Requester Adam sent us these images of his neat cash coin from China. After quite a bit of research, we determined that this is a fantasy coin, i.e., one that is not real and produced as a piece of artwork or as a novelty for sale to tourists. The value is very low, a few US dollars at best.
Buying and selling Chinese coins must be a tempered endeavor for any novice collector. Do not deal in large sums of money unless you know and trust the other party completely. This is true of all numismatic commerce, but especially in Chinese coins.
When we get stumped by an unusual coin, our favorite place to go is World of Coins. This forum is filled with true experts in many numismatic disciplines. It is always a pleasure to post on WoC.
Chinese cash coins are cast, not struck. Cast coins are made by pouring molten metal into molds, while struck coins are made by striking coin blanks between two hard-metal dies at high pressure.
The pattern on Chinese cash coins are usually (not always) read from top to bottom, and then from right to left. Be sure your orient the coin correctly before reading. Adam's coin reads Hong Wu Tong Bao, which is a pattern found on genuine coins from the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644AD). Genuine Ming cash coins are worth quite a bit, from a few US dollars for worn or damaged pieces to hundreds of dollars for well preserved specimens.
The clincher for Adam's fantasy coin is the reverse. The Chinese characters are boo (treasure, money) ciowan (Board of Revenue mint), and they do not appear on genuine Hong Wu Tong Bao coins.