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Michael Bugeja

Online Coin Auctions

Michael Bugeja

Michael Bugeja, a coin collector since childhood, is a professor at Iowa State University and also a former member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. He is a nationally known author, journalist and educator.

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Archive for '2016'

    Beware of claims in Internet auctions

    October 17, 2016 11:48 AM by Michael Bugeja
    Internet portals eBay and Proxibid have adopted rules for coins and currency meant to discourage hyped claims by auctioneers and sellers, but some know how to honor those rules and still post overly optimistic lot descriptions.

    Last year Proxibid adopted service terms based on eBay ones. For instance, coin and currency listings with a value more than $2,500 must be graded by a top grading company (PCGS, NGC, ANACS, ICG). The numerical grade cannot be included in the title, description, or item description.

    Click to expand the photo above. It adheres to the Proxibid policy. You’ll see a role of 1969-D cents and this title and description:

    •    1969D BU Linc 1c BU Scarce UnOpened Bank Roll 50 Gems
    •    "Extremely Scarce 40 year old never opened bank roll; end coins look MS66/67, huge GEM or Err/Variety potential; just look at these GEM values THOUSANDS PER COIN"

    I doubt many Coin World readers would believe all of the above because they are exposed to articles about value and grading in addition to coin and currency advertisements that also have to follow the magazine’s rules for descriptions.

    And yet the Proxibid title and description are true in some of its claims. You can believe the seller or my analysis (opinion):

    1.    The 1969-D is not scarce; its mintage tops 4 billion.
    2.    Bank rolls may look unopened, but veteran dealers and collectors know how to open them (I won't tell you here), emptying the coins, inspecting them and putting them back with a tidy re-roll of the paper.
    3.    The coins here do look gem, MS65; perhaps many would grade MS66. These look red-brown, though. At MS66, that’s an $8 coin, but few people would buy it unless it had rainbow toning. These don't.
    4.    At MS66 red, a 1969-D is worth about $25; at MS67, it is truly scarce with values over $1,000. In 40-plus years, PCGS has only graded 26 of them. In other words, your chances are slim.
    5.    There is error/variety potential; the description is right about that, as a 1969-D can lack designer’s initials “FG” (Frank Gasparro). PCGS has graded about 50 of those, with only 19 in various grades of red, typically selling for about $250 or so at auction, according to CoinFacts.
    6.    The phrase “THOUSANDS PER COIN,” well, may be an overstatement.

    The point here is that sellers can promote their lots any way they wish. They have that right, as long as it adheres to the portals service terms. This example does.

    So what that does that mean for you? If you bid online, you should know grading, values, condition rarities, varieties, and so much more. There are ways to do that: Read numismatic publications, attend coin shows, visit coin shops and join or found coin clubs. 

    Bid Cautiously on "Tidy House" Morgan Dollars

    October 8, 2016 10:06 AM by Michael Bugeja
    Click the photo above and see if you can tell why the "Tidy House" dollar is not the original one placed in the promotional item distributed by a cleaning products company in the 1960s?

    The advertising description states:

    "DID YOU KNOW ... that your uncirculated SILVER DOLLAR is the famous "MORGAN" SILVER DOLLAR, named for its designer George T. Morgan"?

    As you can see, the dollar in the Tidy House holder is a 1926 Peace Dollar, which was not designed by Morgan but by Anthony de Francisci.

    Tidy House dollars in original packaging sell for high premiums because the cardboard holder caused many of the Morgans to tone in brilliant colors. Most are common-date 1880s often from the New Orleans mint. The company reportedly stocked up on the dollars by purchasing $1,000 bags of Morgans from the US Treasury Department hoard.

    Toned Morgan dollars sell for high premiums. This Tidy House 1884-O , probably worth about $50, sold for three times as much recently on GreatCollections.

    The problem with Tidy House lots in online auctions is that many have already been switched out of the holder for slabbing, with other dollars of lesser value placed back in the holders. In the eBay example above, someone who acquired the Tidy House sample put a cleaned and retoned almost uncirculated Peace dollar in its place. That coin does have nice toning, but there also is a faint pin scratch across the cheek, rendering the coin's value to about $35-50.

    A few more facts about Tidy House silver coins. The best come with original advertisements . You can also find 1964 Tidy House half dollars commemorating the passing of John F. Kennedy. Those also can tone, but often not as spectacularly as Morgan dollars.

    Be careful bidding on any raw coins in online auctions, even ones that seem like bargains, as in the 1926 Peace example above. Two reasons why that sold on eBay for $150: any toned uncirculated Peace dollar is worth much more than most toned Morgans because Peace dollars rarely display rainbow colors. And the 1926 had scant mintage (1,939,000).

    Weaver Auction Offers Rare 1795 Half Dime

    October 1, 2016 7:05 PM by Michael Bugeja
    Rarely do you see a 1795 Flowing Hair Half Dime being sold on Proxibid; in fact, this is the first one I can remember, being offered presently by Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction and set to close on Tuesday evening.

    I have been bidding in Weaver auctions for more than six years and consider Dave and Cheryl Weaver's session among the best on the portal. One reason is that they answer questions I might have on coins in a timely and ethical manner.

    The half dime on the left is listed in the Oct. 4 auction. The one to its right was holdered by PCGS in roughly the same condition. (Click to expand photo.)

    When I first spotted this rare coin, I had two questions. There seemed to be a slight bend in the field from 6 o'clock to 9 o'clock. The Weavers checked and later verified I was correct about the minor bend.

    Because half dimes are so thin, weighing 1.35 grams, bends are common. They don't detract much from value.  

    Now take a look at the misplaced "B" in Liberty in the Weaver coin. This caught my attention along with the well-struck and sharply defined rims, usually the first to wear down, as in the PCGS example to the right of the photo above. 

    In Q. David Bowers' United States Coins by Design Types , he writes that coins in very fine and above are scarce and pricey. So this would be a find, selling for about $2,500-$3,500 even with a slight bend. 

    Bowers also notes that striking is inconsistent.

    Upon further research, I think this is a minor variety, otherwise known as LM-9.  The die designation comes from Russel Logan and John McCloskey's book, Federal Half Dimes 1792-1837 .

    As you can see, the "B" in the graded PCGS coin tilts as in the Weaver-offered coin.

    Those sharp rims still bother me, though. Technically, they should be as worn as in the PCGS example.

    When I asked the Weavers if the consignor would guarantee authenticity, I was told yes.

    Of course, to verify that the raw coin is genuine, the winning bidder would have to submit it to a major holdering company rather than a second- or bottom-tier one so that the coin's true diagnostics can be affirmed.

    It's only my opinion, and auctioneers can decide what to do in cases like these, but I would recommend in the future that all rare coins be sent to NGC or PCGS before being placed in auctions.

    I speak from experience. Over the years I have purchased more than a half dozen coins on Proxibid that came back from PCGS as fake. Fortunately, each seller took back the coin, according to Proxibid rules.  

    Check Main Components of GSA Dollars

    September 25, 2016 8:07 AM by Michael Bugeja

    ​Increasingly in online auctions Morgan silver dollars, offered in the 1970s via Government Services Administration and otherwise known as GSA dollars, are being sold on Proxibid and eBay.

    They are a popular item as most hobbyists hope to have at least one in a collection. Thus, they are seldom good buys as bidding typically is strong. (More on that in a later post.)

    Each GSA dollar should come with three main components: a box, a certificate of authenticity, and the coin. Let's talk about each.

    The black box often is damaged. Auctioneers love stickers, and when they put them on the GSA box, they often are there for good. If you try to remove them, you may tear the flimsy black paper covering the cardboard box. That decreases the value, because the box also contains a greeting from President Richard Nixon on the inside cover. Also, the lid to the box should not be detached, but often is, again lowering price.

    The COA has serial numbers in blue. The first two numbers should match the year. Click the photo above and you will see the first two numbers are 85, matching the seller's description, for an 1885-CC dollar. Many sellers and buyers do not know this. You can easily find mismatched COAs and coins like this one selling on eBay. Be careful when bidding on these. Not all GSA dollars were high mint state. Those with significant bag marks had an additional card about condition. Some sellers send in their GSA coins for grading, keep the box and the COA, and replace the high-grade coin with the low-grade one, oblivious that the serial numbers do not match. Of course, sometimes the COAs are simply misplaced by sellers with several GSA coins.

    The coin itself is in a plastic holder. Not all GSA dollars are from Carson City. The label on the plastic holder must state that. If the photographs allow, check the holder for cracks, which also lessens value.

    The major slabbing companies holder GSA dollars. For a long time, PCGS simply put the term GSA on the label. In 2013, the company started holdering them in large plastic slabs that do not fit in the GSA box. You may like that, but I prefer NGC labels on my GSA dollars because the original holder still fits in the box.

    A few other GSA tidbits:

    1. The GSA also sold soft packs of dollars, like this one graded by NGC. These are highly collectible and go for premiums above the coin's value inside.

    2. You can find GSA dollars in original sealed boxes, like this one. Keep in mind "sealed" does not mean "unopened." Hobbyists have all manner of ways to open boxes. That said, I usually take sellers at their word.

    3. See this informative website for more information on GSA dollars including mintages of Carson City ones.

    Finally, do not overbid on GSA dollars. They are plentiful. Take time to assess each component as described here. If photos are lacking, email or message the seller about the condition of the box, holder or COA. And remember, you are buying the coin, not the packaging.

    Vintage Holders Sell for Thousands Online

    September 18, 2016 10:31 PM by Michael Bugeja

    Two of the most coveted vintage holders were auctioned  this weekend  on  Great Collections  and  eBay for a combined $7,189.99. The coins inside were worth less than $200.

    A 1946-D Half Dollar, graded MS65 in a vintage black NGC holder, sold for $3,740 (with buyer’s premium) on Great Collections. There were 56 bids.

    A "Sample" Regency PCGS holder with an uncirculated 1879-S Morgan Dollar sold for $3,449.99 on eBay. There were 34 bids

    The original NGC Black Slab was introduced in 1987, the year the company was founded.  (The company reintroduced a retro Black Slab in 2012 to celebrate its 25th Anniversary.)

    There are an estimated 35 to 200 of these original holders in individual collections. They rarely come on the market, and when they do, they go for exorbitant prices.  

    The Sample Regency slab was offered by Michael Kittle Coins. Kittle, a well-known numismatist who won the ANA Presidential Award in 2014, offered the rare holder through his eBay store.

    Kittle believes the PCGS Regency Sample Slab is unknown to collectors.

    “This was just a lucky find at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Anaheim and was being sold by the dealer who had it made back in the 1990s,” Kittle stated. “When I put it in my case at that show, I immediately received several offers for the coin, and it got lots of attention.  Because I knew that no Regency sample had been known up until then, I really did not know what a fair retail price for the coin was.  And with so much interest in the piece I figured auctioning it would be the fairest thing to do for all involved.”

    Hours before the eBay auction ended, Kittle thought the coin would sell for at least $1,500. “How much higher than that would be just a wild guess,” he said, noting that NGC vintage Black Slabs sell for $3000 to $4000 with common coins in them. 

    Kittle added that collectors can usually find one of the NGC Black Slabs a few times each year. His PCGS Regency Sample Holder may be the first one offered in 20-plus years.

    The Regency holder is one of the oddest slabs ever produced, and is not immediately recognizable as a PCGS product.

    The holder measures about 5 inches by 3 inches in the middle, narrowing at the top and bottom. As an added attraction, the holder originally came with an emerald green drawstring pouch with a PCGS gold logo.

    “I’m not sure this one ever came with one of the green bags that typically came with the PCGS Regency Holders,” Kittle stated. “This ‘Sample’ version was made by one of the founding members of PCGS who worked with (PCGS founder) David Hall to get it made up at the time.”

    PCGS Sample Slabs are highly collectible. More than 120 sample slabs were on display earlier this year at the Florida United Numismatists convention and at the Long Beach Expo.

    You can visit Sampleslabs.com if interested in viewing some promotional holders over the years for NGC, PCGS and other companies. 

    A more complete catalog of holders can be found in David Schwager’s Sample Slabs. The book has detailed listings for 760 sample and related coin and currency holders. The 620-page catalog is available as a printed softcover or as a PDF and includes more than 900 photographs. See Schwager's website for ordering details.

    You also can find more about the NGC Black Slab and the PCGS Regency holder in my 2013 Coin World article

    Worst Buys in Online Auctions

    September 10, 2016 5:17 PM by Michael Bugeja
    Unfortunately, on Proxibid and eBay you can find these terrible buys--thin brass tokens being passed off as gold, world coins (mostly Mexican and no silver), and worthless gold flake.

    Despite its publicity about policing fake coins, eBay is one of the worst venues for fake California gold. The example in the photo above (click to expand) is in a Proxibid auction, one of more than a dozen similar lots. I report it; nothing gets done.

    These replicas have been short-changing hobbyists (literally) for decades. If you spot a bear on the reverse of a so-called California gold coin, or any other symbol or text without an indication of denomination, such as "dollar," "dol." or even "d," my advice is not to bid. (You can read more about fake California gold in my Home Hobbyist column in Coin World.)

    I reported this lot on Proxibid which has "replica" stamped on the back, but the description still reads California gold. Nothing in those descriptions are true. The brass replica is from China most likely, not gold and not a half dollar.

    World coins in bags on Proxibid most likely were purchased by the pound from a dealer, usually about $10 per bag, and the silver already taken out (if indeed there was any). Then the seller opens the bid at $10, giving you aluminum and copper coins often with the majority from Mexico.

    If you want world coins, see if you can buy them unsearched from a coin dealer.

    One of the worst buys in online auction are so-called vials of gold flake. Vials of gold flake typically hold no gold or low grade gold that disappears in an acid test or disintegrates to near nothing if melted.

    Gold can be shaved to micro thin layers. As I often state, this is not fool’s gold (pyrite) but fools do buy it thinking they are going to make money with a $10 bid. 

    Sellers of fake California gold, world coin bags, and gold flake should take their lots off the portals or at least describe them accurately. 

    Online Photos Require Both Obverse and Reverse

    September 2, 2016 6:14 PM by Michael Bugeja
    This seemingly gem 1891-S Morgan dollar may trigger the click and bid impulse on Proxibid ... until you view the reverse, which happily this seller provides with a sharp photo on the portal. (Click photo to enlarge.)

    So a coin that might have been worth more than $1,500, if reverse was in the same condition as obverse, suddenly plummets to ungradeworthy based on cleaning and ink (?) on the reverse. (The hairlines in the left and right field show the cleaning; the scrawls litter the reverse.)

    The coin's blazing luster may have more to due with Jewel Luster (a dip) than strike, because Morgan dollars rarely if ever retain the sheen of a freshly minted strike, especially if kept in an album, folder, envelope or cabinet. Nonetheless, if the reverse was in the same condition as the obverse here, I'd still bid and take my chances.

    Sad to say that some sellers on Proxibid still only provide obverse of coins. Even more do not include reverse if the coin is graded by a holdering company, despite that being of importance to ascertain overall quality, as a weak reverse strike or ugly toning could affect value.

    Here's an example, a 1953-S Franklin Half Dollar, with only an obverse photo. Yes, the chances are astronomical that the reverse would display full bell lines (FBL), making such a coin worth between $10,000-$20,000 at MS64-65, as only a scant 50 FBL 1953-S halves have been holdered by PCGS; but that is what makes coin hunting exciting and educational. (In the case of a 1953-S Franklin, such a coin would be worth $100 or more if some of the lines on the reverse bell are almost in tact.) As it stands, I cannot bid.

    This post affirms once more the hazards of bidding online--clicking too quickly, imagining the reverse is as pristine as the obverse; or bidding without viewing the reverse. And that applies only to coins whose photos are relatively crisp enough to ascertain condition. If you make a mistake bidding, such as clicking too quickly, you can retract that by telephoning Proxibid customer service. (On eBay, you can retract online as long as the auction is at least 12 hours from time of retraction.)

    The best advice is not to bid if you cannot be sure of the condition. And never believe what the seller or flip states about the condition of a coin unless it is slabbed by a top-tier company such as PCGS, NGC, ANACS or ICG.

    Rising Buyer Premiums on Proxibid

    August 28, 2016 12:47 PM by Michael Bugeja
    Proxibid coin auctions are a mainstay of my hobbyist experience. I have been able to get bargains there that I could never secure on rival portals, such as eBay. But the trend with some of my favorite auctioneers has been to continue raising fees on Internet buyers, and I believe we may have reached the tipping point in some auctions charging 23%--almost a quarter of the hammer price.

    Conversely, some sellers are able to keep rates as low as 8%.

    I understand the reasons for higher fees. Auctioneers have to pay credit card companies, Auction Payment Network (for secure transactions) and Proxibid hosting fees. Those fees alone justify an 8-10% premium. Then there are photography costs from equipment to freelance photographers. So add another 2% there. So if the house charges 15% buyer premiums, it is looking at 3-5% profit.

    Moreover, some of these estate auctioneers are doing simultaneous onsite sessions requiring rent space or other physical preparations and staff.

    Onsite sessions usually have lower buyer premiums, or none at all, which has always bothered me because all venues--online and onsite--come with expenses.

    One auctioneer charging 23%, the highest BP in the coin category on Proxibid, says the higher fees are needed to offset losses. "I lose 2%, on every transaction at that," he states, noting Proxibid fees went from 5 % to 6%. "I am trying to keep  my head above water. It boils down to overhead. It costs me just as much for advertising for small a auction as it does for a large auction."

    This auctioneer does charge onsite buyers a 10% fee for winning bids.

    Another auctioneer has limited buyer premiums to 8%. "We do not use the buyer's premium as a revenue stream," he says. "We use it to pay fees - credit card processing, Internet fees and shipping. The 8% covers that, in most cases."

    This auctioneer doesn't have simultaneous onsite sessions, using Proxibid for Internet only ones.

    The damage of any buyer premium over 18% concerns return customers. I bid low or not at all when the fee rises to 20%. And others who do not pay attention to higher fees, bidding as usual, then have to pay credit cards and lose a higher share of their hobbyist money.

    Chances are they won't be back.

    What's worse is that raw coins sold on Proxibid auctions are risky at best. Even with my numismatic acumen, I lose out on my lower bids more than half the time. Thankfully, every month I am able to score a big bargain so that keeps me bidding.

    If you sell on Proxibid, think about a tier system that starts at 20% for purchases of $100 or less; 17.5% for $100-500; and 15% for anything over $500. You can run specials for gold. The more buyers bid, the more money you make.

    Keep in mind these auctioneers also may charge consignors, so buyer fees are not the only revenue stream here.

    I still patronize with dozens of bids my favorite sellers who still charge 15%. I encourage you to look for them on Proxibid and see if they are featuring any coins you like.

    In any event, think about the problem with a 23% fee if a bidder wants to score a one once gold bullion with gold at $1,350 an ounce.  The bid would have to be $1,100 to reach the retail price. The net result of that would be the consignor not only loses $250 at retail but also more than $300.

    Now the consignor will not be a repeat client.

    Better for consignors and buyers to sell or purchase the gold at wholesalers online for a $1,390 fee.

    And that phenomenon should not only trouble auctioneers but Proxibid, too. If you keep raising fees, you'll end up with a domino effect and fewer auctions because, well, there are fewer buyers on the portal.

    Bidding on Ancients in Online Estate Auctions

    August 20, 2016 8:29 PM by Michael Bugeja

    In a recent online estate auction, I was fortunate to snare several ancient coins at good discount, primarily because the audience was less knowledgeable about the worth of some of these treasures.

    I won 12 ancients, including a Corinth stater and a rare Marc Antony and Octavia Cistophoric tetradrachm. (Later in his life Antony would divorce Octavia and pursue the famed Egyptian queen Cleopatra.)

    Both of these coins were extra fine and rare. I paid about $500 for the two, but on the market, they sell for hundreds more.

    Connect with Coin World:  

    These and other coins were sent to NGC for authentication, which is essential whenever you purchase raw coins online. 

    Here's an example of an NGC-slabbed Corinth stater selling for close to $3,000. Never pay that amount for an uncertified coin as there are counterfeits of ancients, too.

    Corinth is known for two things in modern society. The Apostle Paul made missions to the city and Pegasus metamorphosed from mythical beast to Western Civilization icon, usually associated with poetry.

    The winged stallion is one of the most recognizable figures from ancient myth.

    The stater that I won with a bid of $250 (or $295 with buyer's premium) also features the goddess of wisdom, Athena, on the reverse.

    Some hobbyists collect Corinth staters not only for their beauty but also for the different images of Pegasus and Athena. You can find dozens of them on this page of the ancient coin database wildwinds.com. 

    Watch for an expanded Home Hobbyist column in Coin World when NGC returns my ancients. 

    Let Holdering Companies Know Certification Issues

    August 14, 2016 6:34 PM by Michael Bugeja
    ​In an online auction on Proxibid, this rare coin was being offered, an 1875-CC $10 Liberty Gold Eagle, with a slim mintage of 7,715 pieces, making the coin desirable, even in low mint state. In fact, this coin is ultra rare in higher grades. For instance, this PCGS example at XF40 sold for more than $7050 in a Heritage Auction. 

    As a rule, I never look at price guides but utilize NGC and PCGS certification websites to make sure the coin is authentic. The sites also provide the latest auction prices.

    More than once I have checked certs only to find that a counterfeit was being offered in an estate auction because the holdering company photo differed from the auction one on the web. Here's an example

    As you can see from the photo above, the NGC database grade for the 1875-CC was deleted for some reason, and that had me worried. First off, the 1875-CC Gold Eagle is often counterfeited. The strike is typically soft, as this was; but at VG10, it was difficult to spot any characteristics to help me verify its authenticity. 

    I have found NGC to be particularly resourceful and helpful when issues arise in its online database.

    "We work really hard on maintaining the integrity of our certification database," says Scott Schechter, vice president. "We encourage collectors to verify certifications and notify us of anomalies. In cases where problems have been identified, such as counterfeits, a note to contact customer service will appear in lieu of grade when said coin is verified. That is a red flag."

    That wasn't the case with this coin. " Errant deletions and other data error can occur for a variety of reasons," Schechter stated. He consulted his database records, as every change is recorded, and was able to restore the certification

    "Checking certifications is good advice," he added. "We will always review a coin free of charge in our holder when a data error appears."

    On the bottom of every NGC coin certification, this notice appears: "If the information displayed above is incorrect or does not match the coin you are verifying, or if you believe that you have a counterfeit or tampered NGC holder, please contact ConsumerAwareness@ngccoin.com."

    This service is essential as is checking certifications of any lot online that you wish to bid on or purchase.

    Don't Overlook "Missing Halves" Mint Sets

    August 11, 2016 11:10 AM by Michael Bugeja

    ​Many hobbyists collect double mint sets, which the US Mint produced between 1947-58. The coins were housed in cardboard folders often with green flimsy paper glued to one side. The cardboard and paper often cause the coins inside to tone.

    I will save a full-blown column on these low-mintage sets for another day. Today we're looking at the remnants of sets with missing halves, which tend to tone in marvelous rainbows and which often are removed from sets and sent in for grading. Here's an example of the type of toning you can find on occasion, commanding premium prices when graded by a top-tier holdering company. (Bottom-tier slabs often house artificially colored coins.)

    But this doesn't mean that the other coins in the double mint set are not worth considering. First of all, you will have four or six silver quarters and silver dimes, depending on the year. That's about $20-30 of silver right there.

    But there is a big market for toned quarters, too, which sell particularly well on eBay.  Here's a 1958-D quarter of registry-set quality being offered for a whopping $12,508!

    There is somewhat of a market for the dimes and a better one for toned cents. But the real money to be made is in the nickel, and not because of toning. Nickels produced in the 1950s that have full steps can bring hundreds of dollars. For instance, a 1958 nickel with full steps is valued at $1,200 in a PCGS holder!

    The steps are on the reverse of the coin. Use a magnifier and see if you can see 5 or 6 steps. I have sent a few in for grading this month and will report on the outcome later.

    Paying for Coins Online

    July 29, 2016 7:15 PM by Michael Bugeja
    Buying and bidding on coins via the Internet is convenient, offering a wider array of options for the hobbyist collecting any denomination, date set or rarity. There are many payment options, too, and some of them are risky.

    Proxibid mainly uses the Auction Payment Network, but sellers do not have to subscribe to the service. APN is a safe way to bid, offering security options that other venues lack. When an auctioneer uses APN, the credit card on file with Proxibid is charged after each session. 

    However, not all Proxibid sellers use APN. Here's where it gets risky. Some sellers ask that you contact them via telephone or (yikes!) email with your credit card number, including expiration date and CVC code (the three numbers on the back of the card).

    Some bidders realize this too late because they failed to read the terms of service. Once you phone in or send your credit card information, there is no way to tell what the auctioneer will do with it. Perhaps the company stores it on a computer that other employees have access to, or worse, that can be hacked.

    As a rule, I never call in credit card information. If you learn about the payment option too late, call the auctioneer and ask if you can send a personal check or bank check. You'll likely wait longer for your coins as sellers must wait for checks to clear.

    Some Proxibid and most eBay sellers use PayPal, another secure way to send funds. PayPal likes to link directly to your bank account, and in that case, you're not getting reward points for using your credit card. Think about that. If you win a $20 Saint-Gaudens gold coin at $1,700 with buyer's fee, you just lost $17 or more.

    Also, if you link directly to your bank account, and something with the sale goes wrong, it may take up to 30 days for the funds to be credited to your bank or PayPal account.

    PayPal does allow you to link to your credit card if you want to claim reward points. There is no charge for this. Again, if a sale is canceled, you'll have to wait a month for accounts to be settled in your favor.

    Auctioneers hate charge-backs so do not use your card to do that unless you have a real dispute, such as purchase of a counterfeit coin. You can be looking at extra fees if you attempt to cancel a transaction due to buyer's remorse.

    Finally, always read the terms of service before deciding how to pay for your lots. You can save yourself time and, most important, money.  

    Bidding on Raw Coins in Online Auctions

    July 22, 2016 8:51 PM by Michael Bugeja
    ​My last post explained how to research coins slabbed by top grading companies, checking latest auction prices and factoring in buyer's fees and shipping. Bidding on uncertified coins is much riskier, and the research much more involved than looking up certification numbers and latest auction prices.

    One of the very best resources on the Web remains PCGS Photograde Online . There is even an informative video on the website that explains how to grade so that you can determine whether to submit to PCGS, considered one of the top two holdering companies with NGC.

    I don't recommend bidding on raw coins in Proxibid, eBay or other online venues unless you know how to grade and can tell condition issues like cleaning, alternation, environmental damage and more. Even if you can do that, you should only bid with auctioneers who provide sharp photographs and charge reasonable shipping and buyer's fees.

    Also, never believe the description on the flip. Consignors and auctioneers who represent them tend to inflate value--the reason, by the way, that third-party grading companies came into existence.

    Currently I am bidding in an online auction on Proxibid with a seller who knows how to grade and generally does a fine job in his descriptions. (He's better with silver dollars than copper, but that is only my assessment.) In any case he charges a reasonable 15% buyer's fee, ships inexpensively and is a seasoned numismatist. 

    In his current auction, he is selling a collection of Lincoln Wheat cents from an older collector. He is providing fine photos, as the 1931-D Cent above illustrates.

    Before bidding, I study his photos and descriptions, add my own analysis, look up the latest auction prices, factor in fees and place a low-ball bid (because anyone who bids on raw coins takes a risk). Also, this seller submits to PCGS, and if a coin is uncertified, he felt it was generally not worth the effort. (That's a tip, by the way--to be explained in a future post.)

    Nonetheless, Lincoln cents in almost uncirculated and uncirculated condition can be worth winning, especially semi key dates such as 1924-D (2,520,000 mintage) or 1931-D (4,480,000).

    Before placing bids, I keep a running journal with what the trusted auctioneer stated, my assessment of the grade, and potential value. Then I decide to bid or pass.

    Here's an excerpt from my journal:

    AUCTIONEER: 1909 cent. Near-gem to gem red unc. 

    BUGEJA: Red-brown, MS64

    VALUE: $48

    DECISION: No bid; not worth the effort

    *  *  *

    AUCTIONEER: 1909 VDB cent. A little dark over the profile,but we're calling this a near-gem unc.

    BUGEJA: Red-brown, low mint state, questionable color, carbon spot

    VALUE: $20

    DECISION: No bid

    *  *  *

    AUCTIONEER: 1910-S cent. AU, very near unc

    BUGEJA: Carbon spot, cheek AU53

    VALUE: $60

    DECISION: $11

    * * *

    I know this seems tedious, but it is the only safe way to bid online. Don't worry about losing coins or get lured into a bidding war. There are thousands of coins in online auction. Bid well, and you'll have the funds to win other lots without disappointment.

    Informed Buyers Do Research Before Bidding

    July 14, 2016 10:06 PM by Michael Bugeja
    Auctioneers have every right to set opening bids, buyer's fees and shipping costs, and if they set them high, they could lose regular customers ... or score retail prices from bidders who win lots without doing research.

    Expand the screenshot above and read the PCGS certification on the label of this Iowa Commemorative Half Dollar. 

    Note: Sometimes auctioneers put stickers there so you will not be able to check registrations. (Here is an irksome example of that on Proxibid.) If you really want the coin, call up the auctioneer and ask him to read you the certification. 

    You want to check certs rather than price lists because PCGS provides another link to CoinFacts (free now), which will tell you whether the coin sold in a previous auction. You'll also have access to more data.

    In this case, you begin your research by verifying the certification number on the label using PCGS's link for that . When you input the cert, you learn this 1946 Iowa Commemorative Half Dollar retails for $120 at MS64. To the right of that webpage is another link to CoinFacts  with recent auction prices. According to its data, this coin sells in auctions between $75-86.

    So if you place a minimum bid of $100--and nobody else places a bid--you will be "winning" the coin at retail, or what a coin shop would charge you. That's because the buyer's fee in this auction is 20%. Moreover, you would have to pay shipping and handling fees for this coin, increasing the price even more.

    Other top holdering companies, such as NGC, also verify certification on the label with current auction prices. Here is an NGC MS64 Iowa Commemorative valued at $130 by NGC. This coin sold on GreatCollections for $57.09 (or $62.80 with BP). 

    All these links are part of research. If you bid for coins online, you're doing so in competition with buyers like me who seldom place a retail bid unless I believe the coin is under-graded. If you don't take your time doing these steps, you'll quickly run out of hobbyist dollars. Never feel bad about underbidding if you have researched a coin. You actually won in many cases ... holding on to your own money. 

    Next time we will go through research steps with raw coins. Stay tuned.

    Cherrypicking the 1901 Morgan Double Die Reverse

    July 10, 2016 1:29 PM by Michael Bugeja
    During the past several years I have been able to identify in a few online auctions one of the rarest Morgan silver dollar varieties, or 1901 Doubled Die Reverse (DDR), also known as the VAM-3 Shifted Eagle.

    VAM is an acronym for Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis, numismatists who cataloged varieties in their Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars.

    The 1901 Morgan variety is considered one of the strongest double dies in the silver dollar series. A  misalignment of hub and die shifted the eagle and doubled the lower eagle wings, tail feathers, arrow shafts and arrowheads. As in the photo above (click to expand) you can see the dramatic doubling of the tail feathers--just as strong as the more popular and common 1878 Morgan 7 over 8 Tail Feathers.

    I first wrote about the 1901 DDR in a Home Hobbyist column . I won such a coin in a John Leonard auction with a bid of $240. He identified the variety in his Proxibid description. PCGS slabbed the coin EF40, worth $1,600. 

    On April 22, I spotted another 1901 DDR in an online Auction by Wallace session and won it with a bid of $275. It just graded EF45, worth $1,700. You can check the PCGS certification by clicking here.

    This is yet another example of how numismatic knowledge empowers bidders in online auctions. The 1901 Morgan in lower grades is fairly common. Not so the Shifted Eagle reverse. The 1901 DDR that just graded was not listed as such in the Wallace auction description. I knew it, and that gave an edge over other bidders.

    You can do the same now.

    Questionable Lot Was Dipped

    July 3, 2016 7:46 AM by Michael Bugeja
    Last week I wrote about the ability online to distinguish between polished, deep mirror, and questionable lots, promising to follow up when I received the questionable coin to see whether might slab or whether it was dipped to the point of being cleaned and ungradeworthy.

    I won the 1883-CC Morgan dollar with a bid of $160, or a realized price of $192, with 20% buyer's premium.

    The coin was cleaned and dipped, ungradeworthy, with a value of about $140. So I lost about $50.

    But not all was lost. I now have a comparison photo (click and expand the one above) to gauge the luster of any future lots from this seller. You can see from the dual photo above how lighting can make a dipped coin look uncirculated (left photo) and how natural light can show the flaws (right photo).

    If you think the disparity is so great that these cannot be the same coin, look at the minor scrape on the obverse under the "M" in "Unum."

    The example shows how photography online can fool an experienced buyer.

    I also will bid much more judiciously on raw coins from this seller. I have purchased dozens of coins from him when his buyer's premium was 15%. Like too many others on Proxibid, he is charging 20% now, and I expect more from auctions that do this, especially in the descriptions. If a coin is tampered with, just say it. Some auctioneers can't tell the difference between a lustrous silver coin and a dipped one. This dealer can and isn't doing that.

    In the end, this post affirms the lessons of my last one. If you are going to take a chance on a questionable coin, make sure it has some other value, in case the coin is dipped or cleaned. The Carson City mint mark saved me from a steeper loss. If the coin were an 1883-O Morgan, a common year, with a photo that made the condition seem MS65 or MS66--won with the same $160 bid at 20% BP--my loss would not be $50 but $170.

    Polished, Deep-Mirror and Questionable Lots

    June 25, 2016 7:17 PM by Michael Bugeja
    One of the challenges in online auctions hosted by Proxibid concerns sellers who do not describe the condition of a coin, relying on bidders to make that determination. I encountered that in a June 25 auction by Fox Valley Coins.

    Click and expand the photo above. The first coin is an 1882-CC Morgan, obviously polished; the second is a deep-mirror proof-like 1880-S Morgan; and the third is a questionable 1883-CC Morgan.

    Both Carson City dollars were included in the Fox Valley auction. No descriptions were provided. 

    People polish coins for various reasons and with various instruments. Some want to pass a coin off as proof-like, hide flaws, or remove tarnish or stains. Suffice to say they damage the coin, drastically decreasing its value. The 1882-CC coin depicted here sold for $140 with a 20% buyer's fee, or $168. In my view, it is worth no more than $50-75. 

    I won the 1883-CC questionable Morgan with a bid of $160, or a realized price of $192.

    The deep-mirror proof-like 1880-S was not in the Fox Valley auction and used only to show the difference between a polished coin and DMPL (pronounced "dimple."). The polished coin lacks luster, has bag marks and rim gashes on the upper cheek, below and to the left of the ear, and in the left field. It is not uncirculated. A true DMPL coin has to have mirrors that reflect 6 inches or more on both sides of the coin--a topic for another day.

    The questionable coin that I won is not polished; but it may have been dipped. I won't know for a week or more when I receive the coin. I took a chance because there is really no reason to tamper with true uncirculated Carson City dollars that mostly came out of surplus Treasury bags in the 1970s. They are beautiful enough without dipping.

    I'll let you know if my gamble paid off in a future post.

    Before bidding on a coin that may have been polished, study the luster to see if it has a painted-one shine rather than mirror-like surface. Look for damage or remnants of tarnish that may have prompted the owner to buff the coin with a Dremel or other machine. Take a chance on a questionable coin only if it has other aspects of value, such as a Carson City mint mark and/or low mintage.

    PCGS WTC Coins in Online Auctions

    June 21, 2016 7:53 AM by Michael Bugeja
    Some 15 years ago after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers, several vaults of silver, gold and rare coins were recovered and taken to PCGS for grading. A special American flag label was created, and thousands of coins released to the public for purchase.

    Although many denominations were slabbed, the most popular remains the American Silver Eagle, a symbol of strength with its ageless obverse design patterned after Adolph A. Weinman "Walking Liberty" half dollar. 

    Controversy arose initially about the purchasing of WTC coins in light of the catastrophe that claimed the lives of 2,996 people with thousands more injured and later diagnosed with illnesses from the dust and debris, especially police and firefighters who responded to the scene.

    Many hobbyists defend their desire to collect WTC-slabbed coins as a token to remember the tragedy or to own a piece of history. Others prefer to purchase a US Mint 10-year anniversary medal whose surcharges went to the Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum. 

    That said, PCGS-slabbed WTC coins go for large premiums above their silver content. Many sell for about $100-$150 on Proxibid and about $150-$200 on eBay.

    In general, the coins should not contain any spotting or toning. Those that do go for less. Any PCGS slab marked MS69 rather than brilliant uncirculated also sell for higher premiums. Some from numbered sets (as in the photo above) also sell for slightly higher premiums, especially with a Number 1. 

    Good Photos Without Descriptions Also Mislead

    June 11, 2016 9:21 AM by Michael Bugeja
    You find situations like this occasionally on Proxibid, and when you do, you remember it, as I will with this won coin in a recent auction.

    Click the above photo and take a look at the left photo of a 1960 Franklin Half. All the auctioneer listed was the date and denomination. Curiously, he cropped the flip. 

    I always caution online bidders to disregard the oft-exaggerated descriptions on the flip which typically hype the grade and attributes of the coins. In this case, however, the description on the flip (see right coin photo, which I just took) would have helped. I never would have bid on the lot.

    If the coin in question was an MS65 or 66 uncirculated business strike 1960 Franklin half, its worth would be anywhere between $80 and $750 as opposed to $20-30 for a proof strike. Worse, look closely at the left field of the proof coin. It is impaired, rendering this coin as silver melt.

    There is no way to fight against this kind of situation except to be wary the next time bidding in a particular auction. I certainly won't bid anymore in this auction unless I can view the description, and then I would be placing low-balls because my trust in the seller has been undermined by this transaction.

    He probably didn't mean to mislead. Often auctioneers outsource photos. Because sellers have other duties, they sometimes take shortcuts on descriptions. So I am not accusing him here. What I am stating, however, is the end result was misleading and that has an impact on return customers.

    Also this example goes to show once more the risks of bidding online on uncertified coins, even if you possess the skill to know grade and condition. 

    Always Check Old Capital Holders for Gems

    June 4, 2016 6:54 PM by Michael Bugeja
    In an April 1, 2016 auction hosted by Proxibid, I bid $6 and won three steel cents in a Capital coin holder. My maximum bid was $30, but the competition wasn't keen for what many buyers believed were common cents.

    Smart buyers rely on common sense. They check out old Capital holders for gem coins inside the black or white plastic holders adorned with gold lettering. That was the case here.

    I scored a bargain and immediately sent the 1943-D to PCGS where it graded MS66 (although I was hoping for MS67).  

    Fortunately for me, auctioneer Sheena Wallace of Auctions by Wallace provides clear photos and several of them, too, on almost every lot. I could tell from the photo of the 1943-D obverse that I had discovered a hidden gem--literally. 

    Capital holders are manufactured by Capital Plastics, an Ohio company. It was founded in 1952. Early on the intent was to preserve medals from World War II but soon the company was making molds for all manner of coins.

    Often you find dozens of Capital holders in estate auctions whose collections were amassed before third-party grading companies became popular. Even in the 1980s and early 1990s many hobbyists still preferred uncertified coins that they could view raw on occasion. Capital holders have plastic screws that easily come off for such viewing.

    Of course, Capital holders are popular to this day. Often hobbyists store inferior coins in them, ones returned from grading companies or that contain flaws, but otherwise are desirable. The key to finding hidden gems is in the estate auction with older holders whose screws bear tell-tale signs of yellowing from decades of storage.

    Those are the ones I search for and others overlook.

    Research Value Before Accepting "Opening Bid"

    May 27, 2016 10:37 AM by Michael Bugeja
    Occasionally on Proxibid and eBay sellers open bids near or at the retail value of a coin, as seen in the example above, a 1960-D Franklin half dollar whose retail value is $23 according to NGC.

    By the time you add the buyer's premium, shipping, handling and other fees, you could be paying $35 for this coin, assuming that you win it with the opening bid and that no one else bids on the lot.

    The above-pictured lot (click to expand) is from Proxibid, but you can find the same phenomenon on eBay, as in this example for the same year, mint mark and NGC grade. 

    In my view, and you may hold a different one, starting bids that approximate retail values undermine the meaning of the word "auction." The excitement of an auction is the possibility of winning a lot below its actual retail value in a competitive environment, enhanced by the auctioneer's descriptions (oral or verbal), which often trigger bidding wars. The idea here is simple: the auctioneer wins when one bidder wants a coin more than another buyer, which may lead to sales above that actual value of the lot.

    That scenario in part is how true value is determined over time in price lists like Coin Values

    Sellers who open bids near or at retail value and call that value "an opening bid" misuse or misconstrue that auction term which, according to the National Auctioneers Association, means "the first bid offered by a bidder at an auction ." It is NOT the first bid determined by the auctioneer.

    There is another term for that, "reserved," which the NAA defines as "The minimum price that a seller is willing to accept for a property to be sold at auction."

    When you spot a coin that you desire, holdered by a top-tier company such as NGC  or PCGS, go to that company's website and type the certification number, as explained in one of my recent CW posts . You will find the value so that you can bid accordingly.  

    If you want to bid on an uncertified coin, use your grading prowess and check worth on Coin Values or PCGS CoinFacts , before placing a bid. 

    Again, it's only my practice, and you should feel free to establish your own, but when I see opening bids near or at retail values, I usually look for another online "auction" that contains the competitive attributes of that word. Otherwise, I just go to the local coin shop.

    Cameo Designation Requires Both Sides of Proof Coins

    May 21, 2016 11:35 AM by Michael Bugeja
    ​Originally, only the obverse side of this 1963 Franklin Proof coin above was shown in a Proxibid auction. The flip stated this was PR68, Deep Cameo. That's a $700 coin in a PCGS holder. 

    I saw some marks on the left field and above the last "T" in "Trust." But I still put the grade at PR66 or PR67 worth $130 or $210, respectively.

    However, I needed to see the reverse before placing a bid.

    The amateur bidder would go by the description here, taking the grade designation on faith; a journeyman bidder might see the marks on the fields and bid as if on a PR66 coin. But the experienced online bidder would contact the company, as I did, and request a photo of the reverse.

    The auctioneer complied, and as you can see, the reverse is not frosted; in fact, it is stained or perhaps has unattractive toning. I didn't even bid on the coin.

    The "Cameo" designation requires "frostiness" on both sides of the coin, although one side may be heavier than the other. For instance, a Deep Cameo obverse and a Cameo reverse would result in a Cameo designation. For the rare “Deep Cameo Proof” designation, devices have to be heavily frosted on both the obverse and the reverse with even, heavy contrast on all the devices.

    The lesson here is multi-fold:

    1. Disregard the description on the flip or by the auctioneer. You have to rely on your own numismatic knowledge. Take the time to look up designations such as "Cameo" on Franklin halves or "Deep Mirror Proof-like" on Morgan dollars.

    2. Do not bid on a suspected Cameo or Deep Cameo lot unless you have access to both sides of the coin. If only the obverse is shown on a PCGS or NGC holdered coin, you probably do not need both sides. You should ask to see the reverse on all other slabbed coins.

    3. If the seller refuses to show both sides of the coin after you request that, don't bid in another of his auctions.

    Finally, if the coin in question lives up to the Cameo or Deep Cameo designation on obverse and reverse, then look up recent auction prices on PCGS CoinFacts and bid accordingly.   

    Proxibid to Upgrade Search Functions, Options

    May 15, 2016 12:41 PM by Michael Bugeja

    ​As many viewers following this CW blog know, we often cover the auction portal Proxibid's "Coin and Currency" category, primarily because great buys and steep risks can be had there. If you plan to bid on coins in Proxibid, you had better know numismatics, including grading, condition problems, varieties, rarities, service terms and so much more.

    But the journey is worthwhile. If it's any indication, I buy on Proxibid and consign on eBay and GreatCollections.

    That says plenty.

    Newcomers to the site may not immediately get the hang on bidding on an auction portal. For that, they need some type of guidance, at least until they find auctioneers they can trust.

    Connect with Coin World: 

    A few years ago I and other Proxibidders advocated successfully for a rating system, to which the company agreed. The system was meant to support  its "badge" award program. Both, in my opinion, have not been as helpful as they should have been.

    For instance, it awarded its "Gold Ribbon" badge to sellers who routinely hyped damaged self-slabbed coins as being worth tens of thousands of dollars, using PCGS values; that, finally, has stopped in the wake of eBay-like listing policies adopted last year. And some sellers with ridiculous service terms, including high shipping rates and late delivery (or no delivery) shipping, or who allow auctioneer or maximum-bid viewing, routinely get 4 of 5 stars from buyers.

    Reason? Those bidding on Proxibid may not fully realize the tenets and tips of smart numismatic buying online.

    That said, there is one more thing the portal can do (which eBay already does) and that is list the number off buyers who follow a seller or list the seller as a favorite.

    And this may be in the offing. Proxibid has a semi-reliable search function. It's in the process of improving that. So when that occurs, the company says, it may be able to add a "favorite" tab for buyers.

    "Soon, Proxibid will launch an upgraded search engine, and once that is in place we will be able to implement features like saved search and the ability to tag favorite sellers," says Jason Nielsen, SVP of Operations for Proxibid. "We recognize the importance of offering a feature-rich product for buyers, and this is an area where we plan to invest."

    I have bid on Proxibid for a number of years as one of its earliest advocates. In fact, I lobbied for a "Coins and Currency" category and other improvements. True, the portal isn't perfect; but it listens to buyers, and that says something about its continued success.



    Stickers, Barcodes and Counterfeit Holders

    May 9, 2016 6:09 AM by Michael Bugeja

    On March 22, 2016, Coin World ran yet another article about counterfeits in fake holders. The problem has been occurring for years now. In 2011, I identified a counterfeit holder in an online auction by going to the PCGS verification page and typing the cert of a coin that just didn't look right. Sure enough, the PCGS certification had a photo that showed a sticker from the Certified Acceptance Corporation. The online fake coin lacked that sticker on the holder.

    Auctioneers love stickers of a different sort, as evidenced by the one in the photo above. They usually put a description or the lot number on a department store sticker and slap that on the holder, covering the certification number. This is especially vexing on PCGS and NGC coins, both of which have been the target of counterfeit coins in fake holders.

    In fact, I never bid on a certified coin unless I can check it on the PCGS or NGC verification links. 

    Connect with Coin World:  

    In a March online Proxibid session conducted by Auctions by Wallace, I noticed a few NGC and PCGS certs had stickers partially covering the certifications. That surprised me because this auction house knows the value of certification numbers. 

    But I wanted to bid on these coins, so I contacted Sheena Wallace about the stickers. I was in for another surprise, this time because of technology. "The problem we have is that when we upload the photos our system is so sensitive it reads the barcodes and the photos get all jumbled," Wallace noted. "It actually will lock up our auction software and I have to call the company to get it fixed.  Isn't technology grand?"

    Wallace corrected the problem and is sensitive to the reasons experienced bidders like me always check the certification, not only for fraud purposes but also for previous sales of the coin in question and other data that helps determine maximum bids.

    My advice is not to bid on coins when certification numbers are covered by auction house stickers. Email the auctioneer and ask for the certification data and then do a check with the appropriate holdering company. If the auction house fails to respond to your request, you may want to bid in another online session. There are plenty on Proxibid and eBay and you don't have to settle for unresponsible auctioneers.   

    Dings and Damage in Online Auctions

    April 30, 2016 9:43 PM by Michael Bugeja
    Click the photo above and expand it for a good look. The bump on the left is easy to see. That coin is not grade-worthy by PCGS, NGC, ANACS or ICG. The one on the right, with the ding, is.

    I give credit to the auctioneer who described the coin on the left. At least he made an attempt to call attention to a flaw, which is more than many sellers do. He understated the flaw somewhat, however: "Appears to be a slight rim ding on reverse. "

    It wasn't a ding. It was damage, and that led to this post. 

    Sometimes auctioneers (and collectors) forget what Morgan dollars have been through in the 138 years they have jostled in bank bags on the way to the vault or spilled in a jackpot on the casino floor. To the hobbyist, those large dollars--among the most popular buys in online auctions--are associated with places rather than journeys, specially the wild west (Carson City) and Comstock Silver Load (Nevada).

    But stop for a minute and imagine the jolts and jars those coins experienced before ending up in a light box where a photographer captured their condition digitally for the Proxibid or eBay session displayed on your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

    Fact is, many uncertified Morgan dollars have either taken a beating in past use ... or hibernated in a bag. And chances are the ones that took a beating have a bump to show for it and the ones that hibernated have a ding.

    Dings are sometimes called "nicks," and while they won't necessarily keep a coin out of a first-rate holder, they can affect condition, depending on how deep or how many dings are evident.

    The coin with the bump in the above screenshot is an 1891-CC. And again, my hobbyist hat is off to the under-stating auctioneer because unlike some sellers, he provided a reverse image and then called attention to a condition issue.

    It has taken online auctioneers years to understand that they must provide obverse and reverse photos in online auctions, precisely because of flaws like this. 

    If the auctioneer doesn't provide a reverse image, you may not want to place a bid. 

    Sometimes Losing is Winning in Online Auctions

    April 24, 2016 3:02 PM by Michael Bugeja
    Above is a screenshot of how my maximum bids did in an online Proxibid auction held on Sunday, April 24. I bid on nine coins and lost every one. I was a bit disappointed that my maximum bid on one lot was matched by an onsite bid, resulting in my losing the coin. But overall, I was pleased to see I did not overpay for any coin the way that onsite bidders did.

    No Internet bidder won any of my preferred lots.

    I practice several important rules when bidding online. Previously I wrote about the "One Flaw Rule ," reminding me not to place a bid whenever I suspect a serious condition such as pin scratches or cleaning. These nine bids represented what I considered lots worthy enough for judicious bids.

    I seldom place a bid based on the retail price as listed in Coin World's Coin Values . Rather, I check the latest auction prices on PCGSCoinFacts and then use that as a guide for maximum bids, factoring the buyer's premium and shipping cost into that amount. 

    Take, for example, the 1877 Trade Dollar graded VF35 by ANACS, considered one step below PCGS holdered coins. At that grade, a similar coin in a PCGS slab sells for about $180 at auction. Recent auction prices with BP added ("realized price") for VF 1877 Trade Dollars in ANACS holders are in the $140-160 range.

    That informed my $100 maximum bid. The lot in question sold for $210, or $247.80 realized price--about $100 more than the typical auction sale for that lot.

    I didn't like the look of the 1890-CC PCGS Morgan, so I put a low-ball bid for it. The coin was graded MS61, but was heavily bagmarked. It sold for $560 realized price, about $40 more than retail value. Same result for the 1892-CC, which sold for about $25 above retail.

    The worst "buy" here was the 1882--CC MS62 by Dominion Grading, a company no longer in business but known to be an excellent grader. It's difficult to get a good buy on any Carson City dollar. This was, however, was a bad buy with a realized price of $318.60. That's about $100 over retail. Typical auction realized prices for a PCGS-holdered 1882-CC are about $180-200.

    It's fine to pay that amount if you really need or want a coin. Bidders who pay more than auction rates help drive prices upward, and that's important for the hobbyist like me. I just don't want to be doing it. You may want to be as cautious, too. Your auction dollar will go farther.

    Be Sure to Check COAs on GSA Dollars

    April 18, 2016 1:44 PM by Michael Bugeja

    ​When buying Morgan dollars encapsulated by the General Services Administration, the certificate of authenticity as well as the box and holder the product comes in are important to check before placing a bid.

    If the certificate is wrong, the owner most likely switched out a dollar from the original box. That's easy to do, and it usually happens when the coin owner sends in the GSA holder for encapsulation and is left with an empty box and COA. (True, some hobbyists send their GSA dollars to companies that affix a label to the original GSA holder; others, like me, dislike the GSA holders because they take up too much space and no longer fit in boxes housing other Morgans in a set.)

    At any rate, there is a way to tell if the Morgan and COA match--assuming the auction or seller has provided a photo of the certificate (and that is not always the case).

    The first two numbers in blue in the upper right corner should match the year of the coin in the holder and box. In the screenshot above, the dollar is an 1883-CC with a cert that begins with an "82," indicating the COA belonged to another coin.

    When I see this, I take a long look at the coin to see why it was switched out. If I spot a flaw, I don't bid.

    Here's why: Most GSA dollars are brilliant uncirculated, but some are badly bag-marked or even almost uncirculated. Those get a different certification insert without a number. Switch out that insert with another that indicates BU condition, and you have bid on a problem coin.

    Also, the GSA holder and box should be in good condition. GSA holders are known to scratch and crack. Also, the lid should attach to the box with a thin black paper, which often rips or detaches. Bid lower on those scratched, cracked holders and detached boxes, again assuming the auctioneer has included photos of the coin, box and COA.

    And that's the trouble with bidding online. Only a select few auctioneers on Proxibid and eBay show photos or describe the condition of the holder (obverse and reverse) and box (in tact or detached) and include the correct COA.

    If you are interested in reading more about GSA dollars, here is a nifty site recounting its history. You might also be interested in visiting the Carson City Coin Collectors of America site.

    GSA dollars are mostly from Carson City, but other mints are represented, too. See Coin World Values for more information about pricing.

    Questionably Graded Coins in Online Auction

    April 8, 2016 8:29 PM by Michael Bugeja
    The above screenshot (click to expand) shows what looks like an almost uncirculated Morgan graded MS65 by a relatively unknown holdering company. Owen McKee, an Iowa coin dealer with whom I have done business for years, questions the grade in his Proxibid description. 

    I like that about this auction. McKee's buyer premium may be high at 20%, but he offers hundreds of lots with something for everybody, and I've scored some nifty coins in his online sessions. I'll don't like paying premiums above 15%, but I do like auctioneers I can trust because of their numismatic knowledge.

    Actually, the slab and grade in the screenshot above is not extreme, as far as these things go. And grading is subjective ... to a point or two. But there are some companies that exaggerate grades in their labels to such extent that coin dealers like McKee have a difficult time not making a qualitative comment about the lots--lots he is selling for one of his consignors, by the way. (That says something.)

    McKee calls the grading of this 1898 Morgan , purportedly MS66, "atrocious." 

    You will have to decide whether to bid on these types of coins. I bid on raw or uncertified coins, using my grading judgment, and ones slabbed by PCGS, NGC, ICG, and ANACS. I will consider coins slabbed by the green or gold PCI and SEGS. But when I see lots in holders like the 1898 one, I navigate right on by.

    Well, that's not entirely correct if the date of a coin may contain a rare variety, such as a "tailbar" 1890-CC Morgan or "double-die reverse" 1901 Morgan . In the past, I have scored these varieties on bottom-tier slabs because the person holdering them did not recognize the rarity or include it on the label.

    But you get the point. Bid cautiously. Deal with auctioneers you trust, as I do Owen McKee.

    One more thing: If an online auctioneer ever assigns a high value, such as might be found in Coin Values or PCGS Price Guide, to a coin in one of these bottom-tier holders, you may want to reconsider bidding in that online session. Proxibid rules forbid assigning a value to these types of coins. When I see an auctioneer do this, I report the item--a feature that Proxibid has added to its online auctions.

    Also, eBay has had similar rules for coins for years now. You can read about their guidelines by clicking here

    Factor Opening Bids Before Placing One

    April 3, 2016 8:58 AM by Michael Bugeja
    ​True, an 1884-CC Morgan dollar ranks among the most popular lots in any online auction, and you can find dozens of these on Proxibid and hundreds on eBay. The coins come in first-, second- and bottom-tier holders as well as government holders from the General Services Administration. GSA dollars are particularly coveted.

    In the 1960s, the US Treasury discovered 3 million uncirculated Morgan dollars in sealed bags. In the 1970s, the dollars were sold to the public. The 1884-CC is the most common of the hoard. It had a mintage of 
    1,136,000 with 962,000, or   84.6% of the run, found in those bags. The majority of these grade MS64, according to PCGS CoinFacts.

    The coin above was offered in a recent Proxibid sale with an opening bid of $600, a 300% mark-up from recent auction prices as listed by PCGS CoinFacts. The coin sells retail for about $275. Add to that Proxibid opening bid a 15% buyer's fee plus shipping and handling--assuming you win the lot with the opening bid--and you're paying hundreds more than the coin is worth.

    You can buy a GSA MS65+ (or with some negotiation, an MS66) for that price on eBay. Here's an example, a rainbow-toned 1884-CC graded MS65+ by NGC in a GSA holder with a $688 buy-it-now price with the option of making a lower offer.

    The Proxibid example has three strikes against it: the high opening bid, the sub-standard photography, and the inconsistent slabbing company. There's no way for me to tell the true grade of the coin, and what appears to be toning can be assessed by a top-tier company as environmental damage.

    One last thing: If you really want an auction lot like this, wait until the session begins online. Sometimes Proxibid auctioneers open with an exaggerated price, wait to see if there are any takers, and then start with a low bid, trying to work up competition and higher hammer prices. 

    Many Uncertified "Raw" Coins Are Cleaned

    March 30, 2016 9:14 PM by Michael Bugeja
    The above photo illustrates the difference between hairlines from cleaning and slide marks from coin albums with plastic strip protectors. 

    Harshly cleaned coins are common in Proxibid and eBay auctions. This 1884 Morgan dollar (above photo, left) shows deep hairlines from cleaning with a metal pad, essentially ruining the coin. You can see the arc of the cleaning here, curving downward and across the cheek.

    (Click the photo to expand.)

    Other kinds of cleaning are more difficult to detect.

    Lightly cleaned coins still have hairlines from rubbing with a cloth rather than metal pad. Again, these hairlines are seldom straight as in a horizontal or vertical streak; they usually are uneven or curved, as in a rubbing pattern.

    Horizontal or vertical streaks often are so-called "slide marks" caused by coin albums with plastic slip protectors. Dansco albums, for instance, have  such protectors. When hobbyists are not careful and "slide" the protectors to take out coins, the dust on the plastic rubs against the metal and causes those straight lines.

    Slide marks may lower eye appeal, but coins with them still are grade-worthy. Harshly and lightly cleaned coins will not earn a grade from the top holdering companies (PCGS, NGC, ANACS, ICG).

    The most difficult cleaned coin to detect in online photos comes from dipping in a solution that strips a thin layer from the metal. NGC has an informative article  about dipping. 

    Many dealers are skilled in dipping to remove tarnish, but some hobbyists who try this--using a solution like Jewel Luster--strip away too much of the top layer. The coin ends up losing the luster (ironically), leaving a dull surface. 

    The problem with online photos of such coins is the flash of a camera often bestows a "false" luster (light shining on metal) that the coin actually lacks.

    To avoid spending top dollar for cleaned coins, consider ones only in top-tier holders  Or ask the seller whether the coin has been dipped or otherwise cleaned. Never bid on a coin with poor photos that prevent you from discerning true condition--no matter what the seller says about the lot or what the flip states about mint state or value. 

    Read Terms Before Bidding, Auctioneer Advises

    March 26, 2016 9:03 PM by Michael Bugeja

    You might not immediately make the connection about the significance of onsite previews in Internet coin auctions, says licensed auctioneer Sheena Wallace, who operates Auctions by Wallace in Barhamsville, Virginia.

    But that information is there if you read the terms of service, and its presence is a plus when it comes to coins. 

    "While it is not feasible for an online bidder in California, for example, to personally preview a sale in Virginia, it is important to know when the items are available to preview," Wallace says.  "Meaning, if an auction does not offer any preview ... they are more than likely over-hyping coins."

    Preview times at her company occur a few hours before selling begins.

    Auctions by Wallace is a full service company that holds auctions in its 7,200-square-foot facility. It also dual lists those auctions on Proxibid. I have been bidding on coins in her sessions for several years and have been pleased with Wallace's communication and dedication to coin sales.

    She is one of the relative few auctioneers on Proxibid that guarantee the authenticity of coins. Many state all sales are final, even for counterfeit or mis-identified replicas. 

    Her house charges a reasonable 15% buyer's premium. She charges a $1 handling fee plus postage and provides tracking via email so you know when the coins ship and where they are during transit.
    Shipping is part of customer service, and she wonders about Proxibid sellers who refuse to combine lots as small as coins.

    Here's a verbatim example from one Proxibid auction house:  "IMPORTANT- YOU MAY NOT COMBINE PURCHASES TO SAVE ON SHIPPING. Small items, Cards, Coins, Jewelry and Baseballs - $12.95."

    That's a ludicrous policy. If you win two American Silver Eagles in separate lots from this seller, you will pay $25.90 plus the winning bids and 19.75% buyer's premium. That will cost you more than $85.

    Nonetheless, buyers do need to understand the cost of shipping, Wallace says. "I have seen recently that one company only charges $5 shipping.  That is great but they are charging 21% BP so the buyer's are paying for the shipping through BP.  

    "Another company only charges $5 but passes on the cost for insurance and signature confirmations--so you really don't know how to estimate for shipping because they are hiding the costs in insurance especially if they are using a third party shipping company and/or insurance company."

    As we have mentioned before in my Online Coin Auction blog, reading terms of service is critical if you want the online bidding experience to pay off. Failing to read terms or worse, failing to pay for your items after the sale, can ruin what should be a win-win situation for seller and buyer.

    As for me, I won two silver commemoratives in a recent Wallace auction--a 1936 Wisconsin and 1936 Norfolk coin. They were sent within two days after the auction and arrived within the week. Better still, the Wisconsin coin is a knock-out. I hesitate to say it, but I think it will grade MS67. The Norfolk coin is toned a beautiful gold, and I think I have a shot at MS66.

    I'll report on those in a few months. They're on their way to PCGS.

    And I have Sheena Wallace to thank because I trust doing business with her. And that's the key, auctioneers: return business. The friendlier the terms of service, the greater the trust.

    Replica California Gold Sells on eBay

    March 23, 2016 6:57 AM by Michael Bugeja

    Earlier this month  we warned about fake and replica California fractional gold   selling on Proxibid, noting that the company eventually persuaded the auctioneers to take it down. The one pictured here sold after 37 bids on eBay for $205, despite my reporting the item four times to eBay, citing its rules, and once to the seller (without a response).

    The item was listed as 1/2 dollar "California Fractional Gold Coins" with the seller stating the two coins being offered were found in the proverbial estate lockbox. The seller added he is not a coin expert and so could not authenticate them.

    Those words are red flags in my book with any coin, especially when the seller seems to know the denomination and how to describe the lot numismatically. Of course, according to his disclaimer, he is not a coin expert and so couldn't authenticate the lot--an indication that he had an inkling about their authenticity.

    Connect with Coin World: 
    Every word of the description is most likely in error. It's not a 1/2 dollar, as the word dollar never appears. The replica is not from California and certainly isn't fractional gold (probably brass or gilt plated brass). And it is not a "coin," a word reserved for official mints.

    At best it is a replica. At worst, it is a counterfeit.

    What is most concerning about this, however, is not the seller but eBay, which made numismatic news om 2012 when it sent out this message:

    Based on this feedback, and after closely reviewing the coin experience on eBay, we have decided to update eBay's Stamps, currency, and coins policy to disallow replica coin listings on eBay.com, effective February 20. ... This update reflects standards across the coin industry and helps ensure compliance with applicable laws that require replica coins to be permanently marked with the word "copy." 

    Those who report replicas and fakes on the Coin and Currency category of eBay expect that it will take action. Four times this was done in the course of a week, and the item still sold.

    The good news is that this was the only replica being sold at the time on eBay. In the past, I could find several.

    California fractional gold is rare. One surefire way to insist on authenticity is to require the Breen-Gillio number as found in the book about the denomination, titled  California Pioneer Fractional Gold.

    What an Auction Bill Looks Like

    March 20, 2016 8:03 PM by Michael Bugeja

    Before I bid on any lot in a Proxibid auction, I take a careful look at the buyer's terms. This auction had a steep 20% premium, so my bids were going to be conservative. (Click the photo above to expand.)

    Newbies in online auctions often just consider the bid and not the premium when trying to win lots. The result is they max out their credit cards and drop out of the bidding game for months at a time.

    To sustain my buying and selling, I not only employ my "One Flaw Rule," rejecting any lot with a perceived flaw, as explained here earlier in the month. I also judge the grade carefully, in this case, on five Morgans--four raw ones and one potentially under-graded NGC one. I am conservative in my grading, too. If a lot looks like an MS64, I consider it MS63 or MS62.

    Connect with Coin World: 

    Judging the grade is difficult online. Often photos are subpar and that affects perception. Better to be conservative and lose the lot than optimistic and disappointed when the coin ... and the bill ...  arrive.

    Once I determine the grade, I consult with PCGS CoinFacts for auction values. I never use retail or when wholesale bids when buying online. The only reliable value is what people will pay for a coin in an auction, and that is often below retail and wholesale.

    But my conservatism continues. If the coin is raw, or if I intend to crack it out and resubmit it, I then factor in another $30 dollars for PCGS or NGC submission fees.

    The result is I do not often win many coins. I may bid on 50 lots and win 5. My intent is not to keep all the coins I win but to win with a low bid and then consign and sell near retail. I don't make any profit, typically, because I may keep a coin for my collection, tucked away in a bank box.

    In the end, I break even usually or slightly ahead, but it is a way to continue collecting coins without a large budget.

    These five were as I had assumed they would be by way of condition. The 1881 actually has a shot at MS65. The others may grade high, too. I had hoped the 1885-S would come in at MS64, but when I saw the coin, I think that may be s stretch. An MS63 looks more like it. Current auction values peg an MS64 at $500 and an MS63 at about $300.

    Finding Crossover Candidates

    March 16, 2016 7:13 PM by Michael Bugeja

    As the photo above shows, I won a PCI-holdered 1888-O Morgan dollar for $80 (with buyer's premium, $93.60) in a SilverTowne auction on Proxibid. The PCI grade was MS66, but this looked more like a gem MS65.

    Today I received the coin back in the PCGS holder. It graded MS65. Its value? $625.

    That's a tidy profit.

    Connect with Coin World:  

    Don't make the mistake, as many sellers on Proxibid and eBay do, believing that the older PCI-slabbed coins are close to first-tier grades as might be found in PCGS, NGC, ANACS or ICG. (We're not addressing the so-called new PCI but ones with green or yellow labels.)

    PCI was woefully inconsistent. Many of the coins marked MS66 are really MS64. But on occasion, you can find a PCI-holdered coin that might miss the mark by a point, as I did with the 1888-O. Some even can cross over at the same grade.

    PCGS and NGC have earned their reputation by being consistent, and if you study how those companies grade coins so that you can identify likely crossover candidates, you can build a great collection at a wholesale price.

    As always, however, my ability to do this took time. Over several years, I have been able to cherrypick premium quality coins in lesser holders and submit them as crossovers to PCGS. (NGC only considers crossovers from PCGS and no longer will look at coins in other holders, including ANACS and ICG.)

    The lesson here not only involves winning bids but the ability to grade. I recommend the third edition of Making the Grade: Comprehensive Grading Guide for US Coins.

    Identifying Fake California Gold

    March 13, 2016 9:22 AM by Michael Bugeja

    The photo above features a genuine California Fractional Gold piece with a US currency denomination on the reverse and a fake piece, or replica, on the right with a bear symbol, which is not from the 19th century, not gold and most assuredly not from California. It was listed in a Proxibid auction has "1855 Cal. Gold Token."

    At best, this should have been listed as a "plated gold or brass replica."

    If you spot a bear on the reverse, or any other symbol or text without an indication of denomination, such as "dollar," "dol." or even "d," my advice is not to bid more than $1. My local coin dealer sells them for that much, and he has a box of them.

    Connect with Coin World:  

    Three other Proxibid auctioneers are listing lots labeled "California Gold." James Peterson auction lists one correctly:  "SCARCE 1870 1/4 DOLLAR CALIFORNIA GOLD COIN FROM SAFE DEPOSIT."

    And then there are two lots offered by Weaver Auction, which carefully lists them as "2 California Gold Token Souvenirs: 1854 Octagonal, 1857 Round." I would not have listed the dates; however, I also had never seen these particular souvenirs before.

    To identify the tokens on the Weaver site, I consulted Mike Locke's California Gold guide. Go to the "California Gold Token Guide" link and scroll down  to "Wreath." You will see that these are collectible gilt brass tokens worth $15-45.

    Auctioneers need to check his site before identifying any token as gold, let along California fractional gold.

    Identifying real vs. fake or replica California gold is important because of value. Look at the photo above again. The genuine 1872/1 25-cent piece, MS65 prooflike, is worth about $800. The token on the right, about $1. If a bidder pays hundreds for a brass replica, and later learns about it, he or she may leave the hobby.  

    To learn more about how to detect fake California gold, view my Coin World article on the topic.

    "One Flaw Rule" in Online Coin Auctions

    March 9, 2016 5:13 AM by Michael Bugeja

    If you intend to bid in eBay or Proxibid auctions, you had best temper your enthusiasm to own a coin and adopt what I call "the one flaw rule."

    Before explaining that, I want to emphasize how hobbyist feelings get in the way of good sense when bidding on Internet. I know. I have been there. Occasionally, I still get carried away wishing to win a coin or snare a good bargain.

    When it comes to raw or uncertified coins, however, more often than not you will not win or get a bargain. You will lose money and enthusiasm. 

    Connect with Coin World:  

    Auctioneers on Internet portals rarely mention flaws in coins. They do this to sell problem coins especially. That impulse in the 1980s led to third-party holding companies such as NGC and PCGS.

    You have to be your own authenticator on Internet. 

    The "one flaw rule" will help you. Look closely at the online photos of a coin lot. Do not bid on any raw coin that only shows the obverse. You need to inspect the reverse, too.

    The 1878-CC coin above is a perfect example. The obverse looks fine. But the reverse has the cut or scratch. As soon as you spot that, leave the coin lot and look at other prospects. 

    Do not bid unless the perceived flaw is mentioned in the description.

    In this 1878-CC Morgan
    , also on Proxibid, the seller identifies the flaw on the reverse: "small scratch on rev." 

    Finally, keep in mind that you won't find that perfect coin or bargain every day on Internet. You may find it once a month, and that's plenty. So find the flaw and move on. You'll be glad you did!

    Know Shipping Policies Before You Bid

    March 5, 2016 3:14 PM by Michael Bugeja

    Shipping policies on eBay are better than what you might find on an auction portal like Proxibid or iCollector. For starters, eBay monitors shipping and rewards best practices.

    For instance, sellers automatically receive a 5-star shipping time rating if they expedite shipping or if tracking information is uploaded by the end of the next business day after payment is received.

    Proxibid has a rating system, too, for shipping. I can't make much sense of it because auctioneers with terrible shipping policies rarely receive a rating lower than four out of five stars. 

    Connect with Coin World:  

    Here's an example: "Shipping and handling fees are $60.00 per flat rate USPS box, which includes insurance, tracking, and priority 2-3 day shipping."

    Suppose you won a $25 Silver Eagle? That will cost you about $90.

    Auctioneers who only recently decided to use Internet portals are used to calling the shots on everything--from no charge-backs (even on counterfeit coins) to no shipping whatsoever, requiring buyers to find local businesses like UPS and make arrangements for pick-up.

    I do not bid in any Proxibid auction that requires me to contact third-party shippers who will want credit card information. As soon as the auctioneer passes the coins to the shipper (and who knows what happens to the lots then?), the auctioneer no longer is responsible for loss of items. 

    When bidding on coins in auction portals, watch out for padded extra charges and handling fees. Here's an auctioneer that charges 79 cents per lot with another fee at 35 cents per minute handling with $3 minimum.

    Another auctioneer says he'll do shipping a week after the auction. He charges a $5.00 per box packing fee plus the actual cost of shipping. It makes no sense to charge coin buyers per lot. Auctioneers should want bidders to win many! If anything, discount shipping for multiple lots. And charging for some packing supplies is suspicious, especially when coins are shipped wrapped in torn newspapers or scraps from US Post Office boxes (a violation) and free boxes from that local post office, too.

    These are problem shippers. But you'll also find several auctioneers on Proxibid who understand that shipping matters and who do a respectable job.

    Several Proxibid auctioneers, like this one, state: "Exact shipping cost will be charged.Sometimes additional postal services or insurance may be added to the invoice if need, based upon value, weight, size and destination."

    Some auctioneers charge a flat fee, $5-$8, and ship within 24 hours. 

    Those tend to be ones that have repeat business because, as Internet sellers know, customer service is paramount and shipping is the major component of that service.

    Counterfeits Taken Down on Proxibid

    March 2, 2016 5:46 AM by Michael Bugeja

    ​A purported 1799 Draped Bust Silver Dollar, which should have a large eagle reverse, appeared this month in a Proxibid auction. The fake has what appears to be a 1797 large eagle reverse. There are other suspicious diagnostics, but these stand out.

    I contacted Proxibid through its "Report the Item" link when I first encountered the counterfeit. The lot was listed only as "Silver Coin." Bidders had enough knowledge to know that early silver dollars are rare; but they seem to have had insufficient knowledge to tell genuine from counterfeit. When bidding exceeded the $500 mark, I contacted Proxibid again, and this time the lot was removed.

    I also spotted a fake California fractional gold lot in another auction whose seller I know. I sent her an email and a Coin World link and this lot, too, was taken down. This was a conscientious seller who happens to follow this blog, so everything went well. 

    Connect with Coin World:  

    This morning I found another fractional gold fake and reported this to Proxibid, too. 

    I realize that in the numismatic community we abhor counterfeit coins because when discovered, they so infuriate buyers that they often drop out of the hobby, particularly if the coin is a perceived rarity and they have paid hundreds or thousands to win it. 

    However, I also keep in mind that Proxibid is a technology company. Its job is to notify the auctioneer. If the auctioneer refuses to take down the lot, because they mistakenly believe all sales are final--tell that to the US Government when selling a fake--then the buyer has some leverage if the "Report the Item" is used.

    Selling counterfeits is against Proxibid user rules. 

    The lesson here is to learn about counterfeits by reading the work of CW's Michael Fahey and other experts. Knowledge not only is power in numismatics; it also is fraud insurance.

    Fox Valley Coin Show Features Big and Small Sellers

    February 27, 2016 9:34 PM by Michael Bugeja
    A 1838 Judd-85 Gobrecht restrike , graded PR65 in an NGC holder was the top selling coin in the Feb. 26 Fox Valley Coin auction, live in Chicago and online via Proxibid, with an onsite winning bid of $115,000, or $138,000 with buyer's premium.

    This is a No-Stars version on the reverse. It differs from the less rare Judd-84, which has a reeded edge. The Judd-85 has a plain edge.

    Fewer than a half dozen such coins are known, and the last sold for 
    $123,375 with BP at the 2013 Long Beach sale. 

    The second highest seller was the 1863 $5 PF64 DCAM with CAC sticker with a bid of $82,000, or $98,400 with BP. That, too, went to an onsite seller. PCGS lists the coin at $80,000 retail. The last time a similar coin sold was in 2005 for $69,000.

    One of the top-selling coins to an Internet bidder was  a 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter, PCGS Certified at MS64FH with a bid of $17,000 or $20,400 with BP. This is valued by PCGS at $24,000; but recent auction prices hover at the 20K mark. 

    Among the low-ball sellers was an 1830 France 5 Franc love token , going for a bid of $25, or $31 with BP.

    I managed to win a lot, a 1936 Delaware tercentenary silver commemorative with a bid of $180, or $216 with BP. The fields are exceptionally clean and I am hoping for an MS65 or 66. A 65 would retail at $335 and a 66 at $600.     

    Exciting Fox Valley Auction; But Bid Carefully!

    February 23, 2016 1:24 PM by Michael Bugeja

    One of the major regional auctions by Fox Valley Coins, the Greater Chicago Coin Show, will take place Friday, Feb. 26, at the Illinois Convention Center. You can bid on coins there or via Proxibid, which is carrying the catalog on its website.

    I have bid via Proxibid in many Fox Valley Coin auctions and think highly about the company, with some caveats for hobbyists who have not encountered its Internet catalog. First and foremost, if you have the numismatic skill, you can score some fantastic bargains. There are uncertified lots in every denomination, including the ever-popular Morgan dollar. Here is a scarce 1895-S with a current bid at this writing of $650. (Expect that to go for $1000+.)

    The auction has rare gold and silver coins holdered by the major companies, including these rarities:
    • 1838 Gobrecht Silver Dollar (J-85 Restrike) NGC PF65 with a mintage of 4-7 pieces and a current bid of $30,500
    • 1863 $5 Gold PR64DCAM PCGS with a CAC sticker, mintage 30, and a current bid of $23,000.
    There are also hundreds of more affordable coins, slabbed and uncertified. You need to know more about the latter.

    Fox Valley doesn't note flaws in its online descriptions. Its photos are good, but Internet pictures sometimes aren't the best when it comes to coins with natural luster ... or ones that have been dipped. You will have to excel at online numismatics to detect rim bumps, alterations, PVC damage and other problematic details.

    I want your online auction dollar to go as far as possible. So before placing an Internet bid, inspect the coin carefully for any flaws and, if you see one, bid accordingly. If you don't possess sufficient numismatic knowledge, at least not yet, then bid on certified lots by PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG.

    Also, understand that Fox Valley charges a 20% buyer's premium and factor that into any bid, along with shipping, because your credit card will be charged and you cannot reverse charges once you commit to a sale.



    Some Proxibid Auctioneers Still Violate Rules

    February 21, 2016 10:24 AM by Michael Bugeja

    Six months ago the auction portal Proxibid, which has a coins and currency category, amended its Unified User Agreement to align with eBay guidelines. This was good news for the hobbyist, and the company was to be commended, especially since its competitors were not mandating the same.

    Specifically, coin lots cannot display a value greater than $2,500 unless certified by NGC, PCGS, ANACS or ICG.
    Coins slabbed by these companies can be listed with numerical grades. While the portal allows coins by other holdering companies, the numerical grade cannot appear in the title, description or item details.

    The decision to crack down on hyped descriptions, often involving self-slabbed coins, came in light of a Texas federal court decision that awarded to a fraud victim's estate almost $2 million. You can read about the decision by clicking here.

    I had been urging Proxibid to adopt eBay guidelines for several years. I indicated that the Texas fraud case could have larger ramifications on sellers who exaggerate values by noting numerical grades on self-slabbed and bottom-tier holders and associating those inflated grades with values as might be found in the Redbook or CW Coin Values guides.

    This week I revisited Proxibid to see how many auction companies were complying with the new rules. The good news is that long-time Proxibid sellers, including Weaver Coin and Currency Auction, Capitol Coin Auction, Leonard Coin Auction, SilverTowne Auction, Silver Trades, Star Coin and Currency, Auctions by Wallace, and several others have been honoring the new rules. So have several new companies recently selling on the portal.

    That alone has improved the buying experience on Proxibid. However, violations of the Unified User Agreement were frequent. Here is a small sampling of what I found:

    • Uncertified coins with estimates in the description as high as $125,000-$175,000.
    • Coins by bottom-tier slabs listed with numerical grades.
    • Values of raw coins with numerical grades listed in titles and descriptions.

    To be sure, the bidding playing field has improved on Proxibid since changing its listing rules. However, more work needs to be done.

    I see the challenges, of course. Some of these auctioneers violating Proxibid rules are also cross-listing their lots in other portals that do not require eBay-like regulations on coins and currency. Nonetheless, it is high time that Proxibid enforce its rules to enhance its brand of trust. The company took a gentle approach in the beginning, easing auctioneers into the guidelines; but action should be taken now out of fairness to the companies listing lots correctly.

    Otherwise the playing field will be uneven not only for the buyer but for some sellers, too.

    The risks and rewards of online coin auctions

    February 18, 2016 12:12 PM by
    Online coin auctions have dramatically changed the hobbyist culture and are likely to continue doing so for years to come. Increasingly, sales on auction portals like Proxibid and mega venues like eBay are outperforming sales via brick-and-mortar shops and regional coin shows. And for years now, major auction houses like Heritage and Stack’s Bowers Galleries have been hosting Internet sessions, knowing that sales will progress from desktop to laptop to smartphone. 

    GreatCollections, founded in 2010 by former Teletrade executive Ian Russell, was one of the first to realize where the hobby was headed and developed the technology to focus solely on sales via the World Wide Web. He built a nationally recognized brand with that knowledge.

    The phenomenon has changed how new hobbyists buy and sell “raw,” or uncertified coins. There are fabulous bargains to be had—coins won for a few dollars, worth hundreds when holdered—and hideous losses to be encountered that may just end your interest in collecting.

    This blog will help you discover the opportunities and avoid many of the risks. But be prepared. You will experience both. I have, so I know the journey.

    We’ll begin that journey today and, in subsequent posts, progress step-by-step toward expertise.

    And that is what it will take to succeed in online coin auctions. There is an irony here, however, that you need to acknowledge before we take that first step: You should be reading Coin World, especially the large monthly issues, and learn about grading, current values and everything else that veteran coin experts studied in the Baby Boomer heyday of the hobby.

    Some of those experts will tell you that Internet coin buying has eroded numismatic knowledge because slabbing companies like PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG do the legwork for you. True, they do; and you’ll pay for that legwork because nothing is free in society, especially knowledge.

    But if you want to build a world-class collection with a limited budget, there is no better venue for that than buying coins online, as long as you know how to grade, assess eye appeal, detect varieties, decode alterations, spot counterfeits, identify fraudsters, access market value, recognize doctored photography, avoid obnoxious sellers, honor terms of service, factor buying fees and, lest we forget, cope with shipping and credit card and PayPal issues.

    If you are up to the challenge, I cannot predict you will build that world-class collection. But I can promise you will become a numismatist in the modern meaning of that word.

    Thank you for following my Coin World blog. It’s an honor to serve you.