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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Bad online auction buys

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.

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