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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Informed Buyers Do Research Before Bidding

Auctioneers have every right to set opening bids, buyer's fees and shipping costs, and if they set them high, they could lose regular customers ... or score retail prices from bidders who win lots without doing research.

Expand the screenshot above and read the PCGS certification on the label of this Iowa Commemorative Half Dollar. 

Note: Sometimes auctioneers put stickers there so you will not be able to check registrations. (Here is an irksome example of that on Proxibid.) If you really want the coin, call up the auctioneer and ask him to read you the certification. 

You want to check certs rather than price lists because PCGS provides another link to CoinFacts (free now), which will tell you whether the coin sold in a previous auction. You'll also have access to more data.

In this case, you begin your research by verifying the certification number on the label using PCGS's link for that . When you input the cert, you learn this 1946 Iowa Commemorative Half Dollar retails for $120 at MS64. To the right of that webpage is another link to CoinFacts  with recent auction prices. According to its data, this coin sells in auctions between $75-86.

So if you place a minimum bid of $100--and nobody else places a bid--you will be "winning" the coin at retail, or what a coin shop would charge you. That's because the buyer's fee in this auction is 20%. Moreover, you would have to pay shipping and handling fees for this coin, increasing the price even more.

Other top holdering companies, such as NGC, also verify certification on the label with current auction prices. Here is an NGC MS64 Iowa Commemorative valued at $130 by NGC. This coin sold on GreatCollections for $57.09 (or $62.80 with BP). 

All these links are part of research. If you bid for coins online, you're doing so in competition with buyers like me who seldom place a retail bid unless I believe the coin is under-graded. If you don't take your time doing these steps, you'll quickly run out of hobbyist dollars. Never feel bad about underbidding if you have researched a coin. You actually won in many cases ... holding on to your own money. 

Next time we will go through research steps with raw coins. Stay tuned.
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