Bullion Guide: How to Spot Fake Gold Bars
Customers often ask us how to spot fake gold bars, silver bars and coins. When buying such high-value commodities as gold and silver bullion, a fake gold bar or coin could cost thousands of pounds and is worthless if it turns out to be counterfeit. In this guide, we will look at several different tell-tale signs of fake gold bars and coins and we’ll tell you what you can do to ensure you are always buying authentic gold and silver bullion.
Tell-tale Signs that Bullion is Fake
Look out for gold bars that are filled with tungsten. As tungsten is very dense, the weight of the fake gold bar will be similar to what it would be if the entire bar were gold. And as the outside is made from genuine gold, the difference on the scale might be so small that you don’t think it matters. However, the weight of the bar is a very important factor in identifying if it is authentic. If a bar is stored and handled well, it shouldn’t fall victim to abrasion or corrosion. As such, its weight should be exactly the same as the weight stamped on the front of the bar.
Silver bars are also sometimes filled with lead. As both metals have a grey finish, this can be tricky to spot. However, silver has a much higher lustre than lead and an authentic bar will have all of the official markings and will be traceable – but I’ll go into later. Silver also has a unique density, so it’s harder to replicate its weight the way they can with gold and tungsten. Another good thing with silver bars is that many buyers purchase it in order to melt it down and use it. This means that fakes are spotted much earlier and don’t get to move through a few buyers’ hands before they are discovered.
Another way to avoid fakes is to watch out for unrealistic prices. Keep up-to-date with current gold prices and if a seller’s price is too good to be true, then it probably is. The same goes for larger gold bars, as these are easier to counterfeit (as there is more space to fill with tungsten) and there is more profit to be made from selling a larger bar. Beware of very large gold bars (half-kilo and one-kilo bars), as fraudsters are more likely to put more time into making high-quality forgeries.
Fraudsters also counterfeit silver and gold coins by coating copper coins with silver or gold. Usually, these coins are based on authentic counterparts that exist elsewhere, so they will have the correct markings. The best way to make sure that these coins aren’t fake is to have them assayed by an expert. An expert will also be able to check if someone has registered ownership of the same coin elsewhere. If they have, then either your coin or the other is a fake.
It’s a good idea to check that your gold or silver bar has all of the appropriate markings. There is an industry standard for all bullion bars that poor quality or lazy fraudsters may forget to copy or at least copy incorrectly. Make sure that any gold or silver bar you buy has the following details:
- A) Refinery brand
- B) Weight (usually in grams or troy ounces)
- C) Fine gold or silver and its purity
- D) Essayeur Fondeur – Official refinery stamp
- E) Serial number
Bullion coins also have typical markings on them that will help you make sure they are authentic. The markings will differ depending on the kind of coin it is, where it is from, and when it was minted. If you are buying gold coins in person, print off a few images of various common gold coins (such as British gold sovereigns, Canadian Maple Leaf coins, and South African Krugerrand) and compare the markings to the images you’ve printed. The 1oz 2016 Canadian Maple Leaf gold coin, for example (featured below), will always appear as it does below. The obverse side will have the following details:
- ELIZABETH II (along the top)
- Elizabeth II’s profile (in the centre)
- 50 DOLLARS 2016 (along the bottom)
The reverse side will have the following details:
- CANADA (along the top)
- 9999 and the Maple Leaf (in the centre)
- FINE GOLD 1oz OR PU (along the bottom)
Looking out for all of these signs will help you spot a fake. Also make sure that the coins you are buying are made to the high standards of the official mints they are supposed to come from. It’s not enough to have all of the markings if the quality is clearly deficient. This needn’t be a big problem if the coin is quite old. However, if the coin is quite new and it doesn’t look new – its edges aren’t crisp, and its details clear – then there is a chance that the coin may be a fake.
You can also hit a gold or silver coin off another coin to see if it makes the right noise. Silver and gold make a sharper ringing noise than other base metals, such as copper and steel. So, if the coin is mainly made up of a base metal or just coated with gold or silver, it won’t make the right sound. You can listen to the sound here and get used to it.
You don’t really hear of fake bullion being a problem for the professional bullion market because the chain of custody and integrity between the refineries and the vendors is so tight that customers are very well protected. This is why you can almost completely avoid fake bullion if you shop from the right vendors – so this is what the second half of this guide will focus on.
How to Ensure You Always Buy Authentic Bullion
Spotting fake bullion is only necessary if you are buying from unreliable vendors. If you ensure you buy your bullion straight from an official mint or from a registered bullion seller, then you can be reasonably confident that the bullion you are buying is authentic. Another advantage of buying from an official vendor is that they will usually guarantee their bullion’s authenticity and will always offer a return policy on bullion should it later turn out to be counterfeit. However, as official bullion retailers and mints have their own experts, you can almost always trust them to provide authentic bullion.
It’s also advisable to shop online for bullion, as you can fully vet a bullion retailer that has a website, registered address, and a Trust Pilot rating. Trust Pilot is a customer review service that retailers cannot tamper with easily, making it the perfect trust metric for potential customers as they can take a look at previous customers’ experience with the company. One of the advantages of buying bullion online is that it tends to come with warranty and has been fully checked and authenticated before it is sold to you. All of the top bullion retailers – like London Gold Bullion – will provide you with certificates of authenticity from the refineries the gold and silver bullion comes from.
With London Gold Bullion, we offer Certi-Lock® for our customers. It is a very special kind of packaging that serves as a high-security, high-tech protection service for your precious metals. Certi-lock serves as a certificate of authenticity for the buyer and it has a unique card with each bar of bullion that has synthetic DNA that allows the bar to be fully verified and authorised. This serves to reassure buyers that the product they are buying is 100% authentic. It is difficult to conceive of a better way for bullion buyers to achieve genuine peace of mind. Read our Certi-Lock® page for more information.
Allow top online retailers tend to be trustworthy, beware of brand-new bullion businesses that have no track record and no Trust Pilot rating. Just because a company is ranking no the first page on your Google search, it doesn’t mean that it is inherently good. Even Google makes mistakes. If you’re just buying a £14 silver coin, the risk is low, but if you’re purchasing a £3,200 gold bar, then it’s best to be cautious.
If you have any doubts whatsoever, just give the retailer a call. If you’re not satisfied after you’ve spoken to them, then just go to someone else. There is no shortage of gold and silver bullion retailers on the internet.
Another benefit of purchasing from official bullion sellers online is that the chain of ownership of any bullion you buy is fully tracked. This means that if there are any anomalies (such as a source of counterfeit bullion), they are discovered long before they reach you. No fake bullion should ever make it through the net – but if it does, the company you bought it from would fully cover the cost.
That everything for this guide. I hope it has helped a few readers out and that you have enough information to spot fake gold bullion bars. And I hope that you also know a little more about the more reliable gold and silver bullion retailers and how to spot them as well. If you go to the right source, shouldn’t need to ever spot a fake. If you have any questions for us, please get in touch.