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About Counterfeit and Fake Silver Bars and Coins


Dealers don't want people to think that there is much fake silver out there, as scared customers reduces demand for their products. However, we think it is important for you to understand the risks out there, and be informed -- so you will be less likely to suffer a loss due to counterfeit or fake silver bars or coins.


What Silver Bars and Coins are Commonly Counterfeited?


Chinese Silver Panda Coins

These are likely the most widespread counterfeit coins out there. Some of them are easily identified because they are missing the denomination (e.g. '10 Yuan'), most are easily identified because they weigh less than they should (~25g versus the 31.1g a real one should weigh), but some come in what looks at first glance to be sheets of mint plastic with genuine COAs.

If you are looking to buy silver pandas, the best thing to do here is buy from a knowledgeable dealer, who sells a fair amount of Chinese pandas.



100 Ounce Silver Bars

See our page on lead-filled 100 ounce silver bars for the full details and pictures.

Apparently, at some point in the 1980s, it was discovered that some 100 ounce silver bars were drilled and filled with lead. They are reported to weigh the same as real bars, and to be virtually indistinguishable from real bars. However, they are not as prevelant as one might imagine. And, they contain about 25 to 45 ounces of silver, so the bars are not a total loss.


U.S. Silver Eagles

There are some counterfeit U.S. Silver Eagles, but most are very crude (e.g. having a date of 1906, before the silver eagles were first minted).


Gold Coins/Bars

There are quite a few gold coins, and some gold bars, that have been counterfeited. Almost all are underweight, or thicker than a real coin. The others are usually thicker than normal. The two exceptions to this rule are [1] gold coins with numismatic value (I.E. rare coins) may be counterfeited with real gold, and [2] if a coin or bar was made using tungsten, it could be the same size as a real coin (yet it would be difficult to create).


What about Tungsten Filled 400 ounce Gold Bars?

Someone named Rob Kirby reported on 15 Oct 2009 that "In an Asian depository they’ve found “Good Delivery” bricks that had been gutted and filled with tungsten". Then, on 12 Nov 2009, he further reported that 5,600-5,700 400oz gold bars were discovered in Hong Kong. And that within hours "Chinese officials had many of the perpetrators in custody", despite the fact that this occurred "Roughly 15 years ago – during the Clinton Administration." And that 1.3-1.5 million 400 oz tungsten blanks were made by a refiner in the U.S., about half of which were shipped to Ft. Knox and are still there. And that the rest were gold-plated and sold internationally.

Reports of tungsten-based 400 ounce gold bars have occurred as easly as about 1982 (per Precious Metals 1982, by International Precious Metals Institute, p.657 -- "there are 400 ounces and kilo bars with tungsten cores bearing real looking but counterfeit markings of respected refiners.")

However, this report has plenty of holes. First, there are no sources. Then, the first report and second conflict (real bars that are gutten and filled with tungsten, versus tungsten blanks that are gold plated). Then, there's the fact that there are precise details (5,600 to 5,700 bars, 1.3 to 1.5 million blanks), which if true show that sources include Hong Kong officials *and* United States perpetrators, yet the alleged refiner wasn't named.

Even more telling is the fact that the United States currently only has 2 refiners approved for London Good Delivery Bars (Johnson Matthey and Metalor USA Refining Corporation). So there aren't a huge number of potential candidates. And the fact that Chinese officials apparently had 'many' of the perpetrators in custody (yet most of the perpetrators would have been in the United States). Plus, there's the fact that getting 5,600 400 ounce gold bars into the London Good Delivery system isn't easy.

Also, 520 million ounces of gold is more than half of what all the governments in the world have in reserves! It is also 6.5 years worth of global mining production. A refiner putting that much gold suddenly into the Good Delivery System would likely raise a lot of suspicion. They also claim that 640,000 bars were shipped to Fort Knox -- yet 640,000 400 ounce bars is 256 million ounces, yet the United States has 261 million ounces of gold. So they are claiming that 98% of the gold in Fort Knox is all fake, made from a United States refiner in the mid-1990s. That is very hard to believe (and if true, where did the real gold from Fort Knox go?).


How To Detect Fake Silver

Weighing

The quickest and easiest way to identify the most common counterfeit silver is to weigh it. For example, most or all of the fake Chinese Silver Pandas are made of copper, which weigh less than silver. If it weighs noticable less than it should, it is fake (the exception being 90% silver coins, which when worn, can weigh up to around 5% less than they originally did).

Measurements

It's a good idea to compare a suspect coin or bar to a real one, to make sure the measurements are the same. A fake silver coin made of copper that is the correct weight will either be wider than normal, or more likely, noticably thicker than normal.

Magnet Test

The standard advice is to hold a magnet to the silver, and if the magnet sticks, it is not silver.

This is true, however there is more to it than that. Silver is considered diamagnetic (as is lead), meaning that it repels a magnet (as the magnet moves). Depending on the amount of silver you are testing, and how strong the magnet is, you may or may not be able to detect this. If you move a strong magnet over a 100 ounce silver bar, you'll feel resistance (similar to moving your hand in water, rather than air). Also, if you drop a magnet from an inch or so above the silver bar, it won't fall quite as fast. And if you place the bar at a 45 degree angle, the magnet will move slowly down the bar (compared to a book, where it will move as fast as expected).

Real silver (or gold) will not be attracted to a magnet. If you have a magnet (preferably a strong one), and it sticks to the suspect coin/bar, then it is not real silver. Note, however, that lead (and copper and tungsten) are not attracted to magnets either, so this test won't reveal a lot of fake silver. Most likely, this would work best with fake silver jewelry.

Ring Test

The 'ring test' is one of the most common ways to detect fake silver. The idea is that silver produces a much more pleasant sound when it vibrates than other metals. With a silver coin or bar, you can put it on the tip of your finger and tap it with another coin. It should generate a long ringing sound like a bell, if it is real silver. If it is made from lead or another metal, it may make a 'thunk' or other sound. Remember, though, that touching silver may make it tarnish more quickly, and touching a coin will reduce any numismatic value it may have (coin dealers handle coins with white gloves).

Blow Test

This is the same as the ring test, except that you hold a silver coin with one fingernail on each side, and blow hard on the side of the coin. You then hold it to your ears, and it should ring with the distinctive tone of silver if it is pure silver.






For more way to test siler, check out SilverCoins Fake Silver Coins: 11 Ways to Spot Counterfeits.



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