This isn't the LA Times article, but close enough.
On L.A.'s Skid Row: Brother, can you spare a rare coin?
By Matt Krasnowski
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
LOS ANGELES ? This city's Skid Row has its share of bad pennies.
But police say that what appear to be rare coins ? some of them purportedly more than 200 years old ? have recently been turning up in the pockets of the area's mostly homeless denizens.
The coins are among the more curious items discovered in an area where the black market is practically the only market, drug dealing is rampant and thousands of homeless people roam each night, said Los Angeles police Capt. Andrew Smith.
?Anything that someone can steal, they'll bring it down here and try to sell it just to get that hit of crack or that balloon of heroin,? he said. This week, Smith said, he was on foot patrol when he came across two men selling items laid out on a sheet of cardboard.
Near a knockoff iPod player and a broken laptop, the men displayed what appeared to be well-worn coins. They were offering the coins, 24 in all, for $20 each.
Smith learned this was the fourth time police had discovered such coins in recent months.
In August, detectives found several similar coins in the jacket of a suspected Skid Row drug dealer. More were found last month on a person searched near Skid Row. More recently, some silver dollars were discovered during the search of a homeless man in Santa Clarita, about 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. The man said he got them on Skid Row.
?If you're buying coins from a guy on the street on a piece of cardboard, they're selling them for 20 bucks apiece and (the vendors) look like homeless folks, chances are they are either stolen or fake,? Smith said.
As of yesterday, the coins' authenticity remained a mystery to police. But several collectors have called the police to report that their coins were stolen. Next week, a detective plans to have a coin expert examine them.
If the coins are real, they could be worth thousands of dollars at the least, experts said. One 1794 silver dollar that police found, if authentic, could be worth $100,000.
But experts say there has been an influx of fake coins that are believed to be coming from Asia.
A coin expert who reviewed a photograph of some of the coins was certain they were not a sound investment.
?I'm about 99 percent certain they are phony,? said Joel Forman, a coins and currency appraiser.
Forman noted that one of the coins appeared to be a quarter depicting George Washington; it was dated 1865. But the first Washington quarters were not made until 1932, he said.
?Unless there's another George Washington, I'm pretty certain that's phony,? he said.Linkback:
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