Counterfeit Detection: 1891 Japanese Yen

Posted on 4/21/2022

Collectors can avoid getting burned by this common-date dragon coin.

Today, the Japanese yen is one of the world’s top currencies for trade. It was introduced in the late 19th century and was inspired by the round, silver Spanish coinage that had facilitated commerce in East Asia for generations. This interesting heritage is part of the denomination’s name—yen is the Japanese word for “round.”

The Meiji Year 24 (1891) Japanese yen is a beautiful coin, but it isn’t a great rarity. Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) has graded over 250 of them, more than half in mint state. Low mint-state examples can be acquired for a few hundred dollars. However, counterfeiters are known to try to exploit almost any price point. More-common coins can offer an opportunity because collectors might let their guard down.

Genuine 1891 Japanese Yen
Click images to enlarge.

NGC recently received an example of a Japanese yen with multiple problems. First, its luster does not appear as expected. In addition, the high points of the design are flat and yellowish in color, a result of weak striking pressure. Also, the denticles fade out on the fake, specifically at 12 and 6 o’clock on the obverse.

However, the design appears to be well-executed. A closer examination reveals why: The dies for this fake were transferred from a genuine coin. We know this because a second counterfeit previously sent to NGC features the same depressions. These imperfections include a scratch near the top of the obverse and a ding near the end of the dragon’s tail. Of course, two genuine coins could never obtain the exact same marks in circulation. Therefore, both counterfeits must have been struck using the same dies created from an authentic “host” coin.

This counterfeit coin (top) features identical depressions to those found on a coin that NGC previously authenticated (bottom). The dies used to create both fakes were transferred from a genuine example.
Click images to enlarge.

Be confident that your coins are genuine—NGC backs its determinations of grade and authenticity with the NGC Guarantee.

Reproduced with permission from the February 2022 edition of The Numismatist, an official publication of the American Numismatic Association.

Did you know? NGC has created a comprehensive Counterfeit Detection resource to help collectors and dealers identify counterfeit and altered coins. Visit

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