Bidding in timed auctions takes time — literally — to learn how to win lots at the best price. Moreover, strategies depend on whether you are bidding in an estate auction on Proxibid with a live and online audience or in an eBay online-only auction.
Proxibid auctions are mostly live with an auctioneer describing each lot and dropping the hammer when bidding stops. But there are also a fair number of timed auctions on the portal. There are two types. The least common is when all lots close simultaneously. The more frequent timed auction happens lot by lot with a minute in between. If a bid is placed on a lot, then bidding extends for another minute, and so on, until the final bid is placed without competition.
Unlike Proxibid auctions, eBay sessions are almost all timed with the exception of “Buy It Now” and “Best Offer.”
Before ever bidding in a timed auction on Proxibid or eBay, you must do research to assure the best possible outcome for your hard-earned hobbyist dollar.
First and foremost, read the seller’s terms. Proxibid allows sellers of timed auctions to see maximum bids and even bid on coins themselves. Take your chances on these. I never bid in auctions that allow the seller or seller’s employees to bid on lots. If maximum bids are seen, I telephone the auction company and ask why it is doing that and what its practices are. If I am convinced the auctioneer won’t be shill-bidding, I might patronize that auction (but almost always won’t).
The research continues. If the coin is in a PCGS, NGC, ANACS or ICG holder, consult the Official Red Book Online Coin Values for retail values or PCGS CoinFacts for latest auction prices. You need to know both retail and auction values to establish what your maximum bid will be.
The maximum bid, or as much as you are willing to pay, is the key to a successful timed auction bid.
If you are bidding on a raw or uncertified coin, or one in a lesser holder (SEGS, old PCI, ACG), you need to know how to grade, evaluating eye appeal, luster, condition, etc., and looking for flaws like cleaning, rim bumps, environmental damage, and other issues.
Be exceptionally careful when bidding on bottom-tier slabs that assign high grades (MS-66, 67, 68) for coins that obviously are impaired. For the record, I refuse to bid on such coins or even treat them as raw because time — the hours I spend on my hobby — is precious and limited. These coins almost always have flaws.
If you decide a raw coin is grade-worthy, ignore the seller’s description or the grade on the flip unless you trust the auctioneer’s judgment. On Proxibid, I trust several auctioneers, including Weaver Signature Coin Auctions, Leonard Auction, and Capitol Coin Auctions (to name only a few). I read their descriptions. Otherwise, I rely on my own numismatic judgment.
The best time to place your maximum bid depends on whether you really want a coin. While many Proxibid buyers wait until the day of the auction or even its final moments, I find early bids discourage bidders who want to steal an item. They’ll bid their maximum, see that you still lead, and then drop out.
However, there are also risks to bidding early. Another bidder may outbid your maximum, tempting you to go higher than you actually would want to, based on your research. You can get into a bidding war and then end up paying above retail for a coin.
Bidding wars usually occur in the final minutes of a timed auction. Don’t get snookered. Once you set your maximum, that’s it. There will be other coins in the future.
Timed auctions on eBay are more complex. Bidding is typically frenetic in the closing minutes and seconds of a desirable coin. I may place a bid about 25% lower than my intended maximum at the start of an auction and then see how the bidding fares before going all-in. Typically, however, I wait until the final 15 seconds before placing a bid in an eBay session. Waiting until the final seconds can be risky if your computer isn’t fast enough or your online connection isn’t strong. I found about 15 seconds to be the optimum for my computer and Internet provider.
There is another specter in eBay auctions. You will be dealing with buyers who not only set high maximums but also use sniper programs to snag desired lots.
A popular company is EZ Sniper, a software set up to beat all comers on eBay. I can’t tell you how many times I have lost coins to this and similar programs. I don’t use sniper programs because I don’t want to pay additional fees to anyone. But that’s your call, of course. Before you invest in a sniper program, you must factor the cost into your maximum. There are several buyer’s options ranging from a 1% commission fee to an annual subscription (no fees), as well as a prepaid number of snipes.
Sniper programs are worth the cost if you are looking for a specific coin that rarely comes on the market or popular coins that attract lots of bidders. For instance, PCI-toned American Silver Eagles are attracting snipes on such sites as GreatToning and Kryptonitecomics. Examples that used to sell for under $300 now are exceeding $800.
Have you ever used a snipe application? Do you have different strategies in timed auctions? Share in the comment section below!