Arizona collectors are being cautioned about an advertisement for "rare" Arizona $2 bills.
A local coin shop owner says the Arizona-specific $2 bills a phone-order company is selling are neither rare nor collector's items.
Brett Sadovnick of Tucson Coin and Autograph, 6470 N. Oracle Road, filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau about the full-page ad from the World Reserve Monetary Exchange that ran Jan. 18 in the Star.
Fashioned to look like a newspaper story, the ad sells $2 bills adorned with the word "Arizona" overlaid in a film that sticks to the bills and can be removed.
"The World Reserve Monetary Exchange has restricted the issue and release of the exclusive State $2 Bill Collection, so getting one would be like hitting the lottery," the ad says. "They are so scarce that those lucky enough to get them will feel like they were handed a million dollars."
According to a World Reserve Monetary Exchange customer service rep, a single $2 bill costs $17 plus $5 shipping and handling, and a pack of four is $48, plus $12.88 shipping and handling.
Sadovnick said the markup is not justified.
"There has never been a resale value for that type of product at any collectible store," Sadovnick said. "It's just a regular $2 bill with (a sticker) on it. The U.S. government hasn't sanctioned it, and anything in the ad about the popularity or scarcity of it is misleading."
Reached by e-mail, World Reserve Monetary Exchange spokesperson Chris Pugh said the product has been popular in Arizona.
"As noted in the advertisement, the World Reserve's obtains crisp, uncirculated government issued $2 bills and then specially designs an overlay of a recognizable symbol and cityscape for each state," Pugh said, adding that the bills can still be used as currency.
The state name-bearing bills, which the ad says are available for all 50 states, are an apparent take-off on the popularity of U.S. Mint-produced quarters with insignias from every state.
Mike Jameson, president and CEO of Tucson Newspapers, said the ad came to the Star in a partnership with the Phoenix office of Gannett, which owns the Arizona Republic and splits the Star's profits with Lee Enterprises.
"It's pretty impossible for us to vet every ad that comes in from every source," Jameson said. He added that when a customer or the Better Business Bureau alerts Tucson Newspapers of a misleading business practice, it alerts the advertising company and in most cases the Star stops running the ad.
Jameson said that if the BBB puts out an alert about the World Reserve Monetary Exchange, the ad would not run again in the Star.
Nick LaFleur, spokesman for the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona, says the agency plans to release an alert today warning customers to be sure they know what they're buying from the World Reserve Monetary Exchange.
"Our policy is just kind of to get the word out there and let consumers know to be careful. Read the fine print. Don't just assume things," LaFleur said. "We want to make sure people are purchasing what they think they are."
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or firstname.lastname@example.org