Recently on Proxibid I won two pricey coins from my favorite online auctioneers that alarmed me when I received and beheld them up close.
A “gem” Morgan dollar turned out to be “thumbed,” explained in a previous post on Coin Update News.
A 1900 Morgan Dollar marked MS66 “flawless” on the flip turned out to be overdipped, stripped of all its luster and doctored on the cheek.
The doctoring cannot be depicted by my camera in a detailed close-up because you need a jeweler’s loop to see it, extraordinarily tiny indentations flattening bag marks to make the cheek look clean. I didn’t have to send this to PCGS for verification. The doctoring and lack of luster said it all.
In this post we’ll be discussing over-dipping because you’re apt to experience that if you buy coins online.
A light expert dip with the right commercial solvent on a previously undipped coin to remove problem spots or fingerprints may (or may not) improve the quality of the coin. Sometimes the dip exposes hairlines that the previous unsightly patina had hidden.
Dipping is a dangerous game.
You should never dip a coin to make an MS64 one appear to be gem or better.
If you dip more than once, you’re going to strip luster.
The biggest mistakes in dipping involve:
- Keeping a coin too long in the solution.
- Not washing off the solvent properly before allowing the coin to dry.
- Using paper towels to rub dry the washed or unwashed coin, leaving hairlines from the cleaning.
The biggest mistake in bidding is not properly deciphering luster in the digital photo posted in online auctions.
There seems to be no set standard on the quality of photographs on Proxibid and similar Internet auction portals. Some auctioneers don’t even bother to post a picture of the reverse of coins, and others display out-of-focus pictures because their cameras cannot capture close-ups.
Using Proxibid’s “photo enlarge” utility, buyers should be able to inspect coins in detail; but many auctioneers don’t submit larger quality photos for that function.
I’m a frequent Proxibid user pleased with the customer service of this Omaha-based company. However, I may have to curtail buying for my clients if doctored coins keep showing up in my inventory.
I cut losses by patronizing a relative few auctioneers on Proxibid. Along with Gary Ryther of Gary Ryther Auctioneers, mentioned in my previous columm, Scott Strosnider is one of my favorites and equally as ethical and trustworthy. So when I received the 1900 “flawless” Morgan, I could tell immediately that the coin was fooled with, if not recently, then at some point in the past.
A flawless coin should be breath-taking in its luster or patina. This one had the sheen of an AU rather than gem BU coin. In fact, I put several AU coins alongside it on a table under fluorescent lighting and bent down a few feet away eye-level to see if the MS66 coin stood out.
When I notified Scott Strosnider, he said, “Send it back.”
In retrospect, all uncirculated coins (silver and especially gold) will reflect well if photographed in bright light. Unless the camera person tries to capture the most authentic picture of the coin possible, the resulting image under lighting will reflect luster (because the coin is made of metal), even if there is little or no luster by numismatic standards.
To be sure, it’s time-consuming for auctioneers to photograph each coin, and I am in awe of the several conscientious sellers who do, both obverse and reverse, even on samples worth $1 or $2. (The labor alone negates any profit.)
Strosnider makes that effort, ships inexpensively, and assesses a 15% buyer’s fee, lower than many Proxibid auctioneers.
I’ve purchased from him for two years now without a problem until this most recent over-dipped coin.
Incidentally, both he and Gary Ryther offered to refund my purchases if I returned the problem coins. I did and received a prompt refund.
I should mention as strongly as possible that this is not buyer’s remorse on my part; I wish both coins were untampered and the grade they were purported to be. I got them at fair prices, and I respect the “no return” policies of auctioneers.
However, because I am a good customer and can provide evidence of doctoring or overdipping, I have no issue with notifying auctioneers of problems without anticipating that they will take back problem coins.
In the future, though, I’m going to pay extra attention to the kind of luster on coins featured in Proxibid auctions. That luster has to be brilliant, as in the 1890-S Morgan Dollar I purchased from Western Auction.
Compare the flat tones of the 1900 with the mirror-sheen of the 1890-S (which recently graded MS64 by PCGS).
Not all Morgan dollars have that mirror sheen as later and late die stages sometimes can lack the sparkle and cartwheel of high-grade samples.
However, because of too many tampered coins online, I’m restricting myself to clear, bright, mirror or proof-life samples, to cut my losses.