Saturday, February 27, 2010

eBay, Coins: Ancient > China — Auctions listed the morning of February 26, 2010

Don't think that cash coins are being counterfeited?
Take a closer look...

I have been rather loose in saying that 99% of the Chinese coins being sold on eBay are fakes, and I knew that it couldn’t be so. Perhaps 99% are fakes and stupid made-for-collectors junk, and modern bullion pieces, but I knew my saying 99% are fakes simply couldn’t be accurate.

Although I collect Chinese and other Asian struck coinages, my main interest has always been Chinese cash coins, so I decided to do an analysis of this morning’s auctions.

I copied every one of the 1,470 auctions that were listed on eBay USA this morning in the category: Coins & Paper Money > Coins: Ancient > China into an Excel spreadsheet. Then, with the eBay window open, and sorting from ending soonest to listed most recently (the order in which I copied the auctions), I reviewed every auction, and entered in my spreadsheet an ‘x’ in Real or Fake and then in some cases in NA (not applicable, e.g., digital scales, books, etc.), in NC (coins, but not in cash coin format), or in Dumb (a category of real coin where the attribution was incorrect or just ignorant). In some cases, into the dumb category went an auction that looked like a willful attempt to deceive or mislead, using a real coin in a wrong way.

These were the results:
1,470 - Lots at auction
1,132 - Lots containing fake coins (77.01%)
0,314 - Lots containing genuine coins (21.36%)
0,024 - Lots containing items other than coins (1.63%)

Then I analyzed the number of individual eBay sellers who were listing in this auction.
75 - eBay Sellers
38 - eBay Sellers of fakes of any type (50.67%)
37 - eBay Sellers of authentic coins of any type (49.33%)

The margin of error must be weighted in favor of the dealers of fake coins, because there is a likelihood that a small percentage (less than 5%) of coins in the auctions of dealers of genuine coins might be unrecognized fakes.

These statistics were derived from an analysis of today’s eBay listings at about 8 a.m. PST, essentially a snapshot of one eBay auction category for analysis.

Of course, the auction went on without me, and the statistics are what they are, an analysis of just one random moment in time. Nonetheless they tell a lot.


  1. Hi Norman,
    I'm new to your blog on Chinese cash coins. I've learned a lot from it.
    I've collected Asian cash--mainly Chinese-- for about 30 years. I recall Scott Semans telling me about 15 years ago that he wasn't selling any Chinese cash unless he knew that it had been in private collections prior to about 1980. He wasn't sure that he could tell genuine from fakes.

    How do you tell what's genuine and what is fake--as in your survey of ebay auctions?

    About the only clue I have is that I'm suspicious if the coin is said to be Song Dynasty and it looks like it looks to be in perfect mint condition.

    Thanks for your website.

    John Boyle
    Chico, CA

  2. Hello, I have just been given a collection of 107 coins from a friend of the family. She was given the coins from her great grandmother who got them in the 1820's when she was a child. They are very well put togther on this very old stained paperboard with some type of string material holding each coin to the board with writings and dates beside each. I have no idea the value of these but only that 4 different coin dealers on the net have said they are real and that whoever put that collection together new what they were doing. Is there any way somebody could help me try to figure exactly what I have? I really need some legite help on this without having to worry if Im being scammed or faked. Thankyou

  3. I can probably do a quick evaluation for you. Please contact me directly at, and send scanned images of the cardboard with the coins sewn on. This is how Chinese cash coins are traditionally collected and mounted. My first collection was organized this way too:
    I am leaving for three weeks in Indonesia on Sunday, so if you want a quick reply, please contact me today.