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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Questionably Graded Coins in Online Auction

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
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1 comment
BUY THE COIN, NOT THE HOLDER... PCGS, NGC, ICG, ANACS, PCI and SEGS ALL MARKET GRADE. DETAIL GRADING IS ANCENT HISTORY!!! THESE COMPANYS MAY SOON MARKET GRADE THEMSELVES OUT OF BUSINESS. WATCH WHO RESETS TO DETAIL GRADING TO REGAIN BUSINESS. BETTER YET, LEARN TO GRADE COINS YOURSELF. THEIR GRADING OPINIONS AREN'T WORTH THE PLASTIC IN THEIR SLABS. BUY THE COIN, NOT THE HOLDER... HOW SMART IS IT TO HAVE GRADED COINS REGRADED AND PAY EXTRA FOR A STICKER ON THE PLASTIC? THE ONLY OPINION YOU NEED IS YOUR OWN, INFORMED OPINION.