Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar

This story is interesting.  In Manhattan, a 10 oz gold bar turned out to be gold-plated tungsten.

It was a high-quality fake.  Someone took a 10 oz gold bar.  It was assayed with a serial number from a reputable source.  Someone hollowed it out and filled it with tungsten.

Tungsten has the same density as gold.  Gold-plated tungsten can be convincing fake gold.

For silver, an alloy of cheaper metals has the same density as silver.  It’s easy to create fake silver coins.

As a casual investor, how do you prevent yourself from being cheated?  Does anyone know a good way to detect gold-plated tungsten?

I don’t like acid tests, because that damages the coin.

This page had some interesting information, on how to detect gold-plated tungsten.  It’s actually pretty hard.  If you have a really sensitive magnetic field detector, that might work.  He also mentions heat capacity, but that’s hard to measure without specialized equipment.

If you have a *REALLY* sensitive scale, you may be able to detect the specific gravity difference, between gold and tungsten.

Allegedly, if you have a lot of experience handling real gold, you learn how to detect fakes.

If you stick to small denomination coins (1 oz or less), there’s less risk of fake coins.  A would-be counterfeiter has less profit, by faking small-denomination coins.  However, if gold and silver start being widely used, fakes will be more common.

One of my agorist business ideas is “Start a gold/silver/FRN barter network.”  If I do that, I’ll need a reliable way to detect fake coins.

Another possibility is to stick to platinum.  It is nearly impossible to counterfeit platinum, because it is one of the densest metals.  The only metals denser than platinum are also more expensive than platinum.  A specific gravity test will *ALWAYS* detect fake platinum.

Another possibility is to stick with State-issued American Eagles.  The penalty for counterfeiting those coins is more serious than the penalty for counterfeiting generic bullion.  However, I shouldn’t place extra trust in State-issued coins.  Also, American Eagles trade for a premium compared to generic bullion.

If you invest in physical gold and silver, counterfeit coins are a serious risk.  It’d rather take the risk of counterfeit coins, than the sure loss from investing in the State financial system.  I should learn how to detect fake gold and silver.  If I start a gold/silver/FRN barter network, I’ll need to learn how to detect counterfeit coins.

19 Responses to Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar

  1. Just my uninformed opinion, but Australian gold and silver bullion coins from the Perth Mint would be hard to fake because they are just so good. The kangaroos have detailed fur and the Kookaburras have detailed feathers. Some coins have 3 – 4 different textures on the coins – smooth and shiny, matt/satin, fur or rippled.

    Bullion coins have the Queen’s head shiny on matt and their proof coins have a matt head on a very shiny reflective gold background.

    You have to go through hoops to buy a bullion coin direct from the Perth Mint, otherwise a reseller is easier. Their proofs coins cost quite a bit more than the melt value and that’s why you should go to a Perth Mint reseller to get a bullion coin.

    • It’s stupid to pay a high premium to bullion for State-issued coins. If the quality is high, a small premium is reasonable.

      According to this page, $2800 (US$) for a 1 ounce coin is ridiculous. Spot gold is $1775/oz right now. That’s more than a 55% premium to spot gold. Ideally, you should never pay more than a 10% premium.

      In the USA, American Eagles are typically 5%-10% more than generic bullion. That’s the highest premium I would pay for State coins instead of generic bullion.

      • Oh dear. I think you missed what I was trying to say.

        The Perth Mint only makes it easy to buy the more expensive _proof_ coins from them directly. They are more expensive. Proof coins are made to a higher standard and have a mirror like shine to them.

        However you can buy _bullion_ coins from the Perth Mint if you are willing to jump through their identification hurdles. Bullion coins are just over the spot gold price.

        As I said before you can buy a sensibly priced bullion Perth mint coin from a gold coin reseller. I won’t mention any by name as I don’t want to be accused for advertising, but they are very easy to find with Internet searches.

        Even Perth Mint’s bullion coins are of a very high quality and still have 3 – 4 different textures on each coin.

  2. Just to make it explicit.

    There are two kinds of coins you can buy from many mints.

    *PROOF* coins are much more than the gold spot price. They are very shiny and produced to a high standard.

    *BULLION* coins are always close to the spot price.




    • I was confused, proof vs. bullion. However, the website was misleading. The links direct you to proof coins, and you have to dig deeper to find the bullion.

      That’s a common trick among sleazy gold dealers, leading people to proof coins instead of bullion.

      According to this page, the bullion coins are $1805/oz, a reasonable premium. It’s only slightly more expensive on APMEX, $1835/oz. That’s only $18/oz more than generic bullion on APMEX. Can I buy directly from the Perth Mint from the USA, or do I have to use a US-based dealer like APMEX.

      • You can directly buy from the Perth Mint even though you are in the USA, but you will have to pay for the FedEx delivery. A while ago if you ordered over a certain amount, the FedEx delivery charged will be waived.

        I would also check that there is no import tax on gold for the USA. I don’t live there and so I don’t know.

        I would buy from Apmex as the delivery charges should be cheaper than having stuff sent over from Australia. But who knows? Put it in your shopping cart and see what the charges are.

        If buying bullion, it will be easier from Apmex as the Perth Mint require you to send identification over to buy bullion coins. It is a hassle. For proof coins, everything is easy from the Perth Mint.

        I just mentioned the Perth Mint because their coins are one of the best. I think it will be better if you buy from Apmex though.

  3. Where are those rats ? So nice it would have been – Tungsten bars filled with Gold…Any test will cloud as a shadow even if the counterfeit ones takes the market soon…

  4. I had trouble swallowing this story about the 10oz debased bar (electroplated tungsten coins on the other hand, could be plausible).

    The thing about drilling into a gold bar and filling it with tungsten is this: the melting point of tungsten is 3422C while that of gold is 1064C. That is over a 2000 degree difference, and given the thermal and electrical conductive properties of gold (in a nutshell, it conducts both very well), I am supposed to believe that people are pouring molten tungsten into hollow gold bars without said bars melting long before the tungsten has solidified?

    Yeah, ok. Sure.

    • Regarding gold-plated tungesten, I thought the way you do it is make a tunsten core first, and then plate/pour the gold core around it. The gold plating is soft and easy to work with, making it easy to add things like serial #, fake mint name, etc.

      During the silver bubble in the 80′s, drilled-out 1000oz bars were common. People would take a 1000oz silver bar, drill holes in it, fill it with a metal alloy cheaper than silver but with the same density, and then cover it with silver.

      • Thing is, if you look at the example photographs accompanying these stories, there are two kinds: one of them has a gold bar filled with rods of tungsten, while the other has gold being peeled off of a tungsten wafer like the wrapper off of a candy bar.

        The latter may have been produced the way you describe, using a pressed tungsten wafer, although I am inclined to wonder what the “Caramilk secret” is for this method. How do they position the bar in a mold so that a relatively uniform thickness of gold can coat it without leaving seams?

        For the method with the bars — and I can only judge with my eyes based on a photograph — it seems like the bars fit a little too snugly into their holes. They may have been hammered into somewhat undersized holes. But then the counterfeiter would have to heal the gold bar after inserting the rods, and doing that without leaving a trace on what used to be an unblemished gold bar is also non-trivial. I won’t say it’s impossible but I can’t think of a way to cover up any sign of tampering.

        It seems to me it is enough to “debase” gold by word-of-mouth by simply floating the rumour that something like this is happening. Whether it really is, or not, hardly matters, because how many people are going to go drilling into their gold hoard to find out?

        • Allegedly, if you have a lot of experience dealing with physical gold, tungsten fakes are obvious.

          There are other solutions, such as laminated gold coins where the laminating party gives assurance to the quality.

          In large bars, fakes are more likely. For small denominations, faking isn’t as profitable.

  5. The best method of detection is to measure the actual conductivity of ingots.
    for this, it is necessary to measure the electrical resistance and the geometric dimensions of the object, and this with extreme precision. The scanner CHECK GOLD developed by the firm JC-Engineering meets the requirements of control. In particular, the measurement when the tungsten content is in powder form, does not detect that the processes using the ultrasonic reflections.
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