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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Questionable Lot Was Dipped

Last week I wrote about the ability online to distinguish between polished, deep mirror, and questionable lots, promising to follow up when I received the questionable coin to see whether might slab or whether it was dipped to the point of being cleaned and ungradeworthy.

I won the 1883-CC Morgan dollar with a bid of $160, or a realized price of $192, with 20% buyer's premium.

The coin was cleaned and dipped, ungradeworthy, with a value of about $140. So I lost about $50.

But not all was lost. I now have a comparison photo (click and expand the one above) to gauge the luster of any future lots from this seller. You can see from the dual photo above how lighting can make a dipped coin look uncirculated (left photo) and how natural light can show the flaws (right photo).

If you think the disparity is so great that these cannot be the same coin, look at the minor scrape on the obverse under the "M" in "Unum."

The example shows how photography online can fool an experienced buyer.

I also will bid much more judiciously on raw coins from this seller. I have purchased dozens of coins from him when his buyer's premium was 15%. Like too many others on Proxibid, he is charging 20% now, and I expect more from auctions that do this, especially in the descriptions. If a coin is tampered with, just say it. Some auctioneers can't tell the difference between a lustrous silver coin and a dipped one. This dealer can and isn't doing that.

In the end, this post affirms the lessons of my last one. If you are going to take a chance on a questionable coin, make sure it has some other value, in case the coin is dipped or cleaned. The Carson City mint mark saved me from a steeper loss. If the coin were an 1883-O Morgan, a common year, with a photo that made the condition seem MS65 or MS66--won with the same $160 bid at 20% BP--my loss would not be $50 but $170.
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