Counterfeit Gold – Fake Gold Coins and Bars

High Demand offers Huge Incentives to Gold Forgers

High demand for Investment Grade Gold offers huge financial incentives to forgers. In the past decade, a staggering amount of high quality counterfeit Gold Buillion Coins and Bars have been discovered with tungsten (aka wolfram) cores.

Counterfeit Gold Bar with Tungsten CoreCounterfeit Gold Bar with Tungsten Core

Gold plated tungsten is extremely difficult to detect because its density (1204.41 lbs/cubic ft) is nearly identical to gold (1206.83 lbs/cubic ft), so its weight difference (-0.2%) is within common tolerance limits. Tungsten is also the cheapest metal a forger can buy to make fake gold. In 2010, tungsten cost $25 per pound and sold for $18,000 in fake gold – making it the Gold standard of counterfeits.

High-Quality Counterfeit Gold Bars Revealed

Counterfeit Gold Bars SurfaceIn 2009, China reportedly received 6,000 Gold Bars 400 oz. that originated in the United States and were stored in Fort Knox for years (their serial numbers provided tracking). Purity tests were performed by drilling four small holes into the bars to analyze the base metal. All of the bars revealed tungsten cores beneath their relatively thick surface layer of 24k Gold plating.

The Chinese claim that in 1995, during the Clinton administration (Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan and Lawrence Summers), between 1.3 and 1.5 million 400-ounce tungsten blanks were manufactured by a sophisticated refiner in the United States – over 16,000 metric tons. About 640,000 of the tungsten blanks were then gold plated and shipped to Fort Knox, where they remain to this day. The Chinese further claim the remaining 400-ounce fakes were eventually gold-plated and sold into international markets. [The Fort Knox Conundrum]

In 2012, at least 10 counterfeit Gold Bars made of tungsten were sold by a well known Russian salesman to unsuspecting dealers in Manhattan’s Diamond District. [New York Post: Fake gold hits NYC]

Counterfeit Gold Coins Flooding Global Markets

In 2015, an elderly man spent $84,000 on counterfeit 1 ounce American Eagle Gold Coins, and a doctor spent $750,000 on counterfeit gold coins. With the help of the Secret Service their money was returned. [NewsMax: Counterfeit Gold a Growing Problem]

In 2016, it was reported that counterfeit gold coins were flooding the market at an astonishing rate. It’s unknown, and impossible to estimate, how many people worldwide bought fake gold coins – totally unaware of their worthless possessions. [NBC News: Glitters, but Not Gold]

Counterfeit Gold Krugerrand Coin

Counterfeit 24k Gold Bar Sold by Royal Bank of Canada branch

In 2017, a jeweler bought a counterfeit Royal Canadian Mint 1-ounce 24k Gold Wafer Bar from a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) branch in Ottawa. It was hermetically sealed in the Royal Canadian Mint’s tamper-proof packaging and bared the correct marks, stamps, and security features: micro-engraved laser maple leaf and line pattern on both sides – not to mention it was sold from the authorized inventory of a RBC branch.

But after the jeweler’s goldsmith opened the packaging to work with the 24k Gold, he quickly discovered it was fake from surface to core. The jeweler underscored the significance of this find, “since the counterfeit gold was sealed in [Royal Canadian] mint packaging, why would an investor have any reason to doubt its provenance and actually open it up to check? Who is going to make sure those are real? I am worried there are more of those out there, and no one knows”. [Canadian certified gold bar exposed as fake: how many more are out there?]

Fake Gold – China’s Thriving Criminal Industry

Production of counterfeit gold coins and bars is a thriving industry in China. [Inside a Chinese Coin Counterfeiting Ring and China’s latest export boom: Fake gold coins]

Chinese counterfeit manufacturers are on the Internet selling at wholesale price: fake Gold American Eagle Coins 1 oz., fake Gold American Buffalo Coins 1 oz., fake Gold Canadian Maple Leaf Coins 1 oz., and more.

Counterfeit 1 oz. Gold American Eagle Coin for sale on the Internet at wholesale priceCounterfeit 1 oz. Gold American Eagle Coin for sale on the Internet at wholesale price

ChinaTungsten is a Gold Bullion Counterfeiting Factory that sells counterfeit Gold Bars and boasts, “While gold is priced in the tens of thousands per pound, tungsten costs less than $100 per pound. Charging the real gold price for tungsten gold leads to a huge profit”, but neglect to say, “and Secret Service or Interpol arrest and fine or imprisonment up to 15 years, or both.” [18 U.S. Code § 485 – Coins or bars]

How to Detect Counterfeit Gold – Fake Coins and Bars

Prior to 2012, all non-destructive Gold testing methods (i.e. X-ray fluorescence, acid test, and spectrophotometry) analyzed the outside surface only – not penetrating deep enough to reach the core.

Weight testing for lighter base metals (i.e. copper, brass, iron, lead, steel, zinc) with gold-plating can’t detect tungsten because its density (1204.41 lbs/cubic ft) is nearly identical to gold (1206.83 lbs/cubic ft), so its weight difference (-0.2%) is within common tolerance limits.

Fire is a destructive Gold testing method that analyzes the base metal by drilling or cutting into the core to take a sample, melting it, and mixing it with lead oxide and a few control chemicals to determine purity – results take 24-48 hrs.

Modern Electronic Gold Testing Machine with UltrasoundModern Electronic Gold Testing Machine with Ultrasound

Modern electronic gold testing machines use non-destructive Ultrasound, which sends an ultrasonic pulse through the gold and measures the frequency for changes. This allows us to determine the gold’s purity from surface to core and detect a gold plated base metal (i.e. tungsten cores and rods) – results are in real-time.

Counterfeit Gold Bar with Tungsten RodsCounterfeit Gold Bar with Tungsten Rods

“It is clear there is an increase in the types of fakes sold by unscrupulous dealers. These sales of counterfeit coins are potentially a multi-million dollar problem for the public. There’s an old saying that can help buyers avoid problems: If you don’t know coins, you better know your dealer,”
-Dana Samuelson, President
Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG)


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