Online Coin Auctions
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.Visit one of our other blogs:
Good Photos Without Descriptions Also Mislead
Click the above photo and take a look at the left photo of a 1960 Franklin Half. All the auctioneer listed was the date and denomination. Curiously, he cropped the flip.
I always caution online bidders to disregard the oft-exaggerated descriptions on the flip which typically hype the grade and attributes of the coins. In this case, however, the description on the flip (see right coin photo, which I just took) would have helped. I never would have bid on the lot.
If the coin in question was an MS65 or 66 uncirculated business strike 1960 Franklin half, its worth would be anywhere between $80 and $750 as opposed to $20-30 for a proof strike. Worse, look closely at the left field of the proof coin. It is impaired, rendering this coin as silver melt.
There is no way to fight against this kind of situation except to be wary the next time bidding in a particular auction. I certainly won't bid anymore in this auction unless I can view the description, and then I would be placing low-balls because my trust in the seller has been undermined by this transaction.
He probably didn't mean to mislead. Often auctioneers outsource photos. Because sellers have other duties, they sometimes take shortcuts on descriptions. So I am not accusing him here. What I am stating, however, is the end result was misleading and that has an impact on return customers.
Also this example goes to show once more the risks of bidding online on uncertified coins, even if you possess the skill to know grade and condition.