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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Research Value Before Accepting "Opening Bid"

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.
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1 comment
Thank you Michael! I agree 100% with your statements about Ebay and the current trend towards pricing coins near retail. This is making Ebay much less alluring as a site to buy coins! Gets really old quick, running through page after page of coins with no bids due to the fact they are priced too high. I couple of dealers in Texas and Nevada are really running the table with hundreds of listings every day that garner no bids. They have turned Ebay into their online store! I really miss the good ole' days of Ebay when every listing WAS an auction..