Fake Silver Pandas Continue to Emerge: 1995 “Large Twig”

Posted by Jay Turner, NGC Grader and Attributor, on 1/24/2008

Jay Turner examines the latest Silver Panda counterfeit that has been uncovered within the numismatic world and describes the various ways one can spot it.

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The Chinese Panda has only been around since 1982 but, surprisingly, it has become one of the most widely counterfeited World coins. In previous articles, we wrote about counterfeit 2001-D and 2003 Silver Pandas. In this article, we’ll examine the diagnostics of a counterfeit 1995 “Large Twig” Silver Panda.

NGC certifies a lot of Panda coins. The series is as popular as ever with collectors. It’s especially popular among collectors participating in the NGC Registry. Each piece that NGC certifies is not only graded but checked for authenticity. Recently, a counterfeit 1995 “Large Twig” Silver Panda with unusual finish and tooling marks was submitted for grading.

In 1995, the Chinese Mints put out different varieties of Panda designs. The Mint State issues were struck at two different mints with subtly varying designs or varieties. The Shanghai Mint issue featured a panda with a “Large Twig” branch extending upwards from its hand. The Shenyang Mint had a “Small Twig” version with no branch extending beyond the panda’s hands. The Shenyang Mint or “Small Twig” also comes in Large and Small Date sub-varieties. To date, NGC has not received any submissions of counterfeit 1995 “Small Twig” Silver Pandas, and the “Large Twig” described here is the only counterfeit we have received that is dated 1995.

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At first glance, the counterfeit may look genuine, making it a deceptive forgery to the unsuspecting person. Upon making a side-by-side comparison with an authentic coin, it quickly falls apart. Counterfeits are often detected by weight alone. This coin does, in fact, weigh light: only 26g compared with 31g, the weight of an authentic Panda.

In most cases, there is no cause to weigh a Panda, unless it looks suspicious, which this coin does! The most noticeable sign of suspicion is its finish. The authentic 1995 Panda has a satin finish field compared to the counterfeit, which has a deeply mirrored field. This alone should never be a diagnostic for authenticity in the Panda series, because many issues do have varied finishes. Some year’s issues have both satin and mirror finishes on authentic coinage.

Looking deeper at the detail, one should note the temple steps on the reverse side. On the counterfeit, the reverse design is different from a real 1995 temple design, which has plain steps. Later issues have ornate patterns on the center of the steps, as shown on the counterfeit. The most certain tell-tale is visible under magnification. The legends of the counterfeit show tooling, especially on the lettering of the Panda side. “.999 1oz Ag” has been re-engraved multiple times on the counterfeit showing raised lines inside the frosted lettering. These lines do not occur on genuine Panda coins. While this tooling is most obvious on the obverse, lighter tooling marks are also visible on the Chinese characters on the temple side.

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The next detail to look at is the design elements. The counterfeit has a very bumpy, almost pitted, appearance — especially the panda, leaves, and Chinese characters. Real Panda coins have a smooth texture. The counterfeit also has large spaces between the leaves that authentic 1995 “Large Twig” Pandas do not have. The last detail to look at is one that always appears to challenge counterfeiters: the panda’s eye. On the authentic coin, the eye of the panda does not stand out. It is gracefully blended into the design. The counterfeit panda however has a round raised eye that is rather pronounced. A similar diagnostic is apparent on other counterfeit Panda coins.

Regrettably, most any collectible of value becomes the object of counterfeiting, even if the value is relatively modest, as in this case. The 1995 “Large Twig” Silver Panda frequently trades uncertified for less than $50. The best defense against counterfeits is to educate yourself, work with knowledgeable dealers, and to purchase certified coins.