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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 'October 2017'

    Swapped-out coins in Littleton sets

    October 27, 2017 4:43 PM by

    Over the years, the Littleton Coin Company has sold many sets of silver dollars, with one of the most popular being the New Orleans Silver Collection, depicted above.

    While you can still order these sets from the company for $345, hobbyists typically seek older versions of the assembled Uncirculated sets, for the rich toning that occurs from the silver coins residing in the velvet-like casing.

    Of the two sets depicted above, the one at top is a swapped-out set, and the one below, which I recently won in an online auction with a bid of $140, is the real deal.

    It doesn’t take a numismatic detective to figure out what occurred in the top set, offered in a HiBid.com online auction. Someone removed the beautifully toned coins and replaced them with lower grade untoned dollar coins with the same common dates: 1883-O, 1884-O and 1885-O.

    This type of swapping occurs frequently with coin sets, especially Double Mint sets (1947-1958), which we discussed in a previous post . The cardboard holders from the U.S. Mint also are known to tone those coins in rich hues. Unscrupulous sellers take out those toned coins and replace them with untoned, typically dipped ones, full of luster and deception.

    To be sure, sellers have a right to swap out coins that they own. But bidders also need to know what to be on the lookout for, especially since few online auctions will state that originally housed coins have been replaced.

    The point of this post is two-fold: Be wary whenever placing a bid, and look for older Littleton sets with rainbowed coins in the three-slot holder.

    As for me, I will be sending mine in for holdering and may report on the results in a future Coin World blog post.

    Scoring big in online auctions — maybe

    October 20, 2017 4:17 PM by

    I won this gem-looking coin in an Oct. 9 auction by Hampton House, selling through the online portal Proxibid. I risked $330 ($300 bid with 10% buyer’s premium) because it looked like it would qualify to be graded Mint State 64 or MS-65.

    I just received the coin in the mail. In hand, it looks exactly like the photo, so I am hoping my bid pays off. I have sent it to PCGS for slabbing and will let you know in a future column when I receive the grade.

    The 1889-O Morgan dollar has a generous mintage of 11,875,000. Only about a tenth of that has survived, with many lost to the melting pot, pursuant to the 1918 Pittman Act. The real reason for scarcity in high grades is that millions were released to the general population, so, in all grades up to About Uncirculated, the coin is available for a modest price.

    In Uncirculated grades, prices go up dramatically, from about $300 in MS-62 to more than $4,000 in MS-65.

    I feel my coin has a shot at gem, but may be graded MS-64 because of its weak strike, although the weak strike is typical for the New Orleans Mint’s coins of that year.

    As is typical with Morgan dollars, the reverse is a clear MS-65. But the overall grade usually depends on the condition of the obverse. In this coin, there are a few scant bag marks in the left obverse field, but those are negligible. So, I am hoping for a superior grade.

    This is why online bidding on raw coins requires numismatic expertise, as developed by those who read Coin World, both its print and Internet features. Many bidders do not know about the scarcity of the 1889-O Morgan dollar, and those who do may not be willing to bid high as I did, as I have faith in my numismatic ability.

    1890-CC Morgan, Tailbar $1 usually an online bargain

    October 10, 2017 12:27 PM by

    Hobbyists who can rely on their own advanced knowledge of numismatics often can score big in online coin auctions, primarily because they know varieties that demand premiums, including among 1890-CC Morgan dollars.

    Internet bidding may seem as if all is new; but the age-old maxim that “knowledge is power” still rules and translates to acquisition power when you’re hoping to score quality coins at a discount for your collection.

    Case in point: The 1890-CCMorgan has the highest recorded mintage of any dollar in the Carson City Mint series, with 2,309,041 coins struck. However, almost half of that total — or more than a million coins — was melted under the 1918 Pittman Act.

    Much of the remaining mintage was released into circulation, so lower-grade examples are plentiful, selling for about $100 or less for a Very Good 10 or Fine 12.

    The coin with the reverse depicted above grades About Fine or thereabouts, but its value is much more than the average 1890-CC Morgan dollar because of a prominent die gouge, an indentation possibly caused by damage from a tool, on the reverse die that struck it.

    Hobbyists call the result on the 1890-CC dollar coin a “tailbar” because a bar seems to extend from the right tail feathers of the eagle.

    If you bid $100 on this coin, you would double your money at Fine 12. Find one in About Uncirculated 58, almost Uncirculated, and you could be looking at a $1,000 coin.

    Varieties challenge many collectors. This particular variety is also known as 1890-CC VAM-4, discovered in 1951. The term VAM comes from the last-name initials of Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis, authors of The Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars.

    One closing point about the 1890-CC Tailbar coin and online bidding: Several Hibid.com auctioneers still do not post photos of reverses, so that would rule out finding and bidding on such bargains from those sellers, not only of this variety but also a host of others.