Chinese numismatics (coin collecting) is in its adolescent stages. It has been around for a while, but it is not really grown up yet. At the moment there are blurred dividing lines between:
1. Fantasy coins - minted years ago to serve in commerce and for collectors
2. Tourist coins - minted to be sold as novelties and keepsakes
3. Counterfeit coins - minted for ... well, you know
Someday Chinese numismatics will grow up. Today China is, by far, the biggest producer of counterfeit coins in the world.
There are many varieties of Chinese fantasy coins, dollars and taels being the most common denominations. The one here shows a popular 'double dragon' pattern, and there are many varieties of such 'double dragon' fantasy pieces. Genuine fantasy pieces generally date back to the turn of the 20th century (i.e., early 1900s) and can be quite valuable, especially in good condition. As a rough guideline:
LARGE SILVER FANTASY DOLLARS AND TAELS
worn: $50 US dollars approximate catalog value
average circulated: $100
well preserved: $250
fully uncirculated: $750
LARGE TOURIST DOLLARS AND TAELS (rarely made of silver)
worn: $3 US dollars approximate catalog value
average circulated: $8
well preserved: $15
fully uncirculated: $30
value = zero
The uncirculated double dragon coin in our picture comes from renowned sellers Stack's Bowers Ponterio where it sold in 2011 at auction for $475 US dollars. This gives an idea of value for a nice-looking coin. Coins with wear or less eye appeal will be worth far less.
Discerning the difference between genuine, tourist, and counterfeit coins is not easy. If you have a nice-looking coin like the one in our picture, bring it to a knowledgeable collector or coin dealer for an in-person inspection.
As an example, click to this CoinQuest page for a side-by-side comparison of a genuine/counterfeit dragon coin.
A similar double dragon design appears at this CoinQuest link (click here).