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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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Archive for 'June 2017'

    Beware of replaced coins in Double Mint sets

    June 23, 2017 2:04 PM by

    Last year I blogged about being on the lookout for missing half dollars in Double Mint sets, which the U.S. Mint produced between 1947 and 1958. I reported how coins in those sets were housed in cardboard folders often with green flimsy paper that caused the coins inside to tone.

    I also promised to write about other ethical issues concerning Double Mint sets at a later date. I will do that here, but want to summarize content about missing halves.

    Some collectors remove one pair of half dollars without reporting that in descriptions, relying on the buyer to know what should be in original sets. That’s not as simple as it sounds. In 1955 and 1956, no half dollars were struck at Denver because of lack of demand for the denomination. The San Francisco Mint closed in 1955, reopening a decade later.

    For these reasons, you will legitimately find only two half dollars in Double Mint sets from 1955 and 1956.

    A bigger issue concerning Double Mint sets involves unscrupulous sellers removing toned half dollars and other coins from those sets and replacing them with dipped or lower grade ones minted in the same year. 

    Often those suspect sets come with original U.S. Mint and U.S. Post Office envelopes, for which many hobbyists pay a premium. Those envelopes are no barrier to lesser value coins being inserted in the cardboard folders, fooling the inexperienced buyer.

    True, all coins do not tone in Double Mint sets. But more often they do, because of the chemical interaction of the cardboard and paper. As these are pricey sets, often exceeding $1,000 for the years 1947 through 1952, you want to secure an unmistakably original, toned set.

    Look at the photo above from 1948 sets.

    One panel shows untoned coins and the other, toned ones. Each set was offered on eBay for $1,500+. If I wanted to buy such a set, I not only would go for the toned coins, I also would check recent prices on the Internet. PCGS Price Guide pegs the retail value of such a set at $1,300.

    As always, be skeptical and buy cautiously when bidding online.

    Distrust deep mirrors in lesser holders

    June 16, 2017 3:23 PM by
    Many hobbyists pay high premiums for deep mirror prooflike (DMPL) Morgan dollars because of their eye appeal and affordability, as genuine Proof examples typically exceed most budgets.

    For example, an 1888-S coin with a mintage of only 657,000 is a semi-key in the series, with DMPLs going for about $1,000 in Mint State 63. An 1888 Proof coin graded PR-63 with a mintage of a mere 800 (and estimated survival rates of about 235 in all grades) goes for about $3,000, with cameo counterparts selling for thousands more.

    In the past I have written about how to tell deep mirror from polished Morgans . A true DMPL coin is likely to have bag marks because they occur easily against the glasslike surface, whereas no such marks are evident on a polished coin. Also, DMPLs should have mirrors that reflect 6 inches or more on both sides of the coin.

    Look at the 1888-S in the photo above in the National Numismatic Certification holder. It seems devoid of any mirrorlike effect, although the reverse of the coin might pass for prooflike, reflecting about two inches. Compare it to the Heritage coin in the PCGS holder. You can see the mirror in the latter but not in the NNC holder.

    Admittedly, it is difficult to tell deep mirror coins in online auctions. But this particular Proxibid auctioneer, Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction, takes sharp photos that rank among the best on the portal. So I can judge the NNC coin lacks the required mirror qualities of a true DMPL.

    Again we encounter the argument that grading is subjective. What passes for DMPL at one holdering company might fall short at another. That’s fine. However, if you choose to bid on a coin in a lesser-known holder, you should not value the coin at prices listed for PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG, generally considered to be the best grading companies.

    PCGS- and NGC-graded coins often sell sight unseen because of the grading consistency and standards of those companies.

    Bidding online is a risky venture, especially when consignors list raw coins as DMPL. If you are viewing inferior photos or have not dealt with the seller before, my advice is to go with major auction houses and bid in online auctions hosted by Heritage , Stacks Bowers , Legend , Goldberg and GreatCollections .


    Ask online sellers questions before placing bids

    June 5, 2017 4:28 PM by
    Earlier this year I profiled one of my favorite Proxibid sellers, Brad Lisembee, who operates Capitol Coin Auction out of Evansville, Indiana. In that blog post , I explained how much I valued his descriptions because he knows coins and how to grade them.

    I’ll reference Brad again here because I asked a very specific question about the 1913 Buffalo nickel depicted above that had wonderful rainbow toning.

    I put a circle around the spot on the coin, using Brad’s original Proxibid photo to the left of the PCGS TrueView photo.

    You can see that Brad takes photos as sharp as the professional ones offered by PCGS.

    I wanted to bid on this coin and slab it with TrueView and then consign the holdered coin to an eBay seller who specializes in rainbow lots. I do this occasionally to help fund my hobby, relying on my numismatic knowledge to win raw coins and place them with the right seller for a small profit.

    I liked this nickel, but I was wary about that spot. So I wrote Brad and inquired about it.

    This is the main point of this post. You should be able to ask questions and get truthful replies from your favorite sellers. That’s why you patronize them. If sellers refuse to answer your questions in online venues like eBay and Proxibid, drop them. If they don’t know coins, find ones who do.

    “There's a dark spot between the braid and feather that looks like a minor gouge,” I emailed Brad. “Can you check? I'd like to get this slabbed if I win and worry that this is damage.”

    Brad inspected the coin and verified that it was a carbon spot and not a gouge, which would have meant the coin would not earn a numerical grade at PCGS. A carbon spot, on the other hand, would lower the grade of the coin but not prevent it from earning one.

    As you can see, Brad was correct. The 1913 Indian Head 5-cent coin in question is the Type I, with the bison on a raised mound, which had a large mintage of 30,992,000. Concerns about FIVE CENTS wearing off triggered a design alteration. So Type II was created with the denomination on a plain and recessed for added protection.

    Generally, a Type II 1913 Buffalo nickel is rarer, especially in higher grades. But when it comes to toning, bidders look to the rainbow rather than the mintage.

    This coin graded Mint State 64, worth $80 retail. I won the coin with a $45 bid. With slabbing fees and TrueView, my cost is about $65. I think it will sell on eBay for $100 or more.