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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Ask online sellers questions before placing bids

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.

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