New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (search) on Wednesday obtained a court order to temporarily suspend the sale of commemorative Sept. 11 coins heavily advertised as being minted from silver recovered at ground zero.
Spitzer said the sale of the silver dollars emblazoned with the World Trade Center towers on one side and the planned Freedom Tower on the flip side is a fraud and he's investigating the claim the silver came from the ruins of the twin towers.
"It is a shameless attempt to profit from a national tragedy," Spitzer said. "This product has been promoted with claims that are false, misleading or unsubstantiated."
Spitzer said the National Collector's Mint (search), based in Port Chester, N.Y., claims the coins engraved with "In God We Trust" are legally authorized silver dollars, when they aren't.
He said the coin advertised as nearly pure silver is only silver plated, produced by a Wyoming company called SoftSky Inc. (search)
The TV and print ads include one fashioned after a news story that reads: "Today, history is being made. For the first time ever, a legally authorized government issue silver dollar has been struck to commemorate the World Trade Center and the new Freedom Tower being erected in its place ... Most importantly, each coin has been created using .999 pure silver recovered from ground zero!"
The dollar pieces are priced at $39 each, but sold at $19.95 with a limit of five per customer.
A company spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. On Sept. 10, the U.S. Mint issued a notice on its Web site that the coin "is not a legally authorized government issued" product.
The temporary halt on sales is pending a civil suit filed by Spitzer in state Supreme Court. Spitzer seeks civil penalties, restitution to those who bought the coins, greater consumer disclosure and full disclosure that the coins aren't endorsed by the federal government.
The company sells a variety of novelty coins, including those with characters from the "Harry Potter" books and movies.
Consumers who wish to file a complaint may contact Spitzer's office through the Web site (http://www.oag.state.ny.us) or through 800-771-7755.