Michael Bugeja

Online Coin Auctions

Michael Bugeja

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.

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Submit Pricey Raw Coins for Authenticity

Earlier this month John Leonard Auction on Proxibid offered several multiple lots of ancient coins, including one of the rarest, a 66 A.D. Judea Shekel, struck during the first Hebrew-Roman war (66-70 A.D.). The coin has a distinct design, with a chalice on the obverse and three pomegranates on the reverse.

It is one of the most desired ancient coins because of its history as the first Jewish coin struck in Jerusalem during the revolt against Roman occupation and oppression.

You can find them on eBay selling as high as $19,750, as in this lot .  

The problem with this coin are the hundreds of reproductions without the word "copy" on them. You can find these on eBay, too, selling for about $15, as in this lot

I spotted the coin featured with others in this lot that listed the value between $80-100. Other buyers spotted it, too, and the lot eventually sold for a $1,600 bid with buyer's fee.

John Leonard, one of the best auctioneers in the business, wrote that his company could not guarantee the authenticity of the coins. The coin in question was underweight at 10.89 grams. Authentic silver ones can weight close to 14 grams. Knowing that, I pulled out of the bidding.

I'm not sure whether Leonard knew what he had before bidding went through the roof, as evidence by the low original estimate. But this is not the first time I have spotted expensive raw coins on Proxibid that very well could be reproductions or counterfeits. As such, in my opinion, auctioneers really have a responsibility to submit the coin to an expert or top slabbing company to ascertain its legitimacy.  

While it is true that NGC does not guarantee ancient coins and grades them only on opinion, rejecting others it deems fake or reproductions, that opinion is worthwhile in cases like this. Consider the ramifications if this coin is submitted to NGC, which refuses to slab it because of questionable authenticity.

Personally, I think the coin might be holdered, but bidding online without close-up inspection--no matter how good the photographs (and Leonard's photos are among the best on Proxibid)--is just too risky.

Moreover, an ancient coin slabbed by NGC can be auctioned in major venues, including Heritage. Had this coin been holdered by NGC, the bidding might have gone through the roof.
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