Tips on what to look for at a coin auction, from Dave Nauert
Buying coins in online auctions can be fun and exciting. A wide variety of coins usually is offered and often coins can be purchased for less than at other venues. There are, however, a few things to watch out for if you are a bidder or an auctioneer.
Make sure the auction company has expertise in the merchandise it is selling. Many auctioneers will sell anything that comes through the door without having any knowledge of the product. This may be okay when buyers have the ability to physically inspect the items in person, but it puts buyers at a disadvantage on the Internet.
The value of coins is so closely tied to condition that buyers must be able to trust grades given by the auctioneer, and also have good pictures to determine the grade. Without knowledgeable people, many auctioneers simply can’t supply this information and often will just rely on the consignor’s grades or not grade coins at all. Most auctioneers also can’t authenticate coins or detect cleaned, repaired, or doctored coins.
Auctioneers and buyers also should be aware of unreliable grading services. I recently saw a coin in an MS-66 holder that was probably an MS-60 before someone started polishing it. (Note: This is called a “self-slabbed” coin, an unethical practice by unscrupulous sellers posing as grading companies – click here for more information about that.)
By the time the “self-slabber” was done the coin it looked more like an AU-58. And then he consigned it.
The difference in value between AU-58 and MS-66 is almost $8000. The person that bought the coin in an online auction thought he got a great deal. He didn’t.
An auction company should describe self-slabbed and other coins accurately. NGC, PCGS, ICG, and ANACS are all fairly reliable grading services.
Buying, selling and auctioning coins can be fun. And remember, don’t be afraid to ask an auction company any questions you have about the coins in its auction. Most will be happy to help you out.