Inside a Chinese Coin Counterfeiting Ring

Chinese Fake Coin Minting

Jinghua Shei

The photos in this gallery were taken inside a Chinese coin counterfeiting operation. This counterfeiting ring is suspected of putting thousands of fake coins onto the world and U.S. coin markets every month. These striking photos first emerged on certain Web-based coin discussion boards in Europe and the Far East. They came about through a numismatic watchdog/satire blog called Biddle's Bank. These are the same coins that are put into counterfeit PCGS and NGC coin holders, although they are most frequently sold raw coins (non-slabbed).

The sheer size, scope, and professionalism of this counterfeiting ring will astonish you. Although the working conditions often appear dirty and the minting equipment is old, this is a well-funded enterprise that is run like a legal business in China. There is no law in China against making these "replicas" as long as they are sold as such.

  • 01 of 23

    Another Coin Press Used by the Chinese Counterfeiters

    Coin press used in Chinese coin counterfeiting ring striking material.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei

    This photo shows a different coin press than the one in the previous photo. This one is striking fake Morgan silver dollars.

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  • 02 of 23

    Fake Morgan Dollars Being Struck

    Machine striking fake Morgan silver dollars.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei

    Several freshly struck fake Morgan silver dollars lie to the right of the machine. They look like they might even be proof Morgans, which would almost certainly be struck on a machine that uses hand-fed coin blanks, but some of the machinery in this operation looks pretty old so maybe they're just normal Morgans after all. Whatever quality of striking they have, whether it be proof or normal, one thing is certain: they're fake.

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  • 03 of 23

    Fake Morgan Dollars Made in China

    Seven fake Morgan silver dollars in a person's hand.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    These freshly minted fake Morgan silver dollars are high-quality counterfeits. Of course, this counterfeiting ring will process them so that each one appears to have a different amount of wear, toning, contact marks, and other minor imperfections so that they don't all look too much alike. Some of these fake Morgan silver dollars will also find their way into counterfeit PCGS and NGC slabs, but my sources tell me that most of the fakes these counterfeiters sell are sold "raw" (rather than slabbed).

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  • 04 of 23

    Edge View of Fake Morgan Dollars

    The edges of six fake Morgan silver dollars in someone's hand.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    The high quality of these fake Morgan silver dollars is evident. The coins may or may not have been struck on genuine .900 fine silver planchets, though. The Chinese have been experts at creating lookalike alloys for more than 1,500 years.

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  • 05 of 23

    Chinese Worker Applies Edge Lettering to Fake Coins

    A Chinese worker in a coin counterfeiting ring operates a machine that puts edge lettering on fake silver coins.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei

    A worker, who looks to be a woman, is operating a machine that applies edge lettering to the edges of the struck coins. This machine is somewhat different from the Schuler edge lettering machine in use at the U.S. Mint for the golden dollars. According to reader Henry N., this one operates more like a castaing machine, which was the first machine ever developed for the express purposes of putting edge lettering and other marks on the edges of coins. Minting experts Mike Diamond and Fred Weinberg also concur, based on what they can see in the photo, that the machine is applying edge lettering. Reader Kostas K. pointed out that if you look carefully just to the left of the large tube, you can see a coin traveling through the machine.

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  • 06 of 23

    An Assortment of Fake Coin Dies in China

    A selection of dyes is shown for striking fake coins in an illegal Chinese coin minting operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei

    To strike coins, you need coin dies, and the Chinese counterfeiters are making some fairly high-quality ones. Most of the dies shown here are of various American silver dollars, although there are a few Indian Head cent dies and some foreign coin types.

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  • 07 of 23

    Close-Up of Fake Silver Coin Dies

    Close-up photo of the dies used by a Chinese coin counterfeiting ring.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei

    Notice the high quality of these dies for making fake silver crown-sized coins. The die on the right is the reverse of a British silver crown dated 1899. The die on the left is the obverse of a silver Greek 5 Drachmai dated between 1833 and 1845. Although the British Crown, if genuine, would sell for a few hundred dollars, the Greek coin made by these dies would cost thousands. Of course, each coin die can strike tens of thousands of specimens, making this a very profitable operation.

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  • 08 of 23

    Chinese Workers Making Counterfeit Rare Coins

    Workers in a Chinese coin counterfeiting ring work the coin press as it strikes fake U.S. silver coins.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei

    Here's another one of the Chinese counterfeiting ring's coin presses, this time being operated by two men. The machinery looks pretty old and maybe not very well maintained. Certainly, it's very filthy, but the work these men are doing is filthy in itself, making counterfeit rare coins to pollute our coin collecting marketplace.

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  • 09 of 23

    Thousands of Fake Coins From China

    Thousands of fake coins struck by a Chinese counterfeiting ring in a box.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei

    This wide-angle shot is deceiving at first. For perspective, consider that the blue stool in the middle of the photo is a full-sized step-stool type of seat. Surrounding it are boxes of Chinese-made fake silver coins, all neatly sorted into compartments. Many of these coins will end up in fake PCGS, NGC, ANACS, or other grading service holders, but the majority of them are sold ungraded. Some of them are even sold "legitimately" as "replicas" rather than as the genuine coin, but without a marking indicating that they're copies, it is easy for dishonest people to pass them off as authentic.

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  • 10 of 23

    Chinese-Made Fake Silver and Copper Coins

    Counterfeit coins in boxes made by a major Chinese fake coin operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    Here's a little bit closer look at the coins in the many counterfeit coins this Chinese minting operation has struck. Most of them are silver-colored (although probably not made of real silver), and a few of them are made of copper. Those boxes don't look very sturdy (remember, coins are quite heavy in these quantities, even fake ones), yet the coins are transported to coin shows in these cases. Of course, you won't see these boxes on the coin show trading floor. This sort of quantity is the type of deal done behind closed doors in private hotel rooms.

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  • 11 of 23

    Fake Standing Liberty Quarters

    Counterfeit Standing Liberty quarters and Indian Head cents made by a major Chinese fake coin operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei

    This close-up photo shows lots and lots of freshly struck fake Standing Liberty quarters. There are also Chinese-made fake Indian Head cents, and what look to be maybe large cents and perhaps some counterfeit dimes and nickels.

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  • 12 of 23

    One of the Showrooms in the Chinese Counterfeiting Factory

    Counterfeit coins, bars, and other small objects can be seen in this showroom in a Chinese coin and antiquities counterfeiting operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    This is one of the showrooms for the counterfeiting ring. This is a little like a store, where customers can come in and buy smaller bulk quantities of the fake coins and other items made by this operation.

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  • 13 of 23

    Another Storage Area or Showroom for Chinese Fakes

    Counterfeit goods made by a major Chinese fake coin operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    This is a storage area or another showroom type of place. The actual non-customer-accessible storage areas, as seen in other photos in this gallery, are much more cluttered and filthy.

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  • 14 of 23

    Fake Indian Head and Large Cents

    Counterfeit Indian Head pennies and large cents made by a major Chinese fake coin operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    This container is full of Chinese-made fake Indian Head cents and fake U.S. large cents. The dates on the fake large cents include 1854 and 1857. Fake Indian Head cents include 1869, 1870, 1871, 1872, 1877, 1908-S, and 1909-S. There's a possibility that there are fake 1856 Flying Eagle cents. As you can see, this ring seems to prefer making counterfeits of key coins and the other more valuable dates, sometimes to the point of absurdity, as in its fake 1913 Liberty nickels. Don't be fooled, though. There are also seen plenty of more common dates. When it only costs you two to four cents per coin to make them, even selling them for a "paltry" $15 or $20 each is an excellent profit. These people claim they don't sell singles. They're self-proclaimed "replica wholesalers," and it's not their fault if other people misrepresent their merchandise. They claim they're merely filling a demand in the marketplace.

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  • 15 of 23

    One of the Many Storerooms in the Chinese Counterfeiting Factory

    Counterfeit coins and artifacts made by a major Chinese fake coin operation await sale in one of their many storage rooms.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    This room is more cluttered and messy than some of the other presumably "showroom" photos, although this might be a showroom area, too. But really, the storeroom or showroom is just as filthy when it is loaded with fake coins, antique art objects, and antiquities, all meant for Western collectors' markets.

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  • 16 of 23

    Fake Chinese Ingots and Bars

    Counterfeit ingots and bars made by a major Chinese fake coin operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    This Chinese counterfeiting ring doesn't confine its production to coins. They also manufacture other fake numismatic items, such as ingots, bars, and currency banknotes. This photo shows some of the fake ingots and bars, which are made of very debased metals.

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  • 17 of 23

    Fake Chinese Iron and Bronze Artifacts

    Counterfeit iron and bronze coins made by a major Chinese fake coin operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    One of the most amusing ironies in this Chinese counterfeiting business is that these counterfeiters make and sell a vast number of fake Chinese antiquities. This is ironic because ​genuine Chinese antiquities are very common in China. Farmers find them in their fields every season. Graveyards have been found that contain literally millions upon millions of ancient Chinese coins and artifacts. However, the penalty for exporting these genuine cultural heritage items can be death, but the penalty for exporting replicas is only that you have to pay your business profit taxes like everyone else.

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  • 18 of 23

    Fake Chinese Antiquities

    Counterfeit antiquities made by a major Chinese fake coin and art operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    This photo features a couple of dozen images that depicted the fake antiquities and art objects that this counterfeiting ring is producing. Although these items might look like they were dug up from thousand-year-old graves, they were just made last week.

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  • 19 of 23

    Fake Ancient Chinese Coins

    Counterfeit ancient coins made by a major Chinese fake coin operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    These freshly made fake Chinese ancient coins are made by the same counterfeiting operation that makes the silver dollars, crowns, and other fake silver and copper coinage depicted in this gallery. Although the coins might appear to have been dug up from the ground, they are merely treated artifacts that were cast within the past couple of weeks.

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  • 20 of 23

    Fake Chinese Dynastic Coins

    Counterfeit dynastic coins made by a major Chinese fake coin operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    These coins, while fake, replicate the type of coin which has been made in China for at least 2,500 years. Genuine ancient Chinese coins are some of the most fascinating and low-cost ancient coins on the market, but with so many fakes coming out of China it is very dangerous to your pocketbook to collect them unless you know your stuff. Fakes like these can be very convincing to non-expert Chinese coin collectors.

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  • 21 of 23

    Fake Chinese Currency and Goods

    Counterfeit currency and tourist goods made by a major Chinese fake coin operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    In the photos, there are very few banknotes shown. In the back on the lower shelf, you can see coin dies for sale, so you can make your counterfeit coins.

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  • 22 of 23

    Processed Fake Coins Awaiting Dispersal

    Counterfeit coins made by a major Chinese fake coin operation await dispersal into our marketplace.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    These coins represent an assortment of fake coins that have been processed after striking to make them look circulated or dug from the ground. The Chinese are experts at the art of processing newly minted items to make them look old, and these coins are a typical example of this time-honored Chinese art.

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  • 23 of 23

    Fake Chinese Slabs

    Counterfeit slabs made by a major Chinese fake coin operation.
    Photo courtesy of Jinghua Shei.

    This photo shows coins that have been put in slabs or coin holders that have a grade on them. It's kind of amusing to see notations such as "AU 55 Details - Cleaned," as if the coin is genuine About Uncirculated 55-graded coin that has been damaged by cleaning rather than the outright fake that it is. Unfortunately, such dissembling fools people because some people refuse to believe that counterfeiters would go to the trouble to make a fake coin and then degrade its value by damaging it. The counterfeiters know that the damage makes the coins more acceptable to many people because it allays suspicion about the authenticity of the coin in these people's minds.

    These fake slabs are not the PCGS or NGC types that have been in the news recently, but there is no doubt at all that the coins this operation is making are being placed into the fake grading service holders of these companies.