Occasionally we need our viewers to weigh in on a complex or controversial issue, and this is as controversial as it gets: questions about where you do online coin business and why and what terms you are willing to accept or reject.
We will cover fees (paid by sellers and buyers) in addition to services before sharing some examples from my Proxibid experience–which you can affirm or contest, as always, because your opinions matter at Coin Update.
First, some background to inform your views.
Last year Numismatic News ran an interesting and prescient piece chronicling the reasons hobbyists are buying more coins online. The article by numismatist and dealer Pat Heller, titled “Do Coin Shops Have a Future?,” noted how technology like digital photography, scanners, and the Internet allow sellers to bypass brick-and-mortar stores, especially since popular vendors–including the U.S. Mint–now sold their wares via the World Wide Web.
Dealers have certain advantages over portals like Proxibid and eBay in as much as they can showcase their holdings on the Web and in their shops without all the digital (and dubious) complications, ranging from misleading digital photos to counterfeit sales. But the issue of credit card fees dogs dealers as much as online auctioneers. Many coin shops only accept personal checks for large purchases to sidestep surcharges that average about 3%–not the 5% that one Proxibid coin seller stated in his terms of service (unless you count annual dues and other services offered by Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express).
Keep in mind, too, that buyers are paying fees for the privilege of using credit cards, including membership and other fees and interest rates averaging about 12%. These facts are irksome. Auctioneers fail to realize that online buyers paying premiums to sellers and interest rates and fees to credit card companies are enabling estate auctioneers to bid up their onsite customers and Internet sellers to use portals from their home offices, bypassing brick-and-mortar auction houses that come with higher overheads.
Auctioneers also complain about Proxibid and eBay fees (the latter beyond the scope of this post). Suffice to say that PayPal also charges about 3% to online auctioneers and sellers (2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction). Proxibid offers a range of services that can increase sales (and seller fees). One satisfied auctioneer writes about fees of 2% (online sales) and other Proxibid services in a recent post about why he opted for the platform over competitors. Some auctioneers have complained to me about total Proxibid fees of 5%.
I buy coins on Proxibid and sell on eBay and Great Collections (although terrific bargains can be found here, too). I have had a long relationship with Proxibid and helped shape some of its policies. Here is a post from 2011 that chastised the company for lacking a policy allowing what amounted to shill bidding by auctioneers. Over time, the company adopted a transparency policy that disclosed when auctioneers saw opening bids and whether they were placing bids themselves to keep raising maximum totals.
Early on I argued with Proxibid about all sales being final, including counterfeits, noting that was against the law. The company changed that policy, too. Sale of counterfeits is banned on the portal, according to the Unified User Agreement. Now the company has this policy: “If, within a reasonable amount of time, Buyer gives notice in writing to Seller that the lot so sold is a counterfeit and after such notice the Buyer returns the lot to Seller in the same condition as when sold, and establishes to the satisfaction of Seller that the returned lot is in fact a counterfeit, Seller as agent for the consignor will rescind the sale and refund the purchase price.” I advocated for a Coins and Currency category and played a key role with my Coin Update reporting on a new policy that prohibited exaggerated values and grading descriptions.
This is not to tout my contributions but to document that I have criticized Proxibid proactively over the years and the company responded in the interest of its brand of trust.
I cannot fathom eBay responding to any criticism. I have to spend 15 or more minutes trying to find a way to speak to a representative on the phone from its IRS-like automated help center. (The best way to get to a real person is to say you have a buying problem.) Conversely, Proxibid’s customer service ranks as one of the finest in telephone availability–for both buyer and seller alike.
To give you an example of how the company screens and protects buyers, I went on a vacation last month and checked my bids via a smartphone in Bermuda. Immediately I received this email:
The screenshot of my email shows that Proxibid is less interested in a sale and more in security. I cannot imagine eBay doing this. (If you are interested in a third-party comparison of Proxibid and eBay, click here.)
One of the triggers that prompted this article are favorite auctioneers that have or are deciding to leave Proxibid because of its fee structure blamed for ever-higher buying premiums. I just received this from a former favorite seller on my email:
I am not going to use International Auction Network. This auctioneer has lost my business.
One of my all-time favorite auctioneers is planning to leave Proxibid. I have been asked not to share that information. Instead, I shared with this seller an email exchange I had with another ex-Proxibid auctioneer who recently emailed me to say he had a great coin auction on a new portal that helped lower his buyer’s fee to 10%. Here is the exchange:
- AUCTIONEER: Hey Mike, Great sale coming this Friday night!! 1937D Buffalo, 3 legged, Nickel, complete set of Peace dollars – each year and mint, lots of Carson city Morgan’s and lots more other coins!! Make sure you check it out. [He provides URL].
- BUGEJA: I can’t seem to find the link. Can you send?
- AUCTIONEER: Mike, go to [he provides URL]. Then just scroll down to firearms and coins on Friday 5/27. If you still have trouble, let me know.
- BUGEJA: I can’t find it, and that’s not good for you because you need online bidders. [M]arquee does not have any of your auctions, just a category. I’ll keep looking. I looked in old and new versions of [new portal]. I’ll go to your site and see if I can find it there.
I was able to find the catalog from a URL off of his Web site. But I didn’t want to share my personal and credit card information to register on this site. I didn’t like its graphics. So that is the end of my business with this seller from whom I have bought more than 100 coins in the past.
If my still-favorite Proxibid seller goes to a new platform, I will probably stop buying coins from that company. I just don’t want to provide personal information to smaller companies whose security may fail, exposing me to far greater risks that a high buyer’s fee.
Concerning that issue, I bid conservatively on Proxibid and demand inexpensive shipping, accurate descriptions and other services from sellers who have raised their buyer’s premiums to 20%–a ridiculous fee if you are considering gold or rare coins. One former favorite seller now has a 20% buyer’s fee and opens bids near retail. Goodbye! Another former seller with a 20% buyer’s fee–a nationally known dealer–refuses to describe coins with condition problems and yet another estate auctioneer (not a dealer) routinely exaggerates value. Adios! (HINT: Browse Proxibid’s coin category and read terms of service of auctioneers listed there if you want to know whom I am discussing, as our goal here is educational rather than investigative.)
Granted, Proxibid can do more for sellers like updating mobile phone functions, adding a favorite seller endorsement (ala eBay’s “favorite seller” listings), and fix this technical glitch–soon, Proxibid–about incompatible browsers. You won’t be able to access the coin category if you are using Chrome, Chromium, or Firefox on your computer. Instead you will be led to a catalog of coins by several sellers. I have notified the company several times about this problem, as the only browser working 100% (at least for me) is Internet Explorer. Here’s a screenshot comparison:
As you can see, Internet Explorer touts Premier Sellers and has advertisements and other inducements that auction houses might be paying for and that top browsers can no longer access.
So here are some questions for you in a crowd source of Coin Update readers:
- Do you use online portals like Proxibid and eBay to purchase coins and, if so, describe your experience?
- Have you ever migrated to a new website because of lower buyer premiums?
- How many portals or websites do you use and why?
- What can sellers or platforms do to make the online buying experience more favorable and friendly?
Please remember that our purpose is educational. (We didn’t identify sellers here, for instance.) So if you criticize a particular seller, your comment may be edited for appropriateness. Just state what the issue was rather than indict a seller because the issue is what matters in Coin Update.