The latest round of fake gold coins has the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) calling the cops.
“We take the issue of counterfeiting very seriously and these activities are being addressed with the assistance of domestic and international law enforcement agencies,” RCM spokesman Alex Reeves told Canadian Coin News. “We encourage anyone in possession of such products to reach out to law enforcement authorities without delay.”
The issue Reeves was referring to was the latest in the work of fake Chinese versions of Canadian gold coins and bars being sold on the Chinese website alibaba.com. He would not elaborate on the steps being taken.
The firm Shenzhen Shun Xin Da Handicraft Co. Ltd., based in the city of Guangdong, has a large offering of “gold-plated tungsten coins” including RCM gold maples and one-ounce bars, United States Mint gold eagles and South African krugerrands.
The firm is offering the items, with various dates, as “souvenirs” at a price of “$250 to $500” depending on the number ordered and metal prices at the time of the order.
Payment is 50 per cent down before production, the rest before delivery, with a production time of one to two weeks. The firm states it can produce up to one million pieces per month.
The pieces have a weight of 33.93 grams, and are made of tungsten with gold plating up to 60 microns thick. Several photos, purporting to be the firm’s copies of gold eagle coins, show the coin being weighed and measured and having the same specifications as the real coin.
The firm’s website states it has three types of customers: collectors who are attracted by the several grams of gold in the plating; gift givers who want to send a quality gift but can’t afford the real thing; and, thirdly, profiteers.
“You would pay half of the original and give your friend a gift worth $1,300 USD,” the site brags.
The final group is described as “those who really want to make big money. Because our gold coin (bar) is easy to resale.”
“There is no doubt that it is very hot and popular in marketing, now,” the site stated.
Among the products offered by the firm are: a gold maple leaf copy described as an Elizabeth tungsten gold coin, 2004; and a copy of an RCM gold bar, described as “Royal Canadian tungsten gold bar.”
The firm also states it can manufacture versions of other coins as bars on request.
The firm states its products pass the acid test, X-ray test, and scratch test.
While the practice of faking gold coins is not new, the presence of more sophisticated fakes has led to changes on bullion products, including those produced by the RCM.
“We have also considerably enhanced the security of our new gold and silver maple leaf bullion coins with visible and covert features and the advantages of our new product are being promoted throughout our distribution network,” Reeves said.
Among those enhancements are the use of laser marks linked to a database of coin images, a new bullion finish with fine radial lines and micro-engraving.
Reeves said the RCM encourages consumers to buy from reputable dealers.
“It’s important to note that our first advice to bullion buyers is that they should only buy from a reputable dealer, which is clearly stated in the bullion section of our website,” he said.
The fakes were brought to the attention of the numismatic world by Philip and Harry Mernick, of London, England, who forwarded links to the website.
While tungsten carbide will be attracted to a magnet, pure tungsten is non-ferrous. The Chinese firm claims that their products are not attracted to a magnet. In most cases the only reliable test is to drill the item and see if a dark tungsten core is exposed.
Tungsten, also known as wolfram, is a rare metal, with a density much higher than lead, and comparable to gold. It was first identified in 1781. Its commercial uses include X-ray tubes, welding, radiation shielding, and in tungsten carbide, an alloy used for munitions, cutting tools, and abrasives.
At press time its value was approximately $40 US per ounce, compared to $1,195 US for gold.
In 2012 plated tungsten gold bars were reported in Manhatten, after being spotted earlier in Europe.