Online Coin Auctions
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.Visit one of our other blogs:
Read Terms Before Bidding, Auctioneer Advises
You might not immediately make the connection about the significance of onsite previews in Internet coin auctions, says licensed auctioneer Sheena Wallace, who operates Auctions by Wallace in Barhamsville, Virginia.
But that information is there if you read the terms of service, and its presence is a plus when it comes to coins.
"While it is not feasible for an online bidder in California, for example, to personally preview a sale in Virginia, it is important to know when the items are available to preview," Wallace says. "Meaning, if an auction does not offer any preview ... they are more than likely over-hyping coins."
Preview times at her company occur a few hours before selling begins.
Auctions by Wallace is a full service company that holds auctions in its 7,200-square-foot facility. It also dual lists those auctions on Proxibid. I have been bidding on coins in her sessions for several years and have been pleased with Wallace's communication and dedication to coin sales.
She is one of the relative few auctioneers on Proxibid that guarantee the authenticity of coins. Many state all sales are final, even for counterfeit or mis-identified replicas.
Her house charges a reasonable 15% buyer's premium. She charges a $1 handling fee plus postage and provides tracking via email so you know when the coins ship and where they are during transit.
Shipping is part of customer service, and she wonders about Proxibid sellers who refuse to combine lots as small as coins.
Here's a verbatim example from one Proxibid auction house: "IMPORTANT- YOU MAY NOT COMBINE PURCHASES TO SAVE ON SHIPPING. Small items, Cards, Coins, Jewelry and Baseballs - $12.95."
That's a ludicrous policy. If you win two American Silver Eagles in separate lots from this seller, you will pay $25.90 plus the winning bids and 19.75% buyer's premium. That will cost you more than $85.
Nonetheless, buyers do need to understand the cost of shipping, Wallace says. "I have seen recently that one company only charges $5 shipping. That is great but they are charging 21% BP so the buyer's are paying for the shipping through BP.
"Another company only charges $5 but passes on the cost for insurance and signature confirmations--so you really don't know how to estimate for shipping because they are hiding the costs in insurance especially if they are using a third party shipping company and/or insurance company."
As we have mentioned before in my Online Coin Auction blog, reading terms of service is critical if you want the online bidding experience to pay off. Failing to read terms or worse, failing to pay for your items after the sale, can ruin what should be a win-win situation for seller and buyer.
As for me, I won two silver commemoratives in a recent Wallace auction--a 1936 Wisconsin and 1936 Norfolk coin. They were sent within two days after the auction and arrived within the week. Better still, the Wisconsin coin is a knock-out. I hesitate to say it, but I think it will grade MS67. The Norfolk coin is toned a beautiful gold, and I think I have a shot at MS66.
I'll report on those in a few months. They're on their way to PCGS.
And I have Sheena Wallace to thank because I trust doing business with her. And that's the key, auctioneers: return business. The friendlier the terms of service, the greater the trust.