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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Overbidding mistakes: they happen, you learn

I always wanted a Wells Fargo gold coin, and several were slabbed in old green PCGS holders at high grades. I finally got one, and it is now safely tucked in my bank box. But there is a story here from which you might learn … at my expense.

One came up on auction from a seller I trusted, and so I placed a high bid, thinking no one would match it and I just might steal the coin in an online estate venue where many gold buyers treat collectible coins like bullion. They look up the bullion price and bid retail.

I admit I checked auction and eBay values for the coin pictured above and bid $2,250.

I made two errors. Gold does fluctuate in value, and you have to take that into account when checking sale prices on Coin Values or Heritage Archives. I admit, in this case, I didn’t do that. I just looked at retail value and did a quick check on eBay, seeing recent sales of the No Motto Wells Fargo Saint Gauden’s coin above $3,000. Here’s an example.

The 1908 No Motto Saint is a fairly common coin with a mintage of 4,271,551; but the Wells Fargo hoard provenance and the old green holder add a premium. The 9,900 coins found in one of the company’s Las Vegas banks were spectacular coins, with PCGS grading 101 of them as Mint State 68 and 10 at MS-69. See David Hall’s description in PCGS CoinFacts.

Here’s the second mistake: I didn’t check coin retailers like APMEX where a similar coin at the same grade in the coveted old green holder retailed at $2,295 (by check) and $2,390 (by PayPal).

Well, you guessed it. Someone at the online auction wanted the coin almost as much as I did and probably had the same strategy in mind, but I won it with my top bid. Now add the 18% buyer’s fee, and the price of my coin totals $2,655.

In other words, by not checking bulk and wholesale coin dealers before placing my bid, I lost $360.

This is what happens when you make a mistake (or two) in online bidding. Learn from mine. 

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