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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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Archive for 'May 2016'

    Research Value Before Accepting "Opening Bid"

    May 27, 2016 10:37 AM by Michael Bugeja
    Occasionally on Proxibid and eBay sellers open bids near or at the retail value of a coin, as seen in the example above, a 1960-D Franklin half dollar whose retail value is $23 according to NGC.

    By the time you add the buyer's premium, shipping, handling and other fees, you could be paying $35 for this coin, assuming that you win it with the opening bid and that no one else bids on the lot.

    The above-pictured lot (click to expand) is from Proxibid, but you can find the same phenomenon on eBay, as in this example for the same year, mint mark and NGC grade. 

    In my view, and you may hold a different one, starting bids that approximate retail values undermine the meaning of the word "auction." The excitement of an auction is the possibility of winning a lot below its actual retail value in a competitive environment, enhanced by the auctioneer's descriptions (oral or verbal), which often trigger bidding wars. The idea here is simple: the auctioneer wins when one bidder wants a coin more than another buyer, which may lead to sales above that actual value of the lot.

    That scenario in part is how true value is determined over time in price lists like Coin Values

    Sellers who open bids near or at retail value and call that value "an opening bid" misuse or misconstrue that auction term which, according to the National Auctioneers Association, means "the first bid offered by a bidder at an auction ." It is NOT the first bid determined by the auctioneer.

    There is another term for that, "reserved," which the NAA defines as "The minimum price that a seller is willing to accept for a property to be sold at auction."

    When you spot a coin that you desire, holdered by a top-tier company such as NGC  or PCGS, go to that company's website and type the certification number, as explained in one of my recent CW posts . You will find the value so that you can bid accordingly.  

    If you want to bid on an uncertified coin, use your grading prowess and check worth on Coin Values or PCGS CoinFacts , before placing a bid. 

    Again, it's only my practice, and you should feel free to establish your own, but when I see opening bids near or at retail values, I usually look for another online "auction" that contains the competitive attributes of that word. Otherwise, I just go to the local coin shop.

    Cameo Designation Requires Both Sides of Proof Coins

    May 21, 2016 11:35 AM by Michael Bugeja
    ​Originally, only the obverse side of this 1963 Franklin Proof coin above was shown in a Proxibid auction. The flip stated this was PR68, Deep Cameo. That's a $700 coin in a PCGS holder. 

    I saw some marks on the left field and above the last "T" in "Trust." But I still put the grade at PR66 or PR67 worth $130 or $210, respectively.

    However, I needed to see the reverse before placing a bid.

    The amateur bidder would go by the description here, taking the grade designation on faith; a journeyman bidder might see the marks on the fields and bid as if on a PR66 coin. But the experienced online bidder would contact the company, as I did, and request a photo of the reverse.

    The auctioneer complied, and as you can see, the reverse is not frosted; in fact, it is stained or perhaps has unattractive toning. I didn't even bid on the coin.

    The "Cameo" designation requires "frostiness" on both sides of the coin, although one side may be heavier than the other. For instance, a Deep Cameo obverse and a Cameo reverse would result in a Cameo designation. For the rare “Deep Cameo Proof” designation, devices have to be heavily frosted on both the obverse and the reverse with even, heavy contrast on all the devices.

    The lesson here is multi-fold:

    1. Disregard the description on the flip or by the auctioneer. You have to rely on your own numismatic knowledge. Take the time to look up designations such as "Cameo" on Franklin halves or "Deep Mirror Proof-like" on Morgan dollars.

    2. Do not bid on a suspected Cameo or Deep Cameo lot unless you have access to both sides of the coin. If only the obverse is shown on a PCGS or NGC holdered coin, you probably do not need both sides. You should ask to see the reverse on all other slabbed coins.

    3. If the seller refuses to show both sides of the coin after you request that, don't bid in another of his auctions.

    Finally, if the coin in question lives up to the Cameo or Deep Cameo designation on obverse and reverse, then look up recent auction prices on PCGS CoinFacts and bid accordingly.   

    Proxibid to Upgrade Search Functions, Options

    May 15, 2016 12:41 PM by Michael Bugeja

    ​As many viewers following this CW blog know, we often cover the auction portal Proxibid's "Coin and Currency" category, primarily because great buys and steep risks can be had there. If you plan to bid on coins in Proxibid, you had better know numismatics, including grading, condition problems, varieties, rarities, service terms and so much more.

    But the journey is worthwhile. If it's any indication, I buy on Proxibid and consign on eBay and GreatCollections.

    That says plenty.

    Newcomers to the site may not immediately get the hang on bidding on an auction portal. For that, they need some type of guidance, at least until they find auctioneers they can trust.

    Connect with Coin World: 

    A few years ago I and other Proxibidders advocated successfully for a rating system, to which the company agreed. The system was meant to support  its "badge" award program. Both, in my opinion, have not been as helpful as they should have been.

    For instance, it awarded its "Gold Ribbon" badge to sellers who routinely hyped damaged self-slabbed coins as being worth tens of thousands of dollars, using PCGS values; that, finally, has stopped in the wake of eBay-like listing policies adopted last year. And some sellers with ridiculous service terms, including high shipping rates and late delivery (or no delivery) shipping, or who allow auctioneer or maximum-bid viewing, routinely get 4 of 5 stars from buyers.

    Reason? Those bidding on Proxibid may not fully realize the tenets and tips of smart numismatic buying online.

    That said, there is one more thing the portal can do (which eBay already does) and that is list the number off buyers who follow a seller or list the seller as a favorite.

    And this may be in the offing. Proxibid has a semi-reliable search function. It's in the process of improving that. So when that occurs, the company says, it may be able to add a "favorite" tab for buyers.

    "Soon, Proxibid will launch an upgraded search engine, and once that is in place we will be able to implement features like saved search and the ability to tag favorite sellers," says Jason Nielsen, SVP of Operations for Proxibid. "We recognize the importance of offering a feature-rich product for buyers, and this is an area where we plan to invest."

    I have bid on Proxibid for a number of years as one of its earliest advocates. In fact, I lobbied for a "Coins and Currency" category and other improvements. True, the portal isn't perfect; but it listens to buyers, and that says something about its continued success.



    Stickers, Barcodes and Counterfeit Holders

    May 9, 2016 6:09 AM by Michael Bugeja

    On March 22, 2016, Coin World ran yet another article about counterfeits in fake holders. The problem has been occurring for years now. In 2011, I identified a counterfeit holder in an online auction by going to the PCGS verification page and typing the cert of a coin that just didn't look right. Sure enough, the PCGS certification had a photo that showed a sticker from the Certified Acceptance Corporation. The online fake coin lacked that sticker on the holder.

    Auctioneers love stickers of a different sort, as evidenced by the one in the photo above. They usually put a description or the lot number on a department store sticker and slap that on the holder, covering the certification number. This is especially vexing on PCGS and NGC coins, both of which have been the target of counterfeit coins in fake holders.

    In fact, I never bid on a certified coin unless I can check it on the PCGS or NGC verification links. 

    Connect with Coin World:  

    In a March online Proxibid session conducted by Auctions by Wallace, I noticed a few NGC and PCGS certs had stickers partially covering the certifications. That surprised me because this auction house knows the value of certification numbers. 

    But I wanted to bid on these coins, so I contacted Sheena Wallace about the stickers. I was in for another surprise, this time because of technology. "The problem we have is that when we upload the photos our system is so sensitive it reads the barcodes and the photos get all jumbled," Wallace noted. "It actually will lock up our auction software and I have to call the company to get it fixed.  Isn't technology grand?"

    Wallace corrected the problem and is sensitive to the reasons experienced bidders like me always check the certification, not only for fraud purposes but also for previous sales of the coin in question and other data that helps determine maximum bids.

    My advice is not to bid on coins when certification numbers are covered by auction house stickers. Email the auctioneer and ask for the certification data and then do a check with the appropriate holdering company. If the auction house fails to respond to your request, you may want to bid in another online session. There are plenty on Proxibid and eBay and you don't have to settle for unresponsible auctioneers.