• Michael Bugeja

    Online Coin Auctions

    Michael Bugeja, a coin collector since childhood and professor of journalism, guides new and beginning collectors through fun-packed and enriching experiences in "Home Hobbyist."

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  • The $50-bid rule

    Recently I violated my $50-bid rule, which cautions against placing a bid in an online auction on any coin worth less than that minimum amount.

    Essentially, the rule eliminates most common-date Uncirculated Peace dollars and lowball Morgan dollars, and a host of other denominations, especially cents.

    Here’s the reasoning behind the rule: If you win one item, you’re going to pay fees to receive it, including buyer’s premium and shipping. Some auctions require as much as $25 minimum to ship, and a few even more than that, charging for their “labor” and packing materials, even though the materials they use are free via the U.S. Postal Service.

    So if the lot is worth $25, and you win it, you’re going to pay double what you could for the same coin if you purchased it for its retail price at a local or online coin shop.

    Every now and then, though, I am tempted to break that rule. I did that this month with a modest $20 bid in a Hibid.com auction, winning the 1903 Indian Head cent depicted above. I bid on this along with several other high-priced lots, losing the latter and winning only this one coin.

    I broke my rule because the description read “toned coin,” with the photo showing what looked like magenta hues. The photo wasn’t great, but I have seen that toning on Uncirculated cents before when they have been kept in envelopes, so I thought the risk was worth breaking the rule.

    It wasn’t. The coin is cleaned and Almost Uncirculated, not Mint State, and the toning is dull. The lot is worth about $3 (if that).

    Thankfully, the auctioneer only charged $3 for mailing. I know some auctioneers that would have charged a much larger amount. Still, my loss was more than $20 my bid plus fees.

    Rules are meant for breaking. That is true. When you create a rule, you do so because you have learned from experience about bad buys. When you break that rule, you’re reminded why you created it in the first place.

    It’s all about continuing numismatic education!