Ancient Chinese coins, tokens and other collectibles are becoming increasingly sought after by collectors, according to the Chinese Coinage website. For those who collect these items, figuring out how old a Chinese silver collectable is can be a challenging and educational task. Collectors who learn through study how to recognise genuine artefacts from well-executed replicas can collect with confidence.
Gain some basic knowledge of what Chinese antique coins and other collectable objects look like, as well as Chinese character writing. Learn the historical background of the items you are researching.
Research Chinese silver hallmarks. Learn how to identify the silver marks from online pictures of genuine Chinese silver items.
Search for a Chinese silver item that has hallmarks or writing on it. Chinese items can be found in a variety of places. Bead and craft stores often carry a selection of Chinese tokens or coins. Antique shops, second-hand stores and flea markets also can have Chinese silver items for sale. Purchase any items of interest to you.
Take your Chinese silver item to a coin or jewellery shop. Ask if they can tell you from looking at the item, or by doing some basic metallurgical tests, what the metal content of the item is. Even if they are unable to read Chinese hallmarks, they can perform some simple -- usually free -- tests to identify its metal content. This can be done without doing any damage to the piece. Even if your item is not silver, if it is old or made of some other metal, you could still own a valuable treasure.
Use some of the references and resources listed below to look up hallmarks and stampings online. Compare the marks of the items you have with the pictures and reference materials on those websites.
Take digital pictures of the Chinese item and its hallmarks and stamps. Upload it to your computer. Visit some additional websites and forums and post pictures of the Chinese item, along with questions to see if anyone else has information on its value and identification.
If you look at these tasks as a quest or adventure, regardless of whether or not your Chinese silver item is valuable or not, you do benefit from the search as an enjoyable, historical learning experience. Try not to pay too much for Chinese items when shopping for entertainment purposes, before you have enough knowledge to recognise the real from the mock.
Don't expect to find a rare antiquity for mere pennies. Value the history and learning experience more than the item -- and you won't be disappointed.