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FedEx policy leaves collector fuming

A Spring Hill man files suit over the company's refusal to reimburse a $2,900 loss in collectible coins.

By JENNIFER LIBERTO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

SPRING HILL - For three years, Jack Greifenberger has purchased shiny silver, platinum and gold coins. They arrive promptly at his home a day or two after he purchases them from shopping networks, wrapped in packages bearing the purple and orange FedEx logo.

But the Spring Hill collector recently learned that companies enjoy some shipping privileges not extended to consumers.

Greifenberger shipped $2,900 worth of gold and platinum coins about 100 miles south to Sarasota via FedEx, which lost his coins and has since refused to reimburse him for their value.

The Memphis, Tenn., company has produced for Greifenberger a long list of "prohibited items." No. 1 on the list: collectible coins. Under its "terms and conditions," FedEx refuses to insure prohibited items.

But the fine print does not apply to everyone, FedEx spokesman Howard Clabo admitted.

Companies such as Shop at Home TV, which sold Greifenberger his coins, as well as several large coin auctioneers and dealers, work out special arrangements with FedEx to ship their collectible coins, fully insured.

"We certainly do negotiate special deals with separate customers," said Clabo, who declined to talk specifically about Greifenberger's case.

The shipping industry favors large collectors, dealers and companies because they do more business with express mail services than average coin collectors, said Steve Bobbitt, spokesman for the American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"Things can get lost, but normally FedEx is very secure and right there," Bobbitt said.

Greifenberger has decided to fight.

A day after he received FedEx's last correspondence, denying liability for the lost coins, Greifenberger filed a small claims lawsuit in Hernando County Court to recoup the value of the coins.

"I think it's a double standard," said Greifenberger, who had no idea his coins were not supposed to be accepted or insured.

Greifenberger's troubles began when he took the four platinum and four gold coins to the FedEx office in Brooksville in March to have them shipped to the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America, a Sarasota company that judges and grades the condition of coins, potentially adding value to a collection.

Greifenberger said he told the attendant exactly what was inside the package, so it could be insured.

"Why did he take my money for insurance if he couldn't insure it?" asked Greifenberger, who started collecting coins after the stock market ate through his other investments.

FedEx created the rule prohibiting the shipment of collectible coins because the company considered the act of putting a price to a collectible item's worth too subjective.

"It's too difficult for us to figure out the value of what's being shipped," Clabo said. "This is not going to be insured; we're not going to be held liable for this."

But FedEx is a frequent shipper of collectible coins to the twice annual American Numismatic Association conventions, said Bobbitt.

"FedEx has agreements they work out with the dealers, but those arrangements are made in advance," he said.

Often, smaller coin collectors ship through local coin dealers who have made special arrangements with FedEx, Bobbitt said. Or if the coins are of extremely high value, they will be shipped through a high-end service such as Brink's.

But most small collectors cannot afford to ship via an armored truck. And UPS, like FedEx, prohibits consumers from shipping collectible coins.

So, unless a collector has a coin dealer with a special shipping deal nearby, the U.S. Postal Service is the only option.

"Had I known they don't insure coins, I would have gone to the post office," Greifenberger said. "If these guys are making special deals, the public should know. How am I supposed to know what companies can ship but I can't?"

- Jennifer Liberto can be reached at 848-1434. Send e-mail to liberto@sptimes.com


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