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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 'February 2016'

    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.