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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Polished, Deep-Mirror and Questionable Lots

One of the challenges in online auctions hosted by Proxibid concerns sellers who do not describe the condition of a coin, relying on bidders to make that determination. I encountered that in a June 25 auction by Fox Valley Coins.

Click and expand the photo above. The first coin is an 1882-CC Morgan, obviously polished; the second is a deep-mirror proof-like 1880-S Morgan; and the third is a questionable 1883-CC Morgan.

Both Carson City dollars were included in the Fox Valley auction. No descriptions were provided. 

People polish coins for various reasons and with various instruments. Some want to pass a coin off as proof-like, hide flaws, or remove tarnish or stains. Suffice to say they damage the coin, drastically decreasing its value. The 1882-CC coin depicted here sold for $140 with a 20% buyer's fee, or $168. In my view, it is worth no more than $50-75. 

I won the 1883-CC questionable Morgan with a bid of $160, or a realized price of $192.

The deep-mirror proof-like 1880-S was not in the Fox Valley auction and used only to show the difference between a polished coin and DMPL (pronounced "dimple."). The polished coin lacks luster, has bag marks and rim gashes on the upper cheek, below and to the left of the ear, and in the left field. It is not uncirculated. A true DMPL coin has to have mirrors that reflect 6 inches or more on both sides of the coin--a topic for another day.

The questionable coin that I won is not polished; but it may have been dipped. I won't know for a week or more when I receive the coin. I took a chance because there is really no reason to tamper with true uncirculated Carson City dollars that mostly came out of surplus Treasury bags in the 1970s. They are beautiful enough without dipping.

I'll let you know if my gamble paid off in a future post.

Before bidding on a coin that may have been polished, study the luster to see if it has a painted-one shine rather than mirror-like surface. Look for damage or remnants of tarnish that may have prompted the owner to buff the coin with a Dremel or other machine. Take a chance on a questionable coin only if it has other aspects of value, such as a Carson City mint mark and/or low mintage.
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