Bad Photos Bring Low-Ball Bids

Proxiblog grows weary of receiving substandard coins from auction houses posting all manner of warnings, such as “SOLD AS IS, WHERE IS WITHOUT GUARANTEE OF ANY KIND. INSPECT BEFORE YOU BUY!” Yes, that’s a reasonable request from an auctioneer if a bidder is onsite and can inspect the lot. It is an unreasonable request if the auctioneer provides poor-quality photos and charges a high buyer’s fee.

First, the good news. Several top coin-selling houses are providing needle-sharp, expandable photos of obverse and reverse. We’ll showcase the best numismatic photography on Proxibid later in the week. These auctioneers not only sell top consignments earning hundreds of thousands of dollars; their photos are as good or better than any you might find on Heritage or Teletrade.

The bad news is that close inspection of coins is impossible with many auction houses selling on Proxibid. Some photos are so bad that you can’ tell what coin is being depicted, as in this example to the right.

Other photos, such as this one below left, provide a blurred glimpse of the coin’s general condition. This one looks mint state, but any hairlines, rubs and bag marks are obscured; if they are present, the coin is worth about $45. If the coin has no hairlines or dings, and is mint state, it could be worth hundreds.

Of course we understand and appreciate the time and trouble it takes to prepare an online catalog. Providing crystal clear photos now will prove invaluable latter as the coin-buying world continues to migrate online. That’s where the business is. If you hope to stay in business, you simply must take needle-sharp photos that are expandable by more than 200% so that buyers are on the same playing field as onsite bidders.

If you have secured top consignments and lack exceptional photos, you will lose money without sharp photography. Conversely, if you have mediocre consignments, and provide poor photography, you will earn more than you deserve for a particular auction; however, when bidders get the goods, they won’t be return customers. Either way, the auctioneer loses.

Ironically, the less an auctioneer knows about coins, the more he has to provide exceptional digital photos, allowing bidders to make the determination about a coin’s worth.

Case in point: This auctioneer didn’t know what he put on the block, an 1890-CC Tailbar. He calls it “BU+,” but it’s more like “AU+” or “almost uncirculated.” It should have sold for about $250, but brought a realized price over $525 because the photo, while not sharp, was clear enough for two expert bidders to spot a rarity.

Compare the mediocre photo here to the photo of the same coin variety depicted in this link.

That’s how sharp a coin photo has to be, and later in the week we’ll show you Proxibid auctioneers who know that, do that, and reap the profits.

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.


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