The description above by a Proxibid auctioneer is misleading in so many ways–perhaps not intentional–but that is beside the point. You can find similar misleading descriptions on eBay and other portals selling raw and slabbed coins. Part of being an expert grader is to know the various varieties and their worth. In this special Coin Update article, columnist Michael Bugeja shows you how.
The description cites the PCGS population report, noting there are only 16 such coins for this variety with none finer. A numismatist knows that this cannot be true for the much-coveted and popular 1972 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent, which has a retail value at MS65 of about $625. (One recently sold for that amount in a David Lawrence auction.) But let’s assume you don’t know that or how to find the information (the purpose of this column).
First, go to the PCGS population report. Below is a screen shot with the search function circled.
Die varieties can be tricky, so I use “PCGS Lookup Numbers” to be sure of value. The numbering system may seem tedious to some collectors, but I find it precise. The lookup number is found on the left side of the certification number, in this case, “38031.” (This particular number reads 38031.65; but the “65” is the grade for the specific coin.)
Here’s a photo depicting that.
If you input 38031 in the population report, you get these data (click to expand):
This is why I find it curious, in as much as the auctioneer knows where to look for the PCGS population report, that he quotes the Redbook (A Guidebook of United States Coins). In as much as the auctioneer knows PCGS values, why not check those, because this coin is in that company’s holder?
Let’s give the auctioneer the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume he didn’t know that this wasn’t a 1972 Doubled Die Obverse, Die 1. In that case, he could have checked the exact retail value of this coin by going to the PCGS certification database.
By inputting the certification on the label of this specific coin, 27491922, the auctioneer not only could get population information but also could the retail value as $60. See photo below:
You’ll note an arrow by the hotlink to PCGS CoinFacts. There’s a reason. When bidding on coins, even slabbed ones, it is advantageous to know what the going auction prices are for specific coins. As you will see from the screen shot below, CoinFacts discloses prices for this coin range from a low of $45 at MS64 to a high of $211 at MS65.
That $211 eBay sale seemed awful high for this coin, even though it is about $414 less than what the Proxibid auctioneer is claiming by way of value. Using CoinFacts, you can see how the eBay seller described the item (click to expand).
Copy that description. Put it in Google.com, and you find this page.
Now scroll down, and you get this information:
The eBay seller described the coin correctly and did not post a value or otherwise mislead the buyer.
One can only surmise that the buyer did not realize the coin was not Die 1, got into a bidding war, or really wanted this coin and thus overpaid for it.
You can avoid the same fate by following the online numismatic techniques illustrated here. To recap:
- Know your die varieties, especially on denominations with which you may not be familiar.
- Once you know the variety, check the proper price guide.
- Realize the difference between retail and auction values.
- Check PCGS CoinFacts, or another similar service, to find the going rate for a specific coin variety.
- Double check any auction value that may seem too high or low by going to the initial sale, as in the eBay case above.
Hobby dollars are valuable. Protect yours. The more you do, the longer you will remain in the hobby.