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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When Bidders Go to War

We have all heard of the term "bidding war," virtual music to the ears of sellers on auction portals Proxibid and eBay. The more buyers compete with each other for a coin, the more $$ dollar signs dance before the eyes of the auctioneer before he drops the hammer.

The auctioneer will hold the digital hammer in suspense, too, letting the light go from green to cautionary yellow, all the while sending messages like "last call!" or "gotta go!"

But he doesn't go. The light on the screen still flashes yellow ... and hovers there interminably. 

And then the war continues as the bidders place higher maximums.

I have just come back from such a war, bidding more than I would like on two lots and winning them from a newby on Proxibid with who believed he was destined to take every lot in the sale.

Someone had to stop him, and I took on that role. 

Yes, I overpaid for two coins--winning them at retail rather than auction prices; and that is OK. There was a lesson to be learned here: when to go to war, and when to avoid it.

If you really need coins for your collection, and a bidder has overbid on every lot, you may have to pay retail or more for your desired lots while employing a strategy to get your rival to bid on coins you don't want--yes, don't want--so he doesn't have enough money in the end to go after the coin you do want.

OK. Let's unpack that. The buyer in question was placing high bids on almost every lot in the auction. The bids started low, and when I bid on a lot, I was outbid. I kept bidding on the two lots that I wanted, and finally got winning bids, which the newby buyer quickly outbid. We're talking immediately. I bid again, and he outbid me once more.

That's when you stop bidding on the lots you want and start triggering the same phenomenon on lots you don't want. He fell for the trap. Every time I bid on a lot I didn't want, he outbid me. I bid him to retail and then stopped, knowing he was going to amass a large tab if he kept responding this way.

Then I waited for the auction to begin. I didn't bid anymore on the two lots that I had wanted. 

When the live auction began, he was winning every lot and running up that humongous auction tab. When it came to my lots, I waited for the green light to turn yellow ... and then bid. He responded immediately, as newcomers often do, and I let the yellow light linger, knowing the auctioneer's cadences: "Last call. ... Gotta go."

I bid again. This went two more times before the rival bidder let me win.

I share this with you to let you know that when you bid in an online auction, you will encounter veterans who will max out your credit card if you try to win every lot in a sale. 

Strategy is key in winning lots. If you don't have one, what you will have at the end of the month is a large credit card statement.   
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