Some coin collectors who weren’t able to purchase the Vilna Gaon 300th birthday commemorative coin issued recently by the Bank of Lithuania are saying the release was a carefully-planned scam for a small group of people to get rich.
Bank of Lithuania officials said they found this reaction strange because anyone who wanted the coin was able to purchase two of them in early sales on the internet. The coin was officially released to the public on October 20, but weren’t available for sale at banks in Vilnius and Kaunas that day. Instead there was a flood of resellers offering the coin at inflated prices. The central Bank of Lithuania sold the coin for 62 euros, while in the initial days of the official release internet speculators offered it for hundreds of euros, and the asking price later climbed.
A week later vendors were asking for up to 990 dollars, or 846 euros, on ebay.com, and one Lithuanian internet commerce site asked for 1,500 euros for one coin. That vendor’s offer was exceptional, but others sold the coin for from 500 to 600 euros.
One thing’s for sure: the price will only continue to climb. There was frustration and anger in Israel that the coin commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Vilna Gaon hadn’t even reached the banks. The Vilna Gaon, whose name was Eliyahu Solomon ben Zalman, was one of the greatest Jewish thinkers and scholars in Jewish history.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has Litvak roots, spoke in cabinet about the issue of the coin and its importance. Israeli reporter Shimon Briman sent a request to the general prosecutor, asking officials to investigate the possibility the scarcity was preplanned in order for a small group of people to make a large profit.
The Israeli reported said it would be simple to investigate, the main task was to check who bought the coin and when.
“It’s clear to me this is a planned scam,” Briman told Lietuvos Rytas. “The same thought is spinning around in the heads of my friends who are collectors,” he said.
“How is it possible a Latvian was able to get several dozens of the coins? He has already sold 30 on ebay!” Briman noted. He believed the number of coins released was intentionally kept low, at two-and-a-half thousand: “The demand is even larger because of this, so the price gouging by resellers will only grow.”
Full story in Lithuanian here.