Every now and then we need to monitor the major online coin portals in our “Bidding Basics” series—this time, concerning “Buy It Now” and “Make Offer” deals on Proxibid and eBay.
Some general rules:
- Never bid on raw coins unless you are an expert grader, trust the seller, can view excellent photos, and can return the coin if unsatisfied.
- Never bid on coins in bottom-tier slabs unless you spot a mistake like a rare error or variation that isn’t listed on the label.
- Consider not wasting time on “Buy It Now” offers unless you need the coin or currency for your collection. (Note: If you find yourself in this situation on eBay, you may want to simply “watch” the coin [hit the “watch” tab] until the seller relists it and finally comes to his or her senses, dropping the price or going to “Make Offer” status.)
Here’s an example of “Buy It Now” on eBay concerning a common Morgan dollar, 1878, 7 Tail Feathers, Reverse of 78. By the look of the coin, I give it a generous MS-63 grade (assuming there are no hidden flaws the photo doesn’t reveal). That means the retail price should be around $145. Instead, the seller is asking for the ridiculous price of $1,995.
If you know how to grade (I mean, really, really know how to grade) and want a coin or piece of currency for your collection, always check auction values rather than retail values on a site like PCGS CoinFacts or PMG Values, which are free. Find the low and high auction prices for the coin or note and bid the low first.
You can bid as you like, of course, but my general rule for “Buy It Now / Make Offer” is to bid only on slabbed coins by top holdering companies (PCGS, NGC, ANACS, and ICG).
Proxibid sellers are terrible when listing “Buy It Now/Make Offer” coins. Auctioneers rarely go this route. When this post was being written, there was one lot in this category on Proxibid. It had a ridiculous “Buy It Now” price of $2,975 for a $5 gold coin (erroneously listed as a $10 Liberty”) whose retail value was $515 and whose auction values ranged from a low of $348 to a high of $541:
I bid $375 and wrote in the comments section that the listing was wrong, as this was a $5 coin, and that I wanted free shipping and no buyer’s fee. Within three minutes the bid was rejected. I didn’t want the coin so I did not bid retail or high auction price. (By the way, you should always check the provided link on PCGS CoinFacts for the original selling price, because the general listings do not distinguish between a variety in the same year or, for instance, an old green holder with CAC sticker.)
You can score good values on eBay “Make Offer” lots if you know how to negotiate. Go through the same process as above, knowing retail and auction prices, and start with a low auction bid if you really want the coin or note. I only do this with lots that I need for my collection, and I sell coins in my bank box so that I can afford the pricier items as illustrated here. For instance, I sold most of my Lincoln Wheat cents slabbed by PCGS to afford these two desired lots.
The first was a 1901 Buffalo note that is becoming increasingly difficult to acquire at lower than retail rates. Just as in coins with top holdering companies, I bid only on PCGS and PMG notes. Here is the lot that caught my interest, because it had good color and came with a “Make Offer” designation:
You’ll note that eBay states this lot sold for $1,199. It did NOT. That was the asking price. I bid $890, slightly below retail of $900, and wrote that I could buy the note in question at the same grade from my hometown coin shop, Chester’s Coins and Gifts, for $950. (And I usually get a discount because, well, I know the shop owner!) I also noted that all those other PMG 25 Buffalos were not selling at $950 but were being relisted.
I won the lot:
I had been looking for three years for a “round” $1 California fractional gold PCGS coin in an old green PCGS holder, as the “round” rather than “octagonal” $1 coins are difficult to find. Finally one appeared. But the asking price was way above retail:
Here’s the $2,000 retail price from PCGS for the coin in question:
In my offer of $1,625, I told the seller that the latest auction price was around $1,600. “Seems fair enough,” the seller stated, and I won the coin.
Once again, eBay’s record states the coin sold for the initial asking price. As in the 1901 Buffalo note, it decidedly did not.
To summarize, review the general rules above about never bidding on raw or self-slabbed coins, and then to be extra careful on any “Buy It Now” offer, especially on Proxibid. When you make an offer, make sure you know the retail and latest auction values, and be courteous in all your correspondence with the seller. After all, he or she can make any asking price, and you’ll have to live with that.
What are your experiences with “Buy It Now” and “Make Offer”? ❑