Bidding on Raw Coins in Online Auctions
One of the very best resources on the Web remains PCGS Photograde Online. There is even an informative video on the website that explains how to grade so that you can determine whether to submit to PCGS, considered one of the top two holdering companies with NGC.
I don't recommend bidding on raw coins in Proxibid, eBay or other online venues unless you know how to grade and can tell condition issues like cleaning, alternation, environmental damage and more. Even if you can do that, you should only bid with auctioneers who provide sharp photographs and charge reasonable shipping and buyer's fees.
Also, never believe the description on the flip. Consignors and auctioneers who represent them tend to inflate value--the reason, by the way, that third-party grading companies came into existence.
Currently I am bidding in an online auction on Proxibid with a seller who knows how to grade and generally does a fine job in his descriptions. (He's better with silver dollars than copper, but that is only my assessment.) In any case he charges a reasonable 15% buyer's fee, ships inexpensively and is a seasoned numismatist.
In his current auction, he is selling a collection of Lincoln Wheat cents from an older collector. He is providing fine photos, as the 1931-D Cent above illustrates.
Before bidding, I study his photos and descriptions, add my own analysis, look up the latest auction prices, factor in fees and place a low-ball bid (because anyone who bids on raw coins takes a risk). Also, this seller submits to PCGS, and if a coin is uncertified, he felt it was generally not worth the effort. (That's a tip, by the way--to be explained in a future post.)
Nonetheless, Lincoln cents in almost uncirculated and uncirculated condition can be worth winning, especially semi key dates such as 1924-D (2,520,000 mintage) or 1931-D (4,480,000).
Before placing bids, I keep a running journal with what the trusted auctioneer stated, my assessment of the grade, and potential value. Then I decide to bid or pass.
Here's an excerpt from my journal:
AUCTIONEER: 1909 cent. Near-gem to gem red unc.
BUGEJA: Red-brown, MS64
DECISION: No bid; not worth the effort
* * *
AUCTIONEER: 1909 VDB cent. A little dark over the profile,but we're calling this a near-gem unc.
BUGEJA: Red-brown, low mint state, questionable color, carbon spot
DECISION: No bid
* * *
AUCTIONEER: 1910-S cent. AU, very near unc
BUGEJA: Carbon spot, cheek AU53
DECISION: $11* * *
I know this seems tedious, but it is the only safe way to bid online. Don't worry about losing coins or get lured into a bidding war. There are thousands of coins in online auction. Bid well, and you'll have the funds to win other lots without disappointment.