Counterfeit Detection

2015 China 300 Yuan

Published May 2, 2024 | 2 min read

By Numismatic Guaranty Company

Some coins are definitely not meant to be carried around in a wallet or purse. One example is China’s 2015 silver 300 yuan celebrating the Year of the Goat. It has a diameter of 100mm (a little less than 4 inches) and weighs a kilogram (about 2.2 pounds). You could hurt someone with this coin!

The 300 yuan has an elegant design with a realistic depiction of a goat in the foreground and a larger artistic rendering of the animal’s face and horns looming in the background. In addition to its numismatic value, it contains about a thousand dollars’ worth of .999-fine silver. Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) recently received a submission that included a purported example of this beautiful modern coin.

The submission has a number of design differences that are evident even without a loupe. For instance, the small stars cradling the large one are bigger on the fake and are almost touching each other. Also, the fish and the surrounding ornate scroll pattern on the border vary significantly from those on a genuine example.

In addition, the goat lacks fine detail in its fur. Also, the font of the characters on the counterfeit is thinner than on a genuine example, which is particularly noticeable on the yuan symbol. 

An expert eye could determine this coin is fake by looking at the edge. It is much thicker than it should be. This is because the piece is struck mostly in copper and nickel, which are significantly less dense than the more expensive silver. Whenever a counterfeiter substitutes a less-dense metal composition, they must decide whether to make the coin’s weight, diameter, or thickness inconsistent with a genuine example. Because an incorrect weight or diameter are often perceptible even without a scale or ruler, the thickness is generally where the counterfeiter will try to conceal their deception.

Not all counterfeits are this easy to spot. If you want to rest assured that your coin is genuine, remember that NGC backs its determinations of authenticity and grade with the NGC Guarantee. 

A version of this article appears in the June 2024 issue of The Numismatist (