There are so many hazards to buying raw coins online via eBay, Proxibid or an Internet estate auction. Counterfeits aside, you can encounter honest and dishonest consignors (and auctioneers, for that matter), hyped lots, misleading descriptions and seller grades and messages on flips.
But you can avoid problems by understanding how to grade coins and then by analyzing the flips.
As viewers of this column know, if you don’t know how to grade, then just buy your coins at retail or bid in auctions at Grey Sheet Coin Dealer Newsletter recommended buy prices.
Those who know how to grade and how to analyze sellers and their motives will always score the better coins.
To help you this post will be largely visual. I’ll insert a photo and then provide an explanation about the tell-tale flip or lot description.
Some auctions have more than one consignor, of course. You can tell which one is honest and which, well, less so. Here are two screenshots. The first accurately grades the coin. The second inflates the grade. Can you tell?
The above consignor grades conservatively an 1899-O Morgan at MS64; some might say it is Gem or Near Gem, MS65. Other coins in the same type of flip appear in this auction. So you can bid with confidence on these lots.
However, the same auction also featured another consignor, less conservative, who calls a bag-marked 1878-S Morgan Gem when it is no better than MS62-63. Take a look:
There is an old trick with dipped and cleaned Morgan dollars that have lost their cartwheels. Take a photo at the slant in strong lighting, and you can make the coin appear uncirculated, as in the photo below:
Worse, as you’ll see in this screenshot, the auctioneer hopelessly hypes the coin as an amazing well-struck MS67 1891 Morgan. Well, PCGS has only slabbed one at that grade worth $40,000. To prove the point, I won this lot with a bid of $70, expecting an MS62-63 1891 cleaned Morgan. Here’s the auction screenshot:
The coin was not only cleaned, but dipped mercilessly so that the metal pocked from the chemical. To show the condition, I photographed the coin in natural lighting so as not to falsely create luster. It was silver melt.
Here’s a similar coin, cleaned and dipped, with a suggested price on the flip. The difference here is that the auctioneer makes no hyped claims about condition.
Here’s how a flip should look when sent by a consignor to auction. Just the facts, in this case, 1976-S Clad Proof. Problem is, with this coin, there is Type I and Type II. That information is not on the flip. You have to look at the reverse and know the coin’s variations.
Here’s the reverse:
Then there are bottom-tier and self-slabbed coins in holders that proclaim MS67. This Proxibid auctioneer has been informed multiple times not to cite PCGS prices for bottom-tiered coins. In this case he hypes a 1922-D cleaned and stained Peace Dollar as being worth $34,500.
Then again, you can find honest auctioneers. This screenshot is from the Proxibid house Auction Empire from Phoenix, AZ. The consignor hypes a replica as gold and rare, but the auctioneer sets the record straight in the description.
Auctioneers like this win our trust. How about you? Have you won a coin on eBay or Proxibid that promised one thing and delivered to you another? Was it related to the flip or lot description or both? Share you stories!