Counterfeit Panda Coins

Posted by Jay Turner, NGC Grader and Attributor on 3/1/2005

A rash of skillful counterfeits are endangering the integrity of the popular Chinese Panda coin series. Find out how you can tell a true Ling-Ling from a cunning fake-fake.

When most people think of counterfeit coins, they often think of Gold, Key Dates, and older coins. However, recent is sues of coins are now being counterfeited at an alarming rate. These pieces are not only a danger for collectors and dealers, but they usher in a new era in which possibly no coin is safe from replication and fraud.

 
  Real
Panda

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Counterfeit
Panda

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  Real
Panda Eyes

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Counterfeit
Panda Eyes

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The Chinese Panda coins have been popular among collectors and dealers since their introduction in 1982. Almost immediately, counterfeit Pandas began to surface. The 1982 Gold Panda coin was so popular that it quickly and dramatically rose above gold in value, sometimes trading for more than double. 1982 Gold Pandas were the first coins in the series to be counterfeited. While this was a sad reality, the counterfeits for the most part remained scarce.

In early 2006, a counterfeit 1987 Silver Panda was identified. The piece had a number of obvious features that distinguished it from real 1987 issue Pandas. It was mint state and not proof, as all 1987 Silver Pandas are. Next, a number of design details were amiss, including the panda's eyes. There was a substantial number of raised tooling marks on the lettering, something that genuine Chinese Pandas don't have. Finally, the reeding was infrequent. Because of the coin's numismatic value and the fact that it was an earlier piece, it was not surprising that the coin was counterfeited.

The previously mentioned examples were more highly valued items. However, in recent years, counterfeits of lower value Panda coins have been discovered. This was first brought to light with a 2001 Panda that appeared to have been struck twice. This piece, later confirmed as an authentic panda with a counterfeit second strike, was cause for concern.

Numerous rumors spread about the vast amount of counterfeit pandas making their way into the marketplace. Certification became key with collectors who feared these counterfeit pieces. Ever vigilant, it was only a matter of time before more counterfeit Pandas would make their way to NGC. In October, they did.

Going through a box of mixed modern world coinage, a 2001 D Silver Panda jumped out as just wrong. The 2001 D Panda coins differ from generic 2001 Panda coins, as they feature a "D" incused into the design. This D was used to distinguish "Domestic" Pandas versus the "International" Pandas made for exportation. Quite a few authentic 2001 D Panda coins have made it to the United States, but it still remains more than double the price of a non D issue.

 
  Real
Temple

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Counterfeit
Temple

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  Real
Steps

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Counterfeit
Steps

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There were many differences between the authentic 2001 D Panda and the counterfeit, but the counterfeit was so good, it's scary. Beginning with the temple side, the difference is hard to see in comparison to a real specimen. While the finish is matched almost perfectly, the difference is in the details. The counterfeit has added details at the steps of the temple, something like plants, for visual effect. Also the temple appears more granular in texture with less of a smooth finish.

On the panda side, the differences are obvious. The fish is dramatically different, looking much more dull and granular. The design is completely wrong, from the bamboo branches to the panda's eyes and hair. Details are added and embellished while some features of the authentic coin are ignored. In a side-by-side comparison, this counterfeit would be hard to miss.

Additionally, there is a considerable difference in weight. The authentic Panda weighs a little over an ounce and the counterfeit weighs .965 ounces. The metal content is also incorrect. The authentic Panda is made of silver with a .999 fineness and the counterfeit tested out as silver-plated copper. The easiest way to tell the difference between a silver piece and a non-silver piece would be a ring test. This piece failed.

The most frightening part of the discovery of this counterfeit 2001 D Panda is that it is a new coin. Many believe that moderns are not likely to be forged, but this proves that these new, affordable, and even somewhat common pieces may be counterfeited by those who seek to profit through fraud and theft. At the same time, this discovery reinforces the importance of authentication and certification as a deterrent and safety measure to protect your investments. This is hopefully a rare occurrence, but it is unlikely that this is the last of the counterfeit Panda coins we will see.