Reader Angie recently sent me some pictures of her Yuan Shi Kai dollar for evaluation. After a quick examination, I instantly knew the coin was fake. It is particularly interesting nonetheless. Can you spot what is wrong with this coin?

Fake Yuan Shi Kai dollar

Fake Yuan Shi Kai dollar

Well, aside of the usual suspects (colour, crude calligraphy…), the main problem is in the date. Yuan Shi Kai dollars have been struck continuously from 1914 to 1921, but only four dates appear on the coins: 3rd year of the Republic of China, 8th, 9th and 10th year.

Even if you can not read Chinese, the coins made in the 3rd year (1914) are easily identifiable because there is only six characters above the bust of Yuan Shi Kai. Subsequent years all have seven characters, due to the addition of the character “造” (which means “Made during…”).

Here, you can see that there is six characters on the obverse. So, this should be a 1914 dollar, isn’t it? If you can read chinese numerals, you will see this is not the case. The number “3″ is written “三” in Chinese, and here we can see that the coin is dated from the 4th year (四), 1915…

I had already seen some fake Yuan Shi Kai coins were the characters had been replaced by floral patterns, but I had never seen that kind of forgeries before. It can apparently be bought for a little more than $1 USD on TaoBao (the equivalent of eBay in China).

This is an interesting case, as the forger has boldly chosen to rely on the collector’s excitement and pride at the idea of having found a rare, previously unknown variation of a common coin to lure them!