I bought a 1900 Lafayette-Washington commemorative silver dollar on
eBay. When I received the coin, it had a large scratch on it, which
was not shown in the seller’s picture. What does this do to its value
and can it be repaired?
San Mateo, Cal.
In subsequent contact with Mr. Milligan, it was discovered that
eBay had removed this seller from the website and that a refund at
this point would not equal the entire amount Milligan paid.
This piece certainly has some issues. The scratch on the obverse
is a major concern. Some corrosion and spotting, too, is apparent.
The first factor to consider, however, is whether the piece is
indeed a genuine 1900 Lafayette commemorative dollar. A lot of fakes
from Asia are entering the hobby marketplace so this piece might be a
counterfeit. This is one reason many collectors buy only
professionally graded and encapsulated coins from trusted dealers,
especially important for coins of some value and scarcity like the
1900 Lafayette dollar. That the seller of this piece was removed from
eBay might indicate that he or she had engaged in unethical practices.
It is conceivable these practices might have included selling
If the piece is found genuine, it would have a known mintage of a
little more than 36,000 pieces, and should still be considered
collectible. The scratch and other problems, however, detract from its
overall worth and potential resale value.
At best, a genuine example in this condition would receive a
“Details, Scratched” classification versus a regular numerical grade
if authenticated and encapsulated by a third-party grading service.
A coin restoration company like Numismatic Conservation Services
won’t repair a coin with this amount of damage. Even if the coin were
to be somehow repaired, the vast majority of hobbyists would consider
it as having been “doctored,” and would find it even less appealing
than if its scratched surface were left undisturbed.
While avoiding eBay entirely has little justification, it is
important for collectors to use extreme caution and, when necessary,
avail themselves of the consumer protections that eBay offers.
Unfortunately, this may not help this collector much now. However, he
should take some comfort in knowing that virtually every collector,
even among the big-money guys, has made purchases that were later
regretted. He might have to consider this experience not just as money
lost, but also as wisdom gained.
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