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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Sometimes Losing is Winning in Online Auctions

Above is a screenshot of how my maximum bids did in an online Proxibid auction held on Sunday, April 24. I bid on nine coins and lost every one. I was a bit disappointed that my maximum bid on one lot was matched by an onsite bid, resulting in my losing the coin. But overall, I was pleased to see I did not overpay for any coin the way that onsite bidders did.

No Internet bidder won any of my preferred lots.

I practice several important rules when bidding online. Previously I wrote about the "One Flaw Rule ," reminding me not to place a bid whenever I suspect a serious condition such as pin scratches or cleaning. These nine bids represented what I considered lots worthy enough for judicious bids.

I seldom place a bid based on the retail price as listed in Coin World's Coin Values . Rather, I check the latest auction prices on PCGSCoinFacts and then use that as a guide for maximum bids, factoring the buyer's premium and shipping cost into that amount. 

Take, for example, the 1877 Trade Dollar graded VF35 by ANACS, considered one step below PCGS holdered coins. At that grade, a similar coin in a PCGS slab sells for about $180 at auction. Recent auction prices with BP added ("realized price") for VF 1877 Trade Dollars in ANACS holders are in the $140-160 range.

That informed my $100 maximum bid. The lot in question sold for $210, or $247.80 realized price--about $100 more than the typical auction sale for that lot.

I didn't like the look of the 1890-CC PCGS Morgan, so I put a low-ball bid for it. The coin was graded MS61, but was heavily bagmarked. It sold for $560 realized price, about $40 more than retail value. Same result for the 1892-CC, which sold for about $25 above retail.

The worst "buy" here was the 1882--CC MS62 by Dominion Grading, a company no longer in business but known to be an excellent grader. It's difficult to get a good buy on any Carson City dollar. This was, however, was a bad buy with a realized price of $318.60. That's about $100 over retail. Typical auction realized prices for a PCGS-holdered 1882-CC are about $180-200.

It's fine to pay that amount if you really need or want a coin. Bidders who pay more than auction rates help drive prices upward, and that's important for the hobbyist like me. I just don't want to be doing it. You may want to be as cautious, too. Your auction dollar will go farther.
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