The risks and rewards of online coin auctions

Online coin auctions have dramatically changed the hobbyist culture and are likely to continue doing so for years to come. Increasingly, sales on auction portals like Proxibid and mega venues like eBay are outperforming sales via brick-and-mortar shops and regional coin shows. And for years now, major auction houses like Heritage and Stack’s Bowers Galleries have been hosting Internet sessions, knowing that sales will progress from desktop to laptop to smartphone. 

GreatCollections, founded in 2010 by former Teletrade executive Ian Russell, was one of the first to realize where the hobby was headed and developed the technology to focus solely on sales via the World Wide Web. He built a nationally recognized brand with that knowledge.

The phenomenon has changed how new hobbyists buy and sell “raw,” or uncertified coins. There are fabulous bargains to be had—coins won for a few dollars, worth hundreds when holdered—and hideous losses to be encountered that may just end your interest in collecting.

This blog will help you discover the opportunities and avoid many of the risks. But be prepared. You will experience both. I have, so I know the journey.

We’ll begin that journey today and, in subsequent posts, progress step-by-step toward expertise.

And that is what it will take to succeed in online coin auctions. There is an irony here, however, that you need to acknowledge before we take that first step: You should be reading Coin World, especially the large monthly issues, and learn about grading, current values and everything else that veteran coin experts studied in the Baby Boomer heyday of the hobby.

Some of those experts will tell you that Internet coin buying has eroded numismatic knowledge because slabbing companies like PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG do the legwork for you. True, they do; and you’ll pay for that legwork because nothing is free in society, especially knowledge.

But if you want to build a world-class collection with a limited budget, there is no better venue for that than buying coins online, as long as you know how to grade, assess eye appeal, detect varieties, decode alterations, spot counterfeits, identify fraudsters, access market value, recognize doctored photography, avoid obnoxious sellers, honor terms of service, factor buying fees and, lest we forget, cope with shipping and credit card and PayPal issues.

If you are up to the challenge, I cannot predict you will build that world-class collection. But I can promise you will become a numismatist in the modern meaning of that word.

Thank you for following my Coin World blog. It’s an honor to serve you.