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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 'September 2017'

    Shipping still an issue on Internet

    September 29, 2017 4:30 PM by

    Today we’re looking at shipping on HiBid.com, which hosts dozens of coins and currency auctions each week. The portal is a preferred site by estate auctioneers, primarily because they can set their own rules and respond directly to bidders without having to agree to a platform’s terms of service or go through its customer service, as may happen on Proxibid.

    Proxibid, still my favorite coin-buying platform, has a Unified User Agreement , patterned after eBay’s guidelines , and has excellent customer service from corporate headquarters in Omaha. If you have an issue, there is always someone there to help you, by phone.

    Moreover, on Proxibid, registered auctions typically have reasonable shipping options, although a few auctions charge exorbitant fees. Most sellers on the platform charge for USPS priority mail shipping with a small handling charge.

    Increasingly, however, when sellers migrate to HiBid.com, or open auction accounts there, shipping options suffer.

    Make no mistake, HiBid.com has many fine features, including lower buyer’s premiums, for the most part. And it’s not the platform’s fault if sellers do not want to ship small items, such as coins.

    But buyers must beware.

    Here are some auction terms from the Coins and Currency category of HiBid.com. I eliminated auction names but share their shipping notices as written (replete with ALL CAPS):

    • NO SHIPPING Please call to schedule your pick up. Pick up hours will be Thursday 8AM-5PM and Friday 8AM-2PM

    • Unless Agreed To Otherwise, PRIOR to Bidding, Auctioneer Will NOT Mail Coins, Direct Pick Up, Photo ID Required on Pick Up Dates.



    For Pete’s sake, don’t list your catalog on an Internet platform if you do not want to ship or even take calls about shipping.

    Recently I looked at a HiBid.com coin auction that featured several gold and expensive slabbed coins. Bids would be hundreds of dollars for many lots. I checked the shipping section in the service terms, which HiBid requires, but learned that the auction house did not ship.

    I emailed the house about this policy. Here was the response:

    “When you win an item we will send you an invoice and on the bottom of that invoice will be two shippers listed. It is your responsibility to contact them and have them picked up. We do not arrange shipping. If there is anything else I can do for you please let me know.”

    It seems the auction house doesn’t want to do much more than take bids over Internet.  

    Why should anyone bid hundreds of dollars on coins and then ask a third-party shipper to go to the auction house without a bill of sale? Moreover, if auctioneers do not arrange shipping, there is no telling whose coins you might get via that shipper. Finally, contacting the third-party shipper and giving that company your credit card information over the phone is yet another risk of doing business in this manner.

    Estate auctioneers are among the slowest to adapt to the Internet, where multitudes of coin buyers do business. That is why I recommend carefully reading terms of service, especially about shipping, before placing a bid on ANY platform, including Proxibid and eBay.

    You bought that coin … TWICE!

    September 15, 2017 2:34 PM by

    I collect toned silver American Eagles. Avidly. In fact, I have one of the finest collections assembled, some 50 coins, many of which I have posted on the PCGS showcase site. Photos are important because, while I keep my collections at the local bank, this way, I get to visit them regularly.

    Click here for the public view.

    I also consign my doubles on Proxibid and eBay. That’s when I get into trouble.

    For instance, I consigned a rainbowed 1998 silver American Eagle to Great Toning, whose seller lists on eBay. It was bought and then relisted a few weeks later by another eBay seller. I saw it online, didn’t make the connection that I once owned it, and—you guessed it—got it again.

    So back it went to Great Toning and to another seller.

    Buying back your own coins rather defeats the purpose of consigning. And it gets expensive, too, with fees and shipping.

    The experience just happened again!

    The silver American Eagle depicted above is back on Proxibid with one of my favorite sellers. A few months ago, I consigned the coin. Bought back the coin. And now I am consigning again.

    In the event that you consign a coin and accidentally bid on and win it, you are obligated to pay both buyer and seller fees in addition to shipping. And of course, you should never bid on your own coins intentionally, because that is prohibited by many sellers and online auctions.

    In the end, winning back a coin from a different seller — months after you consigned it elsewhere — is a particular kind of experience. I call it numismatic déjà vu.

    Bad online auction buys

    September 7, 2017 4:41 PM by
    Every week, I see lots that virtually guarantee a bidder will lose money by placing almost any bid. I’ve written before on excessive opening bids , hyped lots in self-slabbed holders and fake California gold .

    You can find all of these regularly on Proxibid, eBay and HiBid.

    In today’s post, I will share bad auction buys that do not necessarily fall into those categories.

    Click and expand the above photo of silver quarters, Bison currency, no-date nickels and a gold flake vial.

    Take a close look at those quarters, purportedly silver. They very well might be, but then you’ll pay shipping and buyer’s premiums and be tasked with removing paste and paper. In general, if you want to buy silver, consider reputable dealers such as Apmex and buy in bulk for a few dollars over the spot price at time of order.

    Always put silver in a bank box if you are considering a bulk order. Home insurance usually doesn’t cover precious metals.

    The 1901 $10 Bison note, a coveted piece of currency, also is depicted in the photo above. This example has been put through the wringer, literally. It appears to have been saturated with water, probably in a flood, and has ink stains, wrinkles and rust. Yes, you might be able to snare this for $100-$150 rather than paying between $800-$1,000 for an authenticated one in Very Fine condition. But when you show this note to others, especially non-hobbyists, they will exclaim, “What happened to it?”

    General rule: Avoid damaged coins and currency that prompts that question. When the damage is greater than the design, however beautiful, the lot usually is not worth a bid. Save up and buy the one you really want in presentable condition.

    Then we have no-date buffalo nickels. The ones in the photo also have PVC damage from being stored in soft vinyl flips. Why bid on these when you can get buffalo nickels with dates for a few dollars at any coin shop or antiques store?

    I’ve written before about rip-off vials of gold flake that typically hold no gold or low-grade gold flaked so thinly that the metal disappears in an acid test or disintegrates to near nothing if melted.

    But increasingly I am seeing these vials in online auctions. Often, they are offered for $8 per vial while containing only about 20 cents of low-grade gold. That’s a nifty profit for the seller and a bad buy for you.

    The best advice is to bid on lots you really want, save if you cannot afford them at the moment, and remember that other auctions are coming online daily with desirable coins and currency.

    Descriptions, certifications sometimes baffle

    September 7, 2017 3:57 PM by

    As a rule, I check out service terms of online auctions as well as certifications from major holdering companies, to guard against fake holders and counterfeit coins. I also can use PCGS CoinFacts and NGC Price Guide auction values to help me make a reasonable bid.

    This 1861 gold $2½ quarter eagle in a HiBid auction above caught my attention because of the description: “Confederate Era.” In my view, that phrase was unnecessary, but the lot was posted shortly after the recent uproar about Confederate statues. Yes, it is true 1861 happened during the Civil War —  but I would have preferred that term rather than the phrase used, especially since this gold coin was minted in Philadelphia.

    Nonetheless, a fact is a fact, and so I restrained the impulse to send a note to the auctioneer.

    This auction uses flat bids, which means you enter a bid indicating how much you’re willing to pay. For example, say I entered $600 for this coin: It doesn’t matter if the last bid was $500 with no one else willing to go higher. I would pay $600, flat. This type of bidding moves the auction along quickly, and some buyers even prefer it.

    Before placing a bid, I went to the NGC certification page and typed in the numbers. NGC certification has an added component, now. You not only have to put in the cert, hyphen and numbers, as in 608498-002; you also have to put in the grade, MS61. That’s taking more time than I like, but I do it as a matter of personal policy. I trust NGC.

    The coin was graded by NGC, but the price guide value was not available. (I notified NGC about this, so the value might have been added by the time you read this. NGC is always open to amending situations like this, which I appreciate.)

    However, because the NGC value was not available, I went to PCGS CoinFacts and found that this particular coin has a “new” and “old” reverse . The NGC label doesn’t indicate that, but PCGS  Coinfacts states: The Old Reverse has an OVAL “O,” while the New Reverse has a ROUND “O.”

    OK. I went back to the Hibid photo of the reverse, which was too blurry for me to distinguish old from new.

    I didn’t bid.

    Sometimes the online auction experience can cause consternation. May your bidding be more enjoyable.