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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Dings and Damage in Online Auctions

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. 
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Truer words were never spoken. I have also learned to shy away from coins, even in first-rate third-party slabs, where the picture is slightly blurry of the glare from the light might be hiding rubs and hairline scratches. We all know that not all MS-65 coins are created equal and it's impossible to buy the coin and not the slab if the details of the coin are obscured. Call me un-trusting, but with the availability of today's low-cost photographic technology, I have to assume that if a picture isn't quite right, the coin isn't quite right either.
I agree with roderickcassidy. I would not call him "un-trusting". I would assume he is experienced.