One of the most difficult purchases to make online concerns coin rolls, especially when sellers hype what may be inside them. This article showcases several examples from eBay and Proxibid. In a comprehensive search, we could find no roll on this day that provided three photos–top of roll, side of roll, bottom of roll.
Imagine yourself in a coin shop looking at rolls. You look at the top and bottom of the roll for rainbow or toning coloring as well as condition. You also can verify whether the roll has been opened previously (an unscrupulous practice that is easy to do, by the way). In addition, you have to distinguish if the roll came from the Federal Reserve (best choice), a bank (next best), or a home (least best).
That’s why you need three photos when buying rolls online.
If a roll came from the Federal Reserve, in its tell-tale red and tucked wrapper–with the branch name on that wrapper–it can legitimately be called a “shotgun” roll. That’s because the roll looks like a typical red shotgun cartridge. If not tampered with, these usually carry unsearched and often uncirculated coins with little handling. Bank and home rolls cannot be called shotgun, although almost every seller violates this rule, believing the term applies to any roll that looks “old” and may be tucked like a Fed Reserve roll.
Both bank and home rolls have been recycled into that wrapper. If the bank roll is tucked and untampered, you might score some older coins, depending on when that roll was created. Same with home rolls, although they are usually searched.
To help you bid online wisely, this article will be largely visual. It shows screen shots from various sellers and some commentary.
This is obviously home-rolled as the brand “Coin-Tainer” indicates. Also, no photos of each end are provided. Don’t bid on this. You don’t know what you will get, but it probably will be searched junk.
Federal Reserve rolls
These are clearly from the Feds because of the bank labels. These appear to be untampered. You can see tarnish on one side. However, because only one side of the rolls are shown, we cannot tell whether the other side has been tampered with and whether the coins are toned or in poor condition.
Some offerings contain rolls from the Feds, bank and home. Here’s an example, but again, no top and bottom photos are provided. (If the home roll isn’t tucked, like this one, but uses a cheap Wal-Mart wrapper, the proper way to display for sale online is to empty the roll and take a photo of the contents. But many sellers do not do this, describing the roll as unsearched.
Opaque plastic roll
Sellers using this type of plastic holder also should empty the contents and show the condition of the coins. This one doesn’t. It just shows the top coin.
Clear taped plastic rolls
Sellers offering this type of roll often cannot show the contents because the clear plastic has tightened around the coins and will need to be cracked out. Also, chances are these coins have been handled.
Opened roll with hype in description
This roll shows the tarnish on one end but claims the roll was never searched. It’s easy to open Fed and bank rolls. A common method is to use an Exacto knife, gently unraveling the tuck until the coins can spill out. Then the coins are reinserted, sometimes with a toned or bait coin for the sale.
Examples of eBay bait rolls
This first roll was clearly opened (see lower left corner) with a bait coin added for sale:
This baited roll was improperly re-tucked–obviously an amateur:
This seller specializes in rolls that feature Mercury dimes on one end of the unsearched cent offering:
As this post indicates, if you want to search rolls, the best place to purchase them may not be online if sufficient photos aren’t provided. The best place may be at a coin shop, an onsite estate sale or a coin show.
Do you have any anecdotes to share about buying rolls online?