Proxiblog realizes that some auctioneers may fail to adopt our best practices; however, some practices are just plain bad for bidder and business alike. Occasionally we’ll add to the list below. Feel free to email your own observations, and we’ll include them in the next installment.
- Hyped lot descriptions. One Proxibid coin seller continues to cite Red Book and PCGS retail prices for problem coins slabbed as “high mint state” (MS66) by unscrupulous sellers. Noted numismatist Susan Headley writes about this in “Graded Coin Value” Fraud at Online Auctions – Learn to Protect Yourself.” Every Proxibid auctioneer should be concerned about auctions like this in as much as sooner or later rules may be established that will affect everyone, even our honest top-rated sellers who not only cite coin values properly but also point out problems like cleaning or tooling.
- High buyers’ fees combined with near-retail opening bids. Some auctioneers believe an 18% buyer’s fee is fair. Well, that depends. One of Proxiblog’s favorite auctions, though not yet on “Honor Roll,” is Matthew Bullock Auctioneers. He charges an 18% buyer’s fee but evens the playing field in timed, no-reserve auctions. Several Proxibid auctions charge 18% but also list near-retail opening bids, either outright or by inflating the worth of their consignments. Matthew Bullock and other auctions turn a bad practice (high buyer’s fees) into a best practice by placing no reserves on top-quality consignments.
- Photographing only the obverse of coins. Nothing is more exasperating than auctioneers who cut corners by photographing only the “heads” side of coins. They are shortchanging themselves because the strongest buyers on Proxibid are numismatists looking to cherrypick coins. Proxiblog’s not asking auctioneers to become coin experts on varieties and mint errors. For example, an 1878 Morgan dollar comes in several varieties, all discernible on the reverse, with some worth hundreds more than others in mint state. Many 19th century California gold tokens are fake, neither gold nor 19th Century; but the only way to know that is by seeing the reverse. Typically, if there’s a bear with no denomination, the token is worth $5. If there is a denomination, it can be worth hundreds. The best online coin auctioneers realize this and invest heavily in accurate, expandable photos.
- Selling the same types of coins, auction after auction. Several Proxibid auctions must have consigned rolls of the same date silver dollars, junk silver and mint and proof sets. Such a consignment might be fine for an auction or two; without variety, however, you’ll lose return customers or only attract those who are accumulating silver. It’s better to postpone an auction until a better consignment is procured rather than selling the same type items in consecutive sessions.
- Not accepting returns from valued customers when problems arise. Yes, Proxibid terms of service allow auction houses to reject returns on coins. You can apply that rule uniformly as you see fit on good or bad bidders alike. However, some complaints are legitimate, ranging from hyped descriptions to altered or even counterfeit lots. Fail to accept a return from a return customer with a valid concern, and you risk losing him or her in the future.
- Not filling out lot descriptions and titles accurately. You can read about that in depth by clicking here. Email alerts to bidders are useless without titles of lots, with buyers informed that have been outbid on a “coin” or a “Morgan dollar.” That bidder is apt to ignore such a generic alert. However, he or she is apt to rebid if informed about a specific coin or date Morgan dollar. That only requires listing the title of a lot.
- Not using Proxibid audio. Again, you can read about the consequences by clicking here. Online bidding requires technology. It’s a matter of fact and trust. Fail to invest in audio, and you risk losing that trust, which is key in attracting return customers in an especially competitive auction category like coins and collectibles.
Each of the examples above contained a bad practice that easily is transformed into a best one. The best houses typically describe coins accurately (including lot titles), note any problems with items, offer a variety of lots, do not charge high buyer fees with higher opening bids, accept returns when legitimate complaints arise, and take advantage of Proxibid audio-visuals.
The business lesson here is simple: Each shortcut costs profit. Maximize your profits by turning bad practices to best.
Proxiblog is an independent entity with no connection to the auction portal Proxibid. Our intent is to uphold basic numismatic standards as established by the American Numismatic Association and the National Auctioneer Association and to ensure a pleasurable bidding experience not only on Proxibid but also on similar portals such as iCollector and AuctionZip.