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Sunday, 30 August 2009 22:47

Fat Man' Dollars Turn Out to be Counterfeit

chinese 1914 yuan fat man dollar By Ken Potter, World Coin News
July 29, 2009

chinese 1914 yuan fat man dollar

Back in the April issue of World Coin News we examined a Chinese 1914 Yuan that collectors affectionately refer to as the "Fat Man" dollar. Two of these were sent to me that were struck with dies that are so weak in detail that the owner suspected them to be counterfeits.

At first glance, both coins also appeared to be double-struck in the collar but unlike most in-collar double strikes, one of them has normal reeding while the other seems to have normal reeding in some areas and then tightly spaced "double reeding" in other places.

Chinese coin specialist Richard Nelson weighed in saying they might be genuine, that this is a very common date on a very common coin that was often struck from worn dies. He stated that many were restruck from the original dies over many years and that the issuers could not always be trusted to make sure the coins were of full weight.

Additionally, I reported that the Standard Catalog of World Coins states the following: "Although bearing dates 1914 through 1921, these Yuan Shi-Kai dollars were struck for years afterwards. Coins dated yr. 3 (1914) were struck continuously through 1919 and were also later restruck by the Chinese Soviets. Later again, in the 1950's this coin was struck for use in Tibet."

However, not all agreed with the status of such coins being alluded to as genuine. In fact, we had two readers send in their opinions that were counter to that of Nelson and the assumed position of the SCWC.

A few days after I sent that story in, on March 18, I examined a HU-PEH Province one tael coin that owner Patrick Sisler sent in that he felt was counterfeit, noting that it was underweight and was attracted to a magnet. (One tael coins are normally 37.8 grams of pure silver and served as a unit of measure in the Orient like an ounce does today in many countries). Since I examined his coin just days after I sent in my article on the Fat Man dollars, it hit me that one of the things I never did was to see if they stuck to a magnet. And of course they did! So at this point it is clear in my mind that they are too low in silver content (if they contain any) to be what I'd consider genuine coins.

Several day later, another reader of this column said: "Mr. Potter, in reference to your World Coins, April column, I'm amazed that since you mentioned the possibility of counterfeiting, that you didn't mention the first thing to do, if you have any suspicion. Before you even pick up your glass, you can save a lot of time and bother by just putting a magnet on the coin. You know instantly if it's worth checking further to see if it's genuine. I know of at least one fake."

So right he was; however, part of the intent of this story was to gain more knowledge in just what these would be considered by collectors. We already knew that the content of many of these would be off and that there was a possibility that they could be magnetic. The question was, were they considered counterfeits or made in a manner as suggested by Nelson and SCWC? Anthony Llano of Miami said:

I have been collecting early Chinese silver machine made coins for over five years. All the coins I purchase I try to have graded by the major grading services because there are so many counterfeits and imitations involving Chinese silver coins that it creates a lot of confusion. By looking at the coin in your article WCN, I notice the coin is dated 1914 and the article says it is struck. The 1914 yuanshikai was put into circulation in December of 1914, was 39-1/2 mm (in diameter), 2-1/4 thick, 26.4g and of 0.890 silver fineness.

After several years of circulation the coin became very popular. Why? Because the coins had always shown uniformity in weight and fineness. The people trusted the value of the said coin in silver. After five years the coin became so popular in China that even in the outlying provinces warlords were induced to produce in primitive plants imitation pieces with much lower silver contents. I had an elemental analysis done on the coins that weighed 19, 20 and 21 grains. They contained 25 percent silver about 45 percent nickel and a few other elements.

I believe what we need to look at here is the deception of a warlord minting a coin with less in silver than the face value of the coin. I believe this would be considered a counterfeit because the receiver of the coin is being robbed. Another situation is the fact that the warlord did not mint the coin with permission from the central government. A warlord who had a province under subjection decided to mint a coin because it was very popular and at the same time put the amount of silver in the coin he saw fit. The warlords were the only people who could pull something like this off: who would dare try to arrest him? On the other hand if a mint director did this as soon as the people found out the government would have his head. The mint directors skimmed silver from the coins but very little, almost unnoticeable.

I have many of these counterfeits. I even have imitations all kinds. These were the first ones I bought when I did not know much about Chinese coins. I consider them counterfeits of the era. They have historical value but they are not official coins. Actually because it is known that these coins enjoyed superb fineness and weight we can easily identify the counterfeits.

I also have the authentic 1914 coins. Some have a warlord stamp or chop, but obviously not the one that made the counterfeit but one who wanted to put his mark on the most circulated popular coin in his province. The warlord who made these light coins was obviously a shyster.

My partner and I plan to open Soon we are building a reference site on counterfeits and imitations. Our store will only sell graded rare Chinese coins.

Readers may e-mail Llano at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The images shown here are of the second counterfeit Fat Man dollar that I did not show in the April column. You can see that it too is double struck but in a different orientation. At this point I simply attribute these to the use of sloppy dies.

Another neat coin that crossed my desk is a Mexican 1981/1982 overdate 20 centavos. This is a variety I never tire of looking at. The stage of the coin is clearly at a point that clash marks have been removed and die scratches prevalent. However, unlike many in the later stage, the doubling of the date is crisp and strong. President Francisco I Madero's mustache is weakly struck, as is typical of many of the specimens that show a sharp date.

Another interesting coin that came in is a Newfoundland 1881 50 cents that has what could be initials counterstamped below the bust of Queen Victoria. The center of the reverse is weak, as is typical for specimens in this grade. The question is, does anybody know what the "NO" stands for?

Finally, we take a look at a couple of Indian 25 paise coins with errors. The first one is dated 2002-H (star mintmark) and was struck on top of something that was clean of all design. All it shows is a straight raised area that crosses the lower portion of the reverse, which suggests that it was struck over another 25 Paise planchet that was defective.

The second coin shows only the base of the 2 of date and is an off-center strike. These occur when the feeder/ejector system fails to deposit the planchet into a centered position within the dies. There are many causes, including out of sync feeders, stuck collars, jam-ups of many other coins in multiple coin presses, etc.

Error coins from modern India are fairly common, and rather exotic pieces can often be purchased in places like eBay for a fraction of the cost of the same errors from many other countries.

Ken Potter is the official attributer and lister of world doubled dies for the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America and for the National Collector's Association of Die Doubling. He privately lists U.S. doubled dies and other collectible variety types on both U.S. and world coins in the Variety Coin Register. For more information on either of these clubs, or to learn how to get a variety listed in the Variety Coin Register, send a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope and 61 cents to Ken Potter, P.O. Box 760232, Lathrup Village, MI 48076-023240. Contact him via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit his Educational Image Gallery located at



Last Updated on Sunday, 30 August 2009 23:37

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