Jun 272016

With the launch of our official eBay Store, here’s some timely advice on how to avoid buying fake coins and bars.

At The Perth Mint we don’t like hearing about buyers and collectors who have unwittingly purchased fake coins and bars. While you are safe buying direct from us and any of our official distributors, we understand that the coin collecting community also loves to buy and sell among each other.

Unfortunately, increasingly sophisticated copycats are trying to ruin your day! Despite eBay’s rules and policies forbidding the listing of replicas, counterfeit items or unauthorised copies, just about every major manufacturer and respected brand worldwide has had one or more of its products imitated and offered for sale!


As a measure of the problem, even people experienced in gold and silver have been known to be caught out by such scams. They then have to go through the rigmarole of claiming their money back, a hassle which once outside the refund deadline can prove frustrating.

One savvy and enthusiastic eBay buyer recently showed us examples of two fake minted bars he’d fallen victim to, even though the seller had excellent feedback ratings. Fortunately he had an industry contact with an XRF metal analyser and was in the habit of having everything he bought immediately tested. But not everybody is lucky enough to have access to such equipment when they need it!

To avoid the sickly feeling of being duped, buyers of gold and silver bullion need to become as knowledgeable as possible about the dangers. The following insights (which apply equally to buying from eBay, pawn shops or that bloke in the pub!) combined with a precautionary buying strategy based on commonsense principles will help relieve you from any nagging doubts.

What’s at risk?

The problem extends across the full spectrum of bullion and numismatic products, comprising cast (poured) bars, minted bars, as well as gold and silver coins.

Firstly, some good news! The web was abuzz not long ago with a scary story about a cast gold bar which was found to contain rods of tungsten. It led to massive amounts of conjecture about how many similarly defaced bars might be in the market. In truth, however, this unnerving episode was probably over sensationalised. In the long experience of senior staff at The Perth Mint refinery, such fakes are actually a rare occurrence.

On the other hand, the eBay buyer who visited the Mint not long ago said he believes there are large numbers of fake coins and minted bars out there. While they often appear to look like the real thing, generally these practically worthless rip-offs are nothing more than tungsten, copper, lead, nickel or alloy plated in a just a few microns of precious metal.

And hear this. The problem is probably going to get even worse because of the availability of technology that makes copying so easy. The canny counterfeiters may also be starting to target low mintage releases like some of our Australian Lunar coins in the knowledge that they stand a better chance of tempting a collector keen to finish a series.

Some tell tale signs

It’s now more important than ever to look out for any tell-tale signs that will suggest coins and bars offered for sale may be fakes. A listing marked ‘No Returns’ is an obvious red flag. But check carefully that the product’s full specifications are included. Official refiners and manufacturers advertise precise weights and dimensions for their coins and bars and by replacing gold or silver with base metal, counterfeiters are highly unlikely to be able to match these specifications precisely.

When compared to an authentic bar of the same weight, our visitor’s fakes looked good and were accurate in both length and width. But they were way too thick because the lighter metal inside – something that was not revealed by the photographs used in the advertisement. So if any of the specifications are missing from a listing or incorrect by even a single gram or millimeter, then treat it with enormous skepticism.

It’s really obvious that something is up when prices look drastically low. Gold and silver are commodities and cannot, therefore, be bought at a discount. If you think you’ve spotted a bargain or are offered the deal of a lifetime, think again. If it looks too good to be true, it will be!

Know your seller

Let’s be clear, collectors and investors are most likely to be exposed to the risk of fake coins and bars when buying from unknown suppliers. If you don’t know them, why take the risk? Our visitor reinforced this point emphatically when we asked what advice he would like to share with others. Simply “ don’t buy on eBay if you don’t know the dealer.”

In some cases you may be able to physically check them out by visiting the shop and meeting the owner. Maybe talk to some existing customers too. But if that’s impossible, let government-owned mints such as us help you out by referring to their list of authorised resellers.

This really is the golden rule for people on eBay anxious to avoid fakes. The Perth Mint publishes a list of reputable dealers on its website. Based all over the world, they’ve worked with us for many years and when selling on eBay, can be relied upon to provide honest and ethical service. In Australia, buyers can also be confident of dealing with members of the Australian Numismatic Dealers Association from whom you’re going to get what you paid for.

With a little research, you should be able to find similar information from other world mints too.

Visit The Perth Mint’s official store on ebay.



  13 Responses to “How to avoid counterfeit coins and bars”

    • Hi

      However convincing these appear, we cannot vouch for minted gold bars that are not sold direct from the Mint or from one of our authorised distributors. Please note that the genuine selling price at the time of writing is: 5g – A$323.31; 10g – A$608.61; 20g – A$1,175.46.

      Kind regards

      Blog Team

  1. I purchased 2 of the 1 ounce perth mint swan gold bars, first time I had ever made such a purchase! They were listed on Craigslist, I had just so happened to be on Craigslist early that morning and seen a listing where the guy needed to sale his inherited gold bars because he was down on his luck with broken vehicle and several other things! Anyway I met him made a bill of sale and made him sign his name , address and all . I looked at the bars in there original packaging and all looks good to me, so I paid the $900.00 a pc for these things. Now I think I have two fake bars because of the thickness of them . Again I no nothing about buying gold but saw a opportunity to make a little money only to leave me broke and struggling myself. What’s the best way to know if there real or fake?

    • Hi David,

      Sorry to hear your story – it is a familiar one. Because there a many fakes about we do warn people to be vigilant – see our article Avoiding Counterfeit Coins & Bars

      If you take them into your local bullion coin dealer they should be able to test them for you with an XRF machine.

      Hope this has a happy ending for you,

      Kind regards

      Blog Team

  2. What is the weight and thickness of the 1 ounce bar in the protective case? I know that without the case it is 31.1 gram and. 3 mm thick. Thank you

    • Hi Isaac

      The card packaging for The Perth Mint’s 1oz Minted Gold Bar is approximately 10g. The five samples we weighed ranged from 9.953 to 10.168g. The bar itself has a maximum thickness of 3.9mm. Unfortunately we don’t publish any official figure for thickness of the packaging.

      Hope this helps

      Kind regards

      Blog Team

      Hope this helps

  3. I purchased a bullion verification machine (not the XRF one) that, while about the same price as a 1oz bullion gold bar, has given me piece of mind. I have tested against known fakes (fake Kangaroo coins), and it identified them immediately.

    After seeing the quality of the fakes, I realised that I don’t know enough NOT to use this tool. But that’s not enough, and I use this, high precision vernier calipers, and high precision scales. If it looks like the right size, weighs the to right size and has the bullion verification metre telling me it has the properties of the metal I’m expecting… that’s good enough for me. The fakers would have to be faking the minted bullion with pure bullion metal to meet the correct mass and electrical properties (i.e. no tungsten, lead, nickel, etc.).

    Everything I buy gets tested, whether from a reputable seller or not. Don’t be fooled, the “fakes” are VERY high quality.

  4. Unfortunately I recently bought three counterfeit 1 oz bars on UK eBay. I have a selection of 1oz gold bars and found out to my horror the the Perths were counterfeit. Measured against genuine ‘Baird & Co’ and ‘Umicore’ the Perths were the same frontal dimensions but were trice as thick at nearly 4mm. Also including the packaging they weighed 37g. Fortunately I was covered by eBay buyer protection and got full refunds. I note above in a response that it is stated that a genuine Perth 10z is 3.9mm thick. SURELY NOT?????

    • Hi Alan

      Thanks for submitting this cautionary tale. Hopefully others will learn by it.

      Fyi the max thickness of a 1oz minted bar is confirmed at 3.9mm.

      Kind regards

      Blog Team

  5. sorry………….but were TWICE as thick at nearly 4mm.

  6. Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland are finding a lot of fake perth mint gold bars and faked old us coins. They are thicker than any real 1 oz. bars I have seen before. We opened one up and the weight was off and when acid testing it just disappeared with 10kt acid. Two people living in Ocean View, Delaware were arrested this week for selling over 38000.00 in fake gold bars. It is the same story…listed on Craigslist…inherited and selling well below spot. Had a fake Perth Mint bill of sale. I see the same exact packaging on ebay. Any listing online that doesn’t give a side view I would stay away.

    • Thanks Fisher. Reflecting a point we’ve made many times, this article about the case states: “The Delaware State Police reminds citizens to be cautious when purchasing items from individuals or internet sites in which the validity of the product and the security of the purchase could be in question.”

      Kind regards

      Blog Team


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