Having collected medals for 40 years I am not new to the hobby, but am relatively new to e-bay. One of the changes to have taken off in the past few years, and particularly noticable on e-bay is the sale of copy medals, (not fakes, so long as they are honestly described and priced and marked "copy").
The grey area comes when such medals are described as "replacement quality", indicating that they are somthing better than average. Replacement medals have been available through official channels for many years to be supplied to receipients who have lost their original medals. They are normally marked "Replacement" or "Repl" on the rim, where as copies are usually marked as "Copy" on the obverse face (the "tails" side of the medal).
Always bear in mind that with medals metal matters! Prior to the Second World War most British medals were silver (if we ignore bronze stars and silver gilt ones). After this time certain issues were cupro-nickel and others were silver. The British War and Defence Medals 1939-45, Korea War Medal, South Atlantic Medal, Gulf War Medal 1990-91 and current Iraq War Medal as well as many of the Commonwealth War Service Medals 1939-45 were cupro-nickel.
By contrast the General Service Medal 1918-62, Naval General Service Medal 1909-62, Campaign Service Medal 1962-2007 and current Operational Service Medals were issues in silver and official MoD replacements should also be silver. Copies are almost always cupro-nickel or cheaper metal. It pays to check what the correct metal for the medal in question should be.
Rather against my better judgement I took a chance on an item advertised as a replacement quality medal to fill a gap in a group I had bought. When it arrived it was quite clearly an indifferent quality copy with the word "copy" scratched out. I was able to compare it with an original issue medal and it was nowhere near the quality required of a replacement.
I contacted the seller, received no reply but returned the medal requesting a refund and even included an sae, further requests and another sae, but no refund. Eventually I left negative feed back as a warning to others and received negative feed back by way of retaliation.
There may well be traders on e-bay who are offering genuine replacement quality medals marked as such, but buyers need to beware. Anyone new to the hobby may not be aware that there are organisations such as the Orders and Medals Research Society who try to maintain standards amongst traders and collectors and have ejected or refused membership to certain individuals. Another forum for debate in Medal News (Token Publishing Ltd.), who are keen to maintain standards.
Finally do not be intimidated by the prospect retaliation when it comes to feedback, if your comments are honest and straight forward then others will see that you had reason to complain and more often than not the retailiation will be bluster and easy to see through. Other people need to be warned and if enough people complain it becomes apparent that the trader in question is to be avoided.