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.

Visit one of our other blogs:

Fake $10 Gold Pulled from Proxibid Auction

​The 1912-S $10 Indian Head Gold coin often is poorly struck and a condition rarity in Mint State 63 where it jumps in value from about $1,800 at MS62 to more than $5,000, explaining in part why counterfeiters often choose this year and mint mark in this particular series.

Look at the fake coin to the left in the photo above and compare it to the real date coin on the right. You can see dozens of diagnostics that distinguish the counterfeit. Here are just a few:
  • Forehead, eyes, lips, nose and chin are different.
  • Nose of fake coin is doubled.
  • Date on the counterfeit uses wrong font, especially in the awkwardly made "2" in 1912.
  • Stars, feathers, ribbon and rim all wrong.
In this case the counterfeit coin is so poorly made I wonder whether it was just a gold bullion rip-off with no real motive to pass itself off as authentic. 

While most counterfeits are from China, this one probably is from the Middle East. As long as the gold content and weight were right, merchants there in decades past had no problem with the design being wrong.

Fortunately in this case I knew the auctioneer and didn't have to make a convincing case about the coin being a counterfeit. The lot was removed. That said, you can see why buying coins online can be a risky venture. 

This is why reading Coin World and other numismatic magazines, in addition to books, is vital when deciding to use credit cards in an online auction where typically "all sales are final."

Of course, selling fake coins is an exception because of the US Hobby Protection Act . One of the clauses requires the word "copy" on any numismatic item. This fake coin lacked that designation, too, of course.

If ever you win a counterfeit coin in an online auction, contact the auctioneer and ask for reimbursement. Failing that, go to the online portal's customer service and open a dispute.
You are signed in as:null
Older Comments (6)
In my humble estimation, engaging in an online auction of coins where “all sales are final” is a little bit like playing Russian roulette. Over the years I’ve had fairly good luck at eBay auctions and, frankly, I never bothered checking a seller’s return policy. After several years of blissful apathy, my luck finally ran out a couple of months ago when I purchased a graded Morgan Dollar that just didn’t look right. The proprietor of my local coin shop agreed and then asked a question that made my heart sink: “You can return it, right?” The drive home to check the original listing was a very long 20 minutes. Luckily, the vendor offered a 30-day money back guarantee and there were no problems. Lately, however, I’ve been noticing that there are more and more coin listings stating “all sales are final.” In fact, I recently contacted one seller who had a very nice Morgan at a princely “buy it now” price that I absolutely loved, but the listing declared that “all sales are final.” When I asked the seller if he would consider a 7-day return privilege, the answer was a resounding “no.” The seller explained that the price was so reasonable that he couldn’t “afford” returns. This made (and makes) no sense to me. Although I understand there is a “cost” associated with returns, don’t purchasers returning items pay the return postage? Although I can understand “all sales are final” if one is buying a coin in person and you have the opportunity to actually look at it through a loop, when one is buying a coin online, you’re not looking at the actual coin. You’re looking at a picture of a coin at a particular angle and in particular light (chosen by the seller). Long story short, although I might be considered untrusting, if one is buying a coin and “all sales are final,” I now have to assume there’s a reason for it. It’s a shame. Caveat emptor.