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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Beware of Original Bank Rolls

On eBay, Proxibid and other auction portals, you often see tempting lots like this one, described as an uncirculated 1943 Steel Cent bank roll. 

Never bid on these until you view both ends of the roll. If an end looks like the one depicted above, not tucked in and tightly encasing the coins, you are probably looking at a roll that has been opened and inspected. 

Some collectors are so good at opening rolls they can inspect contents and then re-package the item as if it never had been opened.

I’m not going to divulge how that is done. But it’s doable and dealers and long-time hobbyists know how that is accomplished.

As a general rule, assume nothing is really “unopened.” That goes for mint and proof sets, too. (You can open and seal them easily---again, not for sharing here.)

Some rolls obviously have been tampered with. To inspect contents, the person unwraps one end and then gently pushes out the coins from the opposite end.

When it comes to steel cents, you can still find many such rolls online. There are dozens now on eBay, some with ends like the one depicted here and others, tightly wound.

Because steel cents were a World War II novelty, many hobbyists collected them. They are relatively common in online estate auctions, typically selling for about $50-100.

If you see a rare coin or even a small gold one in a cent bank roll—a common phenomenon on eBay—you can bet that the roll has been opened, inspected and most likely tampered with.

In other words, don’t let your imagination run wild, or your credit card, for that matter. If something looks too good to be true, and it’s on Internet, you can be doubly sure there are better bargains elsewhere.

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