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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Be Sure to Check COAs on GSA Dollars

​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.

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