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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Stickers, Barcodes and Counterfeit Holders

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. 

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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.   

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