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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Worst Buys in Online Auctions

Unfortunately, on Proxibid and eBay you can find these terrible buys--thin brass tokens being passed off as gold, world coins (mostly Mexican and no silver), and worthless gold flake.

Despite its publicity about policing fake coins, eBay is one of the worst venues for fake California gold. The example in the photo above (click to expand) is in a Proxibid auction, one of more than a dozen similar lots. I report it; nothing gets done.

These replicas have been short-changing hobbyists (literally) for decades. If you spot a bear on the reverse of a so-called California gold coin, or any other symbol or text without an indication of denomination, such as "dollar," "dol." or even "d," my advice is not to bid. (You can read more about fake California gold in my Home Hobbyist column in Coin World.)

I reported this lot on Proxibid which has "replica" stamped on the back, but the description still reads California gold. Nothing in those descriptions are true. The brass replica is from China most likely, not gold and not a half dollar.

World coins in bags on Proxibid most likely were purchased by the pound from a dealer, usually about $10 per bag, and the silver already taken out (if indeed there was any). Then the seller opens the bid at $10, giving you aluminum and copper coins often with the majority from Mexico.

If you want world coins, see if you can buy them unsearched from a coin dealer.

One of the worst buys in online auction are so-called vials of gold flake. Vials of gold flake typically hold no gold or low grade gold that disappears in an acid test or disintegrates to near nothing if melted.

Gold can be shaved to micro thin layers. As I often state, this is not fool’s gold (pyrite) but fools do buy it thinking they are going to make money with a $10 bid. 

Sellers of fake California gold, world coin bags, and gold flake should take their lots off the portals or at least describe them accurately.