Online Coin Auctions
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.Visit one of our other blogs:
Pay attention to charges in online auctions
This round can cost you much more than the single ounce of silver that it contains and is truly worth: Whether you read them or not, you'll have to pay what you agree to according to the auctioneer's terms.
At this writing, an ounce of silver was worth $16.12.
The Morgan Dollar round (notice it’s not a coin, but is a bullion piece that imitates the Morgan dollar’s design) in this Proxibid auction has an opening bid of $30, almost double the value of its precious metal.
That’s not all. Assuming you bid on this item and that the auctioneer didn’t bid you higher, as he or she legally can do by having notified you about that possibility in the terms of service, you would still have to pay much more than $30.
This particular auction company charges a 20 percent online buyer’s premium, so you’d be paying $36 for this item.
However, shipping is going to cost you $15, about as much as the item’s intrinsic value.
I’ve read this firm’s shipping terms several times and am unsure whether this company actually charges a $60 handling fee for small items such as coins. I would have to contact the company’s customer service to ask about that. But at this point, there’s no point in even asking, because already the price is excessive.
Yet the auction company estimates the retail value at $45 to $55.
If you agree to the company’s terms, without reading them, you are establishing a contract and are liable for all charges.
The terms do allow you to return the item, but minus the buyer’s premium. You would have to pay for shipping costs, too.
You can buy the same bullion round at APMEX for $18.97. You’ll see much more data about your purchase, too, including the current silver price and specifics about the round.
To be clear, the auction company can set whatever terms it wants. This post is not about that. The goal is to remind you: When bidding in online auctions, read the service terms carefully and use the Internet, as I did, to see if you can purchase the item for less money elsewhere.