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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Online Photos Require Both Obverse and Reverse

This seemingly gem 1891-S Morgan dollar may trigger the click and bid impulse on Proxibid ... until you view the reverse, which happily this seller provides with a sharp photo on the portal. (Click photo to enlarge.)

So a coin that might have been worth more than $1,500, if reverse was in the same condition as obverse, suddenly plummets to ungradeworthy based on cleaning and ink (?) on the reverse. (The hairlines in the left and right field show the cleaning; the scrawls litter the reverse.)

The coin's blazing luster may have more to due with Jewel Luster (a dip) than strike, because Morgan dollars rarely if ever retain the sheen of a freshly minted strike, especially if kept in an album, folder, envelope or cabinet. Nonetheless, if the reverse was in the same condition as the obverse here, I'd still bid and take my chances.

Sad to say that some sellers on Proxibid still only provide obverse of coins. Even more do not include reverse if the coin is graded by a holdering company, despite that being of importance to ascertain overall quality, as a weak reverse strike or ugly toning could affect value.

Here's an example, a 1953-S Franklin Half Dollar, with only an obverse photo. Yes, the chances are astronomical that the reverse would display full bell lines (FBL), making such a coin worth between $10,000-$20,000 at MS64-65, as only a scant 50 FBL 1953-S halves have been holdered by PCGS; but that is what makes coin hunting exciting and educational. (In the case of a 1953-S Franklin, such a coin would be worth $100 or more if some of the lines on the reverse bell are almost in tact.) As it stands, I cannot bid.

This post affirms once more the hazards of bidding online--clicking too quickly, imagining the reverse is as pristine as the obverse; or bidding without viewing the reverse. And that applies only to coins whose photos are relatively crisp enough to ascertain condition. If you make a mistake bidding, such as clicking too quickly, you can retract that by telephoning Proxibid customer service. (On eBay, you can retract online as long as the auction is at least 12 hours from time of retraction.)

The best advice is not to bid if you cannot be sure of the condition. And never believe what the seller or flip states about the condition of a coin unless it is slabbed by a top-tier company such as PCGS, NGC, ANACS or ICG.
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Again, Mr. Bugeja is correct. If the picture isn’t right (or is missing) than the coin probably isn’t right either. In this day and age virtually every seller is well versed in posting photographs. So, if photos you’d expect to be in a listing are missing, there is likely a good (or bad) reason for it. Similarly, if the pictures are blurry, one has to expect the worst. “Clicking too quickly” is another issue altogether. I find that looking at lists of coins on eBay using the “ending soonest” option can easily cause the “bid-first, ask-questions-later” phenomena, especially if one doesn’t have the time to regularly stay on top of the listings. If you see a coin you need and there are only 3 minutes left in the auction, you can find yourself in trouble. Unless you have time to look, really think, and verify graded coins on the associated grading website (and maybe double check the current pricing information), you could end up with a pricey case of buyer’s remorse – which serves neither the buyer nor the seller. And there are few things worse in this hobby than having a coin in your collection you actually don’t like.