Attorney General Eliot Spitzer slapped an Westchester County company with a court order yesterday, halting sales of commemorative dollar coins purportedly from recovered silver excavated from the ruins of the World Trade Center and supposedly endorsed by the American government.
As a result of the order, National Collector's Mint, a private company based in Port Chester, NY, is temporarily barred from selling its 'Freedom Tower Silver Dollar," a coin that depicts the World Trade Center with the phrase "we will never forget" on one side, and the design for the yet-to-built Freedom Tower with the phrase "in God we trust" on the other.
"This product has been promoted with claims that are false, misleading, or unsubstantiated," said Mr. Spitzer. "It is a shameless attempt to profit from a national tragedy."
In a statement, the company shrugged off Mr. Spitzer's court order, which was issued in State Supreme Court, as baseless. One representative for the firm accused the Attorney General as "grandstanding."
Last month, National Collector's Mint began an extensive advertising campaign for the sale of the "2004 Freedom Tower Silver Dollar."
According to the advertisements, the coins retail for $23.45 and were minted under the auspices of the Northern Mariana Islands, but the Attorney General has challenged the company's claims that the coins are legal tender.
"In reality, the medallion was produced by SoftSky, Inc., a private company in Wyoming, in connection with a licensing agreement with the 'Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas,'" announced the attorney general's office in a statement issued yesterday.
The Northern Marianas, a group of 14 islands in the North Pacific Ocean with about 78,000 inhabitants, are an American territory, but they do not have the authority to issue American currency, according to the attorney general.
Mr. Spitzer's office announced that the advertisements' claims of being "legally authorized" and their misleading official appearance have led to a flurry of complaints from coin collectors who were duped into believing that the coins were issued or authorized by the American government.
But National Collector's Mint stood resolute by its commemorative coins in a statement released yesterday: "NCM markets commemorative coins and numismatic collectibles and our many repeat customers demonstrate the quality of our products and the integrity of our company. We stand by the accuracy of the statements in our marketing for the 2004 Freedom Tower Silver Dollar.
National Collector's Mint also announced that its efforts in marketing items commemorating the attacks on September 11, 2001 "have already enabled us to donate over $1.5 million to various official 9/11-related charities."
The firm is listed as a donor among contributors to The September 11 Fund.
According to advertisements by National Collector's Mint, the coins are minted from silver recovered from a bank vault full of silver ingots that was buried under the debris after the World Trade Center towers collapsed.
The attorney general disputes the company's claims that the coin was "minted from pure silver recovered from Ground Zero" and that the coin is "100 Mill .999 pure silver. "The court order charges that the coins are silverplated. According to Mr. Spitzer, the silver content of the coin is "infinitesimal compared to the silver content of a pure silver coin."
The Attorney General is also exploring the options of pursuing civil actions against the company, to seek damages from whatever profits the company gleaned from its coin sales. As part of his lawsuit, Mr. Spitzer seeks to permanently bar the company from false and deceptive advertising, demands full disclosure in the company's advertisements that products are not endorsed by the government and requires an offer of full restitution to costumers who bought the coins.
National Collector's Mint offers an array of products on its Web site, ranging from individual gold and silver coins to sets, with such rarities as the Morgan silver dollar and specialties like the "Harry Potter Coin."
However, the Freedom Tower silver dollar is nowhere to be found on the company's Web site.
As required by the court order, the firm posted the message: "We are temporarily prohibited by a court order from accepting any orders for the '2004 Freedom Tower Silver Dollar.'"