• Michael Bugeja

    Online Coin Auctions

    Michael Bugeja, a coin collector since childhood and professor of journalism, guides new and beginning collectors through fun-packed and enriching experiences in "Home Hobbyist."

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  • Identify questionable practices in online auctions

    If considering bidding online, read service terms carefully (and check them again periodically). Identify favorite sellers, ignoring others with questionable practices and patronizing ones with decent practices.

    Image provided by Michael Bugeja.

    I have been bidding on the internet portal Proxibid for more than seven years, but increasingly have noticed fewer decent auctions there with good potential buys.

    How do I define “decent”? A buyer’s fee of 15 percent or less, with no opening bids, desirable consignments and reasonable shipping. I can tolerate buyer’s fees approaching 18 percent. Anything over that must be accompanied by sharp coin photography, great customer service, alluring consignments and inexpensive shipping.

    I still recommend Proxibid for buyers without extensive numismatic knowledge because of its excellent customer service department and Unified User Agreement that holds buyer and seller alike accountable.

    I used to bid on a dozen or more Proxibid auctions per month. Now I patronize only a handful. My motive is to find raw coins and holder and consign them, sharing what I learn with you. I break even most of the time, bidding in Weaver Coin and Currency Auctions, Silver City, Rolling M, Capitol Coin, McKee Coins, Hampton House, Blue Diamond and a few occasional others.

    Of the 100 or so hosted sessions at Proxibid, several by the same company at any given time, I am seeing these questionable practices:

    • ·        Auctioneer or employee bidding.
    • ·        Auctioneers seeing maximum bids.
    • ·        High shipping and handling fees.
    • ·        Lots listed with retail opening bids.
    • ·        Poor numismatic photography.
    • ·        Buyer's fees above 20 percent.

    I do not bid in auctions that allow the auctioneer or employee, seller or agent to place bids. Thankfully, Proxibid requires them to post a notice, assuming you read the terms of service.

    I also do not bid anymore on auctions that see maximum bids. That’s just not fair nor in the spirit of an auction. Again, Proxibid also requires a notice be posted about that practice in a company’s terms of service.

    And then there is shipping. One auction company that schedules several sessions per month on Proxibid charges a minimum of about $60 per coin shipment. Another company charges a high handling fee of $12.95 per item with a 19.75 percent buyer’s premium.

    Even one of my previous favorite sellers has increased his buyer’s premium to 21 percent; I can understand that if his margins are too low and Proxibid fees too high (in his opinion). But now he also typically opens each lot at wholesale “Coin Dealer Newsletter Greysheet” values. With buyer’s fees added on, totals reach retail values. If you’re charging high premiums, open lots at zero or $1.

    And then there are several sellers that charge 15 percent buyer’s fee with no opening bids and reasonable shipping. But you waste time bidding on their lots, only to see they were sold “onsite.” If so, those buyers must also be consignors because those very lots later appear in auction by the same company.

    I’ll do a future post on “no-reserve auctions that aren’t.”

    The lesson here is to read service terms carefully (and check them again periodically) and identify favorite sellers on Proxibid, ignoring others with questionable practices and patronizing ones with decent practices.