• 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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  • Slabbing and consigning Littleton sets

    Depicted at top is an image of a coin, now graded, from the Littleton set presented below, showcasing rainbow toning. The graded coin is the coin at left in the set.

    Images provided by Michael Bugeja.

    Last month I wrote about “Swapped Out Littleton New Orleans Morgan Sets,” noting how desirable original sets are, primarily because of the toning that typically occurs when the silver interacts with the velvet casing. In that column I cautioned online buyers to make sure that the coins were toned and Uncirculated, because unscrupulous collectors take out the toned coins, replacing them with inferior circulated ones dated 1883-O, 1884-O and 1885-O.

    I provided a photo of such a tampered set.

    You can purchase original sets from the Littleton company for $345, but you also can find good buys in Internet auctions.

    The photo above shows an original set on the bottom and a recently holdered coin from that set, graded Mint State 63 by PCGS.

    I won the set with a $140 bid, or $165 with shipping and buyer’s premium. The coins were beautifully toned. All three graded a very conservative MS-63, although the 1883-O depicted in the photo here looks MS-64+ or even MS-65, in my view.

    I was disappointed in the PCGS grades. It looked like a quick job without much deliberation, which sometimes happens. Clearly, the 1883-O was much finer with fewer marks than the 1884-O and 1885-O. In retrospect, I should have cracked it out and resubmitted. But I wanted to get the coins to market.

    If you think that is the opinion of a hobbyist, the market decided who was right, PCGS grades notwithstanding. Consigned to eBay, the 1883-O coin sold for $100, the 1884-O for $67.85, and the 1885-O for $77.

    It could have been a bigger payday if the grades were MS-64, but you have to take into account slabbing fees. So in the end, my $160 Littleton set, with holdering and mailing fees added, came to about $200.

    After paying my eBay consignment fees, my net profit was a meager $15.

    But at least several hobbyists got great coins at bargain online prices.