• 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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  • Ignoring some online auctions

    Read terms of service before bidding, or pay the piper (auctioneer).

    Image provided by Michael Bugeja.

    Dozens of coin auctions are available each week on Proxibid, HiBid.com, eBay and other portals, which I visit almost every day, to see the selections available via Internet.

    But I routinely ignore several of those auctions.

    For example, seldom, if ever, will I patronize auctions on Proxibid that warn with these disclaimers:

    PLEASE READ: At the request of the auction company, this auction permits bids to be placed by the auctioneer, an employee of the auctioneer, or the seller or an agent on the seller’s behalf. While Proxibid’s Unified User Agreement prohibits this behavior, in accordance with UCC 2-328, this auction is permitted to engage in this activity by providing this clear disclosure to you, the bidder.

    PLEASE READ: This auction company has requested and been granted access to see all bids placed including any maximum pre-bids. This auction is permitted to engage in this activity by providing this clear disclosure to you, the bidder.

    You never know if the auctioneer is running up a bid primarily because he sees your maximum and is allowed to shill bid. At least Proxibid tells you that in the terms of service for each seller. HiBid.com does not. That’s a risk you take if patronizing online auctions on that portal. I routinely question auctioneers about what they see and do during online sessions. They don’t like that. But that’s too bad.

    And I rarely bid aggressively on online auctions that charge a 20 percent buyer’s premium. These auctioneers will never learn. Consider the math: 15 percent of $1,000 is $150; 20 percent of $700 is $140. Your chances of sparking a bidding war at 20 percent are considerably less.

    And I have a bone to pick with coin dealer auctions that charge 20 percent premiums but do not provide descriptions of what is cleaned or otherwise damaged. Say what? You charge 20 percent, and I know you. I know you can grade and provide a reliable numismatic description, but you’re not doing that. What could be your motive? Perhaps that hobbyists will bid according to their skill level, and you’re hoping they will overbid for a problem lot?

    I say it’s better to bid on Heritage, Great Collections, Legend, or Stacks. At least they tell you what you’re getting for your money.

    Then there is shipping. A few Proxibid sellers have outrageous shipping charges. One warns that you’ll pay a “minimum approximately $60.00” for a small package. Another warns in all capital letters: “IMPORTANT- YOU MAY NOT COMBINE PURCHASES TO SAVE ON SHIPPING; HOWEVER, SOME ITEMS MAY BE SHIPPED TO YOU IN THE SAME MAILING PACKAGE.”

    I won’t bother looking at their catalogs.

    Some Internet auctions on HiBid.com do not ship and will not allow bidders to contract with a third-party shipper. No shipping. Period. When I inquired why, the auctioneer emailed, “Too many mail scams out there.”

    Why, then, are you selling on an Internet portal if you cannot ship, “no exceptions?”!

    Another HiBid.com seller requires wire transfers, with the buyer paying both banks. Nope.

    Then there are coin dealer auctions that never sell lots below wholesale gray sheet. They claim an onsite buyer bought the lot, but then will recycle the same coin in a future auction. Nice. I only bid here if I really want the coin.

    I have several favorite auction companies that sell on Proxibid and HiBid.com. I won’t share those with you. But they have this in common:

    1. A buyer’s premium below 20%.

    2. Reasonable or inexpensive shipping.

    3. Accurate numismatic descriptions.

    4. Real auctions where maximum bids are not seen and shill bidding is not allowed.

    Always check the buyer ratings on eBay before bidding.