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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Dealing with non-dealer online sellers

Take a close look at the photo above and you’ll see an estate auctioneer displaying the rim of a coin with pliers. He did this with the entire coin consignment, probably leaving marks on the surface metal of every coin.

You see this kind of thing often on Internet portals where estate auctioneers display their lots along with their general unfamiliarity with numismatics.

You can decipher the seller’s level of inexperience when he or she:

  1. 1. Posts only photos of the obverse.
  2. 2. Includes the date in the description but not the mint mark.
  3. 3. Proclaims common date 19th century U.S. coins are rare, and opens bidding at double or triple retail values.
  4. 4. Calls all coins with luster, including polished ones, “gem.”
  5. 5. Cites values from PCGS Price Guide or Coin World Coin Values for self-slabbed silver-melt material that is hyped as gem (Mint State 65) or super gem (MS-66 to MS-68).
  6. 6. Touts Chinese brass replicas as authentic California Fractional Gold.
  7. 7. Calls Peace dollars “liberty dollars” and Walking Liberty half dollars “Silver Eagles” (or vice versa).
  8. 8. Requires buyers to find their own third-party shippers.
  9. 9. Charges state taxes even though he is shipping from his state to yours.
  10. 10. Ships coins without proper packing, loose in large envelopes, where they are pummeled by the U.S. mail.

I’ve been buying coins online for about a decade and experienced each one of those top 10 malpractices. In the past I would try to rehabilitate sellers by sending emails about proper ways to display, describe and to ship lots. I no longer try to educate them. I just avoid them.

You should, too.

Remember, there are thousands of coins in hundreds of online auctions each day on Proxibid, Hibid.com, eBay and major houses such as Heritage, GreatCollections, Stack’s Bowers and Legend Numismatics.

You’re free to bid how and where you like, of course. But you also should know the risks. 

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