In the last few months, counterfeit 1 oz silver panda coins, with and without denomination, have flooded the US ebay, especially from the sellers located in China. Lately, counterfeit pandas are listed by US sellers with feedback more than 1,000 and rating better than 99.5%. Most of those sellers do not have the expertise in pandas and their oversights are helping to spread the counterfeit silver pandas in US. It becomes vital important to provide with some guidelines to spot the counterfeit China silver pandas. This guideline is for educational purpose and I do not claim copyright. If you want to link to your website, please do so.
Examples of counterfeit coins are given at the end of this article and updated regularly.
Guidelines for coins and packages:
1. (Updated on 6/6/06, a quicker and easier way to spot a counterfeit pandas without the pictures of the genuine coins) In order to prevent counterfeit, China Mints made few subtle changes in the design of the temple (obverse) for different dates. Three rows of circular rock fence of the walkway on the both sides of stairway of temple have different number of posts for each row. For example, for genuine coins, there are six posts in the bottom row for the period of 1983-1985, 5 posts for the period of 1987-1991, 4 posts for the period of 1992-2001, and 3 posts for the period of 2002-2006. All counterfeits, based on the pictures at ebay, have 3 or 4 posts in the bottom row. Starting 2002, drawings were added to the divider of the stairway in genuine coins, while the counterfeit coins may have a smooth surface. In summary, those coins with 4 posts in the bottom row for years between 1983-1991 and 2002-2006 are counterfeit. Those coins with 3 posts for years between 1983-2001 are counterfeit. Those coins with 4 posts, between 1992-2001 may need further examination by comparing pictures with genuine coins as outlined in 3, 4, and 5. All pandas, prior to 2002, with drawings on the surface of the center divider of the stairway, and after 2002, a smooth surface, are counterfeit. There are other design changes made by China Mints for different years, such as, the door to the temple and the number of the beams on top of the door. The counterfeit coins do not match those design changes. There are no 1982, 1986 and 1988 1 oz silver pandas issued by China Mint as suggested by the sellers of counterfeit coins.
2. The soft plastic pouch of mint package is embossed with rope pattern on the sealed edges. Some, but not all, counterfeit coins have a flattened sealed surface and they are relatively easy to spot. There are different rope patterns for different China Mints. Shanghai Mint has a small and different rope styles vs. Shenyang Mint, while Shenzhen Guobao Mint has its name embossed on two sides of the pouch and the rope pattern is similar to the Shenyang Mint on the other two sides. Make sure the coin received is identical to the picture. There are counterfeit coins sealed in the embossed patterns similar to China Mints.
3. The position of the date on the obverse can be used to further identify the counterfeit coins. For genuine coins, at least two variations of date for BU coins between 1990 and 1999. Shanghai Mint usually has a small date and Shenyang Mint has a large date. The date of counterfeit coins usually is slightly off-position vs. genuine coins, using the stairway of the temple as guidepost.
4. In the majority of counterfeit coins, the 1 in 19xx and 2 in 200x are different from the genuine coins. The tapered tip of 1 in 19xx usually is longer for counterfeit coins vs. genuine for the years before 1990 with the exception of 1987. In 1987 coin, the 7 in 1987 is cured at top for genuine coin, while the counterfeit is a straight 7.
5. For genuine coins during the period between 1992 to 1996, all 1 in 19xx are underlined (has a small baseline as part of 1). If you do not see the underlined 1, it is counterfeit. 4 in 1994 and 2004 are also have an underlined base for genuine coin, but not in the counterfeit coins. Unfortunately, if you are a new panda collector, you have no genuine coins to compare with. The websites of Pandausa and Pandaamerican provide pictures of genuine coins of all dates. However, the ebay policy will not allow me to make direct link of these non-ebay sites in this guide.
6. There are 1 oz proof pandas minted between 1987 and 1996. Those proof coins have a very low mintage, no more than 20,000 for each date, with the exceptions of 1987 and 1989. They do not have varieties for the same date as BU coins, and therefore, it is relatively easy to spot the counterfeit by comparing the pictures. From 1989 to 1992, for each year, the design of proof coin is identical to BU with the exception of a "P" mark added in the reverse of the proof coin. From 1993 to 1996, the design of proof coin differs from BU. However, "P" mark is still added to 1993 and 1994 proof coins. There is no "P" mark for 1995 and 1996 proof coins.
7. Genuine 1983-1987 coins have characters on the plaque of the top floor of temple, while the counterfeit coins are blank. It should be noted that most counterfeit coins after 1987 have characters on the plaque, identical to the genuine coins. Similar to US coins, the obverse (temple of heaven) of genuine pandas for 1983-1985 is upside down vs. reverse side, in contrast to the pandas minted after 1985. The obverse and reverse is in the same direction for pandas minted between 1987 and 2006. The counterfeit pandas for these three years are similar to later years; obverse and reverse are in the same direction.
8. The temple of heaven for genuine 1992-1994 BU coins is shiny and bright while the background (inner ring) has a frosty surface. All other dates have a frosty temple and shiny bright background inner ring.
9. Starting 2002, all silver pandas have a slanted reeding vs. a straight reeding for years prior to 2002. There is a rare 2000 China domestic version 1 oz silver panda which has a proof-like outer ring in obverse vs. export version which has a frosty ring as most 2000 panda at ebay.
10. The weight of double sealed 1 oz panda coin should be at least 38 gm for coin minted between 1987 and 1999, depending on the size and type of soft plastic pouch and hard plastic holder, with a exception of 1993. Weight of 1993 is slightly less then 38 gm due to the small size of hard plastic holder. Between 2000-2006, the harder plastic holder has a convex surface, is slightly thicker at center and, therefore, the weight is slightly higher, more than 39 gm. For 1983-1985, the coin itself should be 27 gm and usually not in the sealed plastic pouch. However, the counterfeit also weighs about 27 gm. Nevertheless, those counterfeit coins are relatively easy to spot. They have a longer tapered tip 1 in the dates. Some counterfeit coins actually weigh about 1 oz. Therefore, the weight of the package can not be used exclusively as the determine factor of the genuineness of the coin. However, if your double sealed coin is weighted less than the weight specified above, it is most likely a counterfeit.
1. Fixed price is lower than the actual silver value and the S/H charge is extremely high.
2. Seller ID is kept in private and they usually have a low feedback number. The scammers can create feedback and good rating for them by buying a few inexpensive items, usually non-coin items.
3. Item picture is vague and does not show both sides of the coin.
4. The counterfeit panda coins from China, sometimes, come with a COA issued by a private company. There are official COAs issued by Governor of the Bank of China for proof coins for each year with a statement of mintage and year, in Chinese and English. There is no official COA issued by Bank of China for BU pandas as suggested by those counterfeit coin sellers.
Hopefully this guide will help you to spot the counterfeit pandas before the bidding and save you the time and energy in trying to recover the loss from the sellers after the winning of a counterfeit panda. The observation made herein is based on the pictures of the counterfeit coins at ebay. There is a very good chance that new batch of counterfeit coins may be different from the current counterfeit. So, do the research carefully before bidding.
Final note, the mintage of pandas are very low vs. other bullion coins. The price is still very low and affordable. Because of their popularity among coin collectors, the pandas become the target of counterfeit, just like US silver trade dollars many years back. If you do the research carefully, you still can find the genuine coins at a very reasonable price. Good luck in your search for genuine pandas.
For disclosure purpose, I have no personal and financial connection to pandausa and pandaamerican mentioned above. I bought few China coins (not panda) from these companies more than 10 years ago.
(Updated on 4/15/08) The following counterfeit coins are currently listed by a US seller:
1999 silver panda, (#220216120387)
1985 silver panda, (#320239325864)
1989 silver panda, (#320231486612)
1992 silver panda, (#220216118963)
1993 silver panda, (#220216119239)
1995 silver panda, (#220216119722)
(Updated on 7/21/08): The following two counterfeit pandas were listed by an US seller with feedback over 1,000 and 100% rating.
1996 silver panda, (#130238231282)
1997 silver panda, (#140243610750)