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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​Distracting auctioneer brands ‘brand’ photos

The photo above (click to expand) displays the new “best practice” of promoting an auctioneer’s company without a care to how that distracts from the condition of a coin.

To begin with, this picture of a 1903-S $5 gold coin isn’t sharp enough to pass for numismatic photography. It’s too blurry on the fine details, probably because the auctioneer took the photo without a light box.

Online sellers have no excuse anymore for shoddy photography. Even a good smartphone can take a photo better than the one above.

However, compounding the situation is the watermark. The slash mark between the words “Service” and “General” — as in “Service/General” — looks like a pin scratch, which at first I thought it was, only to realize it was text, not a flaw.

So I bid $25 above the gold melt value, factoring in the buyer’s premium and shipping. I don’t expect to win the coin, of course.

This is no way to market coins, and yet I am seeing this “brand” practice on Proxibid as well as HiBid.com. Here’s an example from Proxibid, although the watermark is smaller and less distracting than the one above.

Top eBay, Proxibid and HiBid sellers with excellent photography know that bidders who win coins often use those photos in digital albums, so there is another drawback to the distracting watermarks.

I have even seen those auction company watermarks on images of PCGS and NGC slabbed coins, destroying the value of the premiums that the seller paid when holdering the lots.  

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