors and numismatic enthusiasts with a reliable platform to buy and sell valuable collectibles. Our team is committed to upholding the highest ethical standards, and we have never engaged in any of the activities described in the forum thread. We believe that this forum post is not only false but also defamatory and damaging to our business. It has the potential to mislead collectors and tarnish our reputation, which has been built on trust and integrity over the years. Furthermore, the author of this thread claims to have attached screenshots as evidence of their allegations. We urge you to thoroughly investigate the authenticity of these screenshots and the credibility of the individual making these accusations before allowing such unsubstantiated claims to remain on your platform. We kindly request that you take immediate action to remove the thread in question and any associated attachments to prevent further dissemination of false information that can cause serious harm to our business. We are prepared to provide any necessary documentation or information to support our position and demonstrate the baselessness of the claims made in the forum thread. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We trust that you will take the necessary steps to address this issue promptly and responsibly to protect the reputation of Katz Auction House.”

I will reiterate again that NumisForums itself and I as the founder & admin make no claims to the validity or otherwise of the alleged whistleblowers’ claims, and that Katz is of course innocent until proven otherwise, and the burden is on the accuser, not the accused.

With that said, I do not believe it is against the forum rules to discuss topics such as these (the Roma thread is another instance), insofar that we don’t make any defamatory or libelous statements here. As such, I will leave the thread open as long as the rules continue to be followed, however I have edited out portions of the OP that skirt the line of defamation, IMO. 

If any lawyers on here would like to private message me to let me know if my approach is incorrect, please feel free to do so, as I am not a lawyer myself and any advice is appreciated. 🙂 

Thanks,

Res/Luke

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  • Restitutor changed the title to [Alleged] KATZ Whistleblower?

For what it is worth.  I just  took  (lots of!) screenshots of lists of Katz's so-called fakes for sale in case they are trying this legal approach with other forums that might  have  more willingness to bend and delete alleged evidence.

As for my own claim that they sell dies that  enable the manufacture of Sicilian fakes here's a quick  repeat  photo for posterity. All perfectly legal and noted as a forgery, but  in my view wrong. Note they even let you know they are "working"...

 

 

Screenshot2023-09-19at12-27-21AncientGreeceSicilyKataneObverseandReverseDies435-412BCModernForgeryKatzAuction.png.ed094ba8414849de883015c2b9880bb4.png

 

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