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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What an Auction Bill Looks Like

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.

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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.

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