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Royal Canadian Mint-stamped gold wafer appears to be fake

The Royal Canadian Mint is investigating how a sealed, “pure gold” wafer with proper mint stampings may in fact be a fake.

The one-ounce gold piece, which was supposed to be 99.9999 per cent pure, was purchased by an Ottawa jeweller on Oct. 18 at a Royal Bank of Canada branch. Yet tests of the bar show it may contain no gold at all.

When neither the mint nor RBC would take the bar back, jeweller Samuel Tang contacted CBC news.

“Who is going to make sure those [gold wafers] are real?” asked Tang. “I am worried there are more of those [gold wafers] out there, and no one knows.”

RBC has now picked up the bar and and returned it to the mint for testing, refunding Tang the $1,680 purchase price.

The Royal Canadian Mint said in a statement to CBC it is in process of testing the bar, “although the appearance of the wafer and its packaging already suggests that it is not a genuine Royal Canadian Mint product.”

William Rentz, a professor at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management and an expert on investments and equity, says it is troubling.

“A currency counterfeiter doesn’t make just one fake $50 bill,” he said. “They make a whole lot of them. So I would suspect this might just be the tip of the iceberg.”

RCMP said they are aware of the incident, but no formal complaint has yet been made.

Figuring out gold was fake

The mystery began on Oct. 18, when Tang purchased what he thought was a 99.9999 per cent pure gold wafer from an RBC branch just across the road from his Glebe-area boutique, Joy Creations.

He carried the business-card-sized bar, still sealed in its Royal Canadian Mint blister-pack, back to his shop.

His goldsmith, Dennis Barnard, said he cut open the plastic mint packing and placed the one-ounce wafer in a hand-cranked jeweller’s tableting mill.

“I thought my age was catching up with me — because it was so hard to roll,” said Barnard.

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