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:
How Many Online Auction Sites Do Hobbyists Need?
As more online auction sites appear, buyers are faced with issues ranging from credit card risk to bookkeeping.
Beyond question, eBay offers more coin auctions than all of the other popular sites combined. But the site has drawbacks, chief among them, in my view, are competition, amateur sellers, inaccurate numismatic descriptions and lack of personal customer service. I only use eBay for coins I must have that rarely appear on other portals, such as Proxibid or Great Collections.
I have patronized
Proxibid for many years because of estate auctions that often offer
coins hidden from public view for a half century or more. The issue
there, for many, have been high buyer fees, shipping charges (if the
auction house even ships), and sub-par photography.
But I also patronize trusted Proxibid sellers with whom I have done business. That list is too long to share here and not the point of this post. I am wondering how many coin auction portals hobbyists actually use because of these factors:
- 1) Registration
- 2) Use of credit cards on multiple platforms
- 3) Digital access, including smartphones
- 4) Terms of service
- 5) Professional customer service
- 6) Overspending on the hobby
- 7) Record-keeping
Filling out registrations can be a
drag because of the various ways to use buyer identification, create
passwords and log on to sites. Many demand credit cards to use their
sites, and that makes me uncomfortable sharing bank data, as the
more places your data appears, the greater the risk of their being stolen.
Then there are technical glitches on some platforms that have not yet programmed for smart-phone use. Increasingly, hobbyists are using that device to place and increase bids. Some sites have complicated service terms combined with seller service terms. All those restrictions have to be taken into account before placing a bid.
Then there is customer service. The best, again in my view, is Proxibid. You can access a representative quickly at most hours of the day and night. Moreover, if you spot a problem with a lot or lot description, you can report it via telephone or link that appears next to each item. That simply is not the case with other platforms requiring you to contact the seller who often is unavailable for bid retractions or other issues, such as notification of a counterfeit in his sale.
It goes without saying that the more platforms you frequent, the more you might spend, as you see coins that at first blush look like a good deal but that later require ever higher bids. Keeping track of all this on your smartphone or computer on your personal email means more book-keeping for hobbyist and even tax purposes. Again I like Proxibid's database that allows you to see how much you have spent and what you have bought each year, going back several years.
Because I had a few favorite sellers who moved to HiBid.com to avoid Proxibid fees, I have been using that site. That means additional service terms, less customer service and more bookkeeping on my part. Every time I use it, I like it less for those reasons. Perhaps you feel differently.
As for auctioneers, they need to assess reasons such as I list here before migrating to alternative vendors and do one more exercise: Discover whether the bottom line is being met on alternate sites.
For buyer and seller alike, in the end, the hobby is all business.