Constructive and Instructive Criticism

What’s the difference between constructive and instructive criticism of Proxibid? The former concerns issues Proxibid may be aware of and has not yet addressed or may not address. The latter concerns issues the portal may not be fully aware of. We’ll discuss both below.

In addition to touting Proxibid as a preferred numismatic portal, Proxiblog also is a major buyer and reseller of coins, as are several of the big spenders whose names most auctioneers recognize as we bid on just about every rare coin or precious metal. Proxiblog has had on occasion more than 1000 individual bids across several auction houses. We retract, too, when the price of precious metals drops or when we reach our buying quotas or when we find better deals on the same coins from trusted auctioneers (more on those later).

Proxibid sent out a message to us recently warning us about bid retractions with possible punishment being banned from the site. We’ve had these discussions with Proxibid before, noting that retractions serve their purpose, especially when auction houses lack adequate photography or APN clearance or sell doctored coins or try to earn retail prices with high opening bids and steep reserves.

Proxibid’s message concerning bid retractions is to make the buying experience more palatable for the average customer. We get that. Our message is that it keeps auctioneers on their numismatic toes. We can agree to disagree about that, but Proxiblog now must change its buying habits after a week in which we lost thousands of dollars because we patronized houses that hyped the condition of coins, that lack APN clearance, and that provide inadequate photos of lots.

Proxibid needs to do the following if it is serious about a more palatable buying experience:

  1. Note specifically that an auction house lacks APN clearance. Buyers of coins cannot afford to risk security by giving out credit card numbers. Nor can we wait weeks to send in checks or take calls from auction houses at work, home and school. We need badges, banners and more to identify houses with or without APN clearance so that bidders can make the choice to patronize them or not.
  2. Require clear photos of obverse and reverse of coins that expand more than 200% from the lot picture (not the thumbnail).
  3. Charge auctioneers who routinely abuse the Proxibid system by setting high opening bids with steep buying fees on top of that. That indicates the auction house cannot compete in the numismatic world, is desperate or just plain greedy. It kills the auction experience and abuses the portal because the auctioneer uses Proxibid resources as a showcase for an online coin shop. Go to eBay if that’s your goal.
  4. Be more transparent about how Proxibid works to resolve bidder complaints. We’re making ours public. We know a lot more about auctioneer abuses than we typically state in our regular “Boos and Booyah” features. Or even here.

We can add to this list, but we’ll stop here for the moment and explain how we plan to operate in the future to lessen bid retractions and patronize only those houses we trust.

  • We no longer will be buying from houses with high opening bids or reserves. We’ve even seen auctioneers open with high bids only to retract those offers because they wanted more money for the coins. This is ridiculous. These houses should be booted off the portal.
  • We no longer will buy from auction houses that lack adequate, sharp, clear and expandable photography, even if the buyer’s fee is 15% or lower.
  • We no longer will patronize auction houses that hype coins or lack numismatic knowledge. Stop the exaggeration and get some education if you sell coins regularly on the portal. Your notices about all sales being final no matter what you state about the coins, from grade to potential investment, is, frankly, an abuse and a lie.
  • From the majority of houses with 15% or lower buying fees, we will only purchase slabbed coins by PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG. Unlike eBay, Proxibid does not require auctioneers to identify self-slabbers posing as grading companies who place inferior coins with houses that lack (or turn a blind eye to) this potentially fraudulent practice.
  • We no longer will patronize any house lacking APN clearance. Here’s the problem with Proxibid not identifying these houses prominently on the portal. If burned once by this practice, we will not buy from that auctioneer again, even though the house may change its policy and get such clearance without our knowing it.
  • Whenever we question a house’s standards and practices, we will discontinue our patronage altogether.
  • We will continue to buy from auction houses with high numismatic standards. We cannot list all of the houses here, especially since a few do not specialize in coins or have yet to establish a track record selling on Proxibid. But here are a handful of our Proxibid favorites: Weaver Signature Coin Auction, Silvertowne Auctions, Western Auction, Matthew Bullock Auctioneers, Scott Auctions, and Leonard Auctions.
  • We will buy fewer coins on Proxibid until these standards are met and more coins from Teletrade’s Tuesday auctions which in our view qualify as the best in the business. At least we know what we are buying there–slabbed coins from the top companies–and the buying fee is 0%.

Over the past few months Proxiblog feels that is has raised numismatic standards on Proxibid. We know some of our suggestions have been taken seriously by the company, and we applaud its customer service and sales team for the excellent work that both do to promote best practices and high standards. One of the reasons we patronized Proxibid so much is the customer service and the ability to retract coins. But if Proxiblog keeps losing thousands of dollars, especially given our numismatic knowledge, we can only wonder how much other bidders are losing–knowingly or unknowingly–by buying coins on the portal from the typical auction house.

We hope that the above is constructive as well as instructive, not only to Proxibid but also to the 4500 viewers of this blog.

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.

12 thoughts on “Constructive and Instructive Criticism

  1. ‘We retract, too, when the price of precious metals drops or when we reach our buying quotas or when we find better deals on the same coins from trusted auctioneers.”

    Sir;
    Your above statement is unethical and most likely illegal (As a bid in an auction setting is a legally binding contract according to the Uniform Commercial Code). For someone who is intent on holding other people’s feet to the ethical fires, I find your statement to be very disturbing.

    I am hoping I read this wrong and I hope it is just a misunderstanding. If I did please accept my apologies for this post. BUT PLEASE NOTE: Bid retractions are a very serious issue. If you place a bid you MUST honor it regardless of whether the price of silver goes down, regardless of if you find the same coin at a cheaper price. The only reason for a legitimate bid retraction would be if the seller misrepresented an item or if you made an honest mistake in bidding. Changing your mind does not count. Please clarify your statement.

    • Your comments are well-taken, but only in the presence of quality control, which Proxibid does not enforce sufficiently. In fact, that is the reason why Proxiblog was created, and we have made an impact. But the real ethical issues, when it comes to selling coins, concern non-uniform practices by dozens of auction houses violating NAA ethical rules.

      When the playing field is equal, and quality control in place with transparency, there is no need for bid retractions. Teletrade is such a house because the auction house provides sufficient quality control, sharp pictures, and also takes back substandard coins.

      Only a few auctioneers selling coins on Proxibid can come close to these standards. It’s time Proxibid did something about it by at least enforcing eBay-like numismatic rules.

      But if Proxibid wants to remain the wild west of numismatics, then bid retractions will continue. And if not, then major buyers will not be patronizing auction houses to the extent that we have been. So to honor your concern, those actions will have to be taken, and that will cost auctioneers and Proxibid revenue.

      • Michael
        Maybe I am missing the point. Let’s say I followed ALL of your requirements and the price of silver drops. According to your statement, you will retract your bid. I did nothing wrong. This in my opinion unethical & illegal behavior on a bidders part. Without question you have committed fraud.

        Another scenario;
        An Auctioneer does everything that you ask and a bidder leaves a bid in good faith and then finds a “Better Deal” at another auction house (or even a common dealer) and you retract your bid. The auctioneer did nothing wrong, You the bidder committed fraud.

        Another scenario;
        You the bidder shotgun bids 1000 bids at various auctions participating on Proxibid. (I am assuming this is what happens). You then decide what are the best deals and retract the ones that were not so good. This again is out and out fraud.

        I think you need to re-read your original post. You clearly state that it is OK for a bidder to commit this type of fraud. Again, I hope that it is not your intent because it is very disturbing behavior if it is.

        I truly believe that most auctioneers and bidders are good and decent people. But bidders displaying behavior such as you indicate in your original post gives everyone a bad name.

    • How do you feel about auctioneers, Chris, who raise the opening bids on precious metals when the price climb? This is a portal, not an onsite auction, and we acknowledge Proxibid’s policy on retractions … and will take the necessary steps to avoid them. Those steps mean vastly fewer bids. It means not trusting auctioneers who take advantage of coin buyers because of lack of quality control. It means only buying slabbed coins. It means many of the things in the post that have to do with auctioneers understanding how portals operate and are willing to compete for return business.

      Your points are absolutely well taken. But not in the current business climate in which too many Proxibid auctioneers are operating.

      How about this, Chris, do understand my viewpoint: we just received a shipment of winning lots for more than $700–almost all doctored, altered, or misrepresented. We honored that payment because of Proxibid rules. We received several other shipments with doctored coins, misrepresented coins and more. It cost us close to $2000 in losses because of lack of quality control.

      Now read carefully what I wrote: We accept the policy on bid retractions. We accept your arguments. And that leaves us with little choice because the rules are geared to protect the auctioneer and not the buyer.

      My advice now will be for the Proxiblog audience to follow that lead in patronizing only a few trusted auctioneers, not buying exclusively from the portal, only bidding on slabbed coins, not bidding in auctions with bad photography, etc.

      The allure of this portal was its Internet-savvy flexibility in allowing major buyers to bid across platforms and retract in their own interest because of competition or bad practices. But if we’re going to skew the portal to protect auctioneers who abuse the system along with buyers–and you are not acknowledging or even mentioning that–then adjustments on our end will have to be made.

      Ask yourself whether Proxibid is better for major buyers who spend tens of thousands of dollars each month on winning bids, not to mention the bids that they drive up on your and other auctions, or whether you would like to see those buyers go elsewhere … to eBay or Teletrade … where at least the rules apply both ways.

  2. Dear coinfinder

    I am somewhat new to the online auction scene and was wondering your opinion on the buyer’s premium. Most places seem to charge a flat 10-15% premium and I’m not to thrilled with the setup and was wondering if there were places that used a sliding scale, so say if I spent over $2,000 why do I pay the same premium as someone who only spent $25? I would think if i spent enough I could get a break and pay say 7 or 6% Are there places that utilize such a system or am I wishing for too much, thanks for input!

    • I think this is an excellent suggestion and something we should blog about. I would wager that several of our top auctioneers would consider this advice seriously to attract more winning bids. Only one auctioneer ever did this on his own to reward the tremendous number of bids we placed in his Proxibid session.

      One of the problems with spending only $25 or less for an item is the cost of shipping, insurance and handling–which is not necessary for an inexpensive item. Recently we had bid over $1000 in an auction but won a $14 coin. With shipping, handling, etc., the bill came close to $40.

      Major auction houses often offer sliding scales–both for buyers and consignors. We’ll look into this. …

  3. Oh, Chris–and one more footnote about our bad purchases this month. Those auctioneers did not have APN clearance. We paid with checks, waited weeks and then got garbage.

    We honored the rules. Now it’s time for more auctioneers to honor ours, and that means good photography, accurate descriptions of lots, reasonable buyer’s fees and confidence in the wake of competition.

  4. Michael

    I actually love it when you bring auctioneers with bad habits to light. As a 2nd generation auctioneer with over 30 years in the business, the biggest threat an honest auctioneer faces is a dishonest auctioneer. I love to learn new things and I have learned a couple of good practices from you. I thank you for sharing your knowledge with me.

    Please let me address APN for a moment. Your comments regarding APN are decieving. APN is a very new feature for Proxibid and has only been avaiable to the auctioneers for a little over one month. I actually like the program as it reduces my staff’s work time in collecting by nearly an entire day. A lot of auctioneers that I know (Legitimate, honest and hardworking people) are still trying to figure out if the system will work for them. There are contractual issues in cancelling other credit card providers (And the penalties that early termination brings). I am personally addressing those issues even though I have made the switch. Instead of demonizing these auctioneers for not immediately jumping on the bandwagon, I suggest that bidders give these business people a reasonable chance to make the switch. There are logistics involved. My first auction using APN was a disaster. The system broke down and bidders were charged all kinds of strange charges. Proxibid worked very hard to correct these issues and it seems to work great now, but I know that one bidder in particular will never participate in an auction that uses APN becuase of it. Some auctioneers are waiting to make sure the system is bullet proof before switching.

    Now back to the ethics and honest issue: Bidders also must abide by all ethical rules that they insist that dealers must go by. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Fraud and deceit is unacceptable whether from a dealer or a buyer.

    I do agree that there are less than honest auctioneers out there. I ALSO FEEL THAT THEY ARE A MINORITY AND 95% OF THE AUCTIONEERS ARE GOOD AND DECENT BUSINESS PEOPLE. I am sorry that the actions of a few has caused you to hate the majority who are good people.

    To lump us all together because of the actions of a very few bad ones is insulting. It is akin to saying that all lawyers are ambulance chasing goons or all college professors are dope smoking liberal hippies. Most people realize that these are stereotypes and are not the case for most in these professions.

    I find your comments regarding EBay interesting. A lot of people I know have stopped purchasing on that portal due to the extraordinary amount of fake merchandise posted.

    Buyers who have been legitimately ripped off should complain very loudly to the auction house in question AND to Proxibid.

    Bidders should take time to research the auction compaines in question prior to bidding. I know auction companies (Including some on your honor roll) that allow seller buy backs. They actually post this information on their websites (???????). Bidders should avoid auctioneers such as these. No bidder should have to bid against the seller. No seller should ever be able to bid on their own merchandise.

    Bidders should also check to see if the auctioneer is a member of the National & State Auctioneers Associations. Members who belong to these associations tend to have a much lower complaint level than auctioneers who do not belong.

    Reserves: In most cases, bidders should pay attention to companies who use reserves or arbitrary “Starting Bids”. Bidders can tell if an auction companies routinely use these misguided practices. It is easy. If you look at a catalog and the opening bids on every items is for example $5 (Our normal opening bid), and you do not see the blue “Reserve Not Met” indicator, then this is probably a legitimate auctioneer. When you see different starting bids on different items such as $5 for this item and $17, & $115 for this item then that auctioneer in knowingly or unknowingly participating in open or hidden reserves.

    I still look forward to reading your blogs as I agree with most of what you say. You are undoubtably a recognized expert in the coin field. If you ever need assistance or advise from someone who has over 30 years experience as a real auctioneer, please let me know. I would consider it an honor to work with you.

    Kindest Regards

    Chris

    • Chris,
      Thank you for your long and wise response. Just a few points to make because I want your voice to come in loud and clear on several of the issues you bright to light.

      We have 52 auctioneers on our Honor Rolls. I have purchased goods from them almost without incident. But many of those auctioneers cannot provide the volume of coins that I require to make my own business work, as I have clients who are looking for specific coins and specifying how much they will pay, and how much they won’t. This is very common in the coin world.

      So I have to work with other auctioneers, some I have known from past business and some new to the coin business.

      Yesterday, it happened again. Another batch of cleaned coins that retoned and were depicted in lots and photos as gem. I can’t sell those to my clients so I had to eat the loss. My coin dealer friends say, “Return the coins!” But I am honoring Proxibid rules by not doing that.

      So much of this has been my fault for believing the lot descriptions.

      Here’s eBay’s policies on coins: http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/currstamps.html

      Concerning bid retractions: In the past when my quota was reached I did have to retract bids. It was allowed then by Proxibid, and I followed that rule. When one auctioneer raised opening bids for silver and gold, because the precious metals rose, I returned the favor to him when it fell. When one auctioneer without APN clearance sent a mass email to bidders, asking them to email him our credit card numbers, I contacted Proxibid to request permission to retract my bids because I didn’t want to do business with him. I received permission.

      But when you bid on hundreds of lots, and then study pictures and see tooling or that you entered the wrong maximum on several coins, or because the auctioneer’s lot descriptions or photos were substandard–and you retract 20 bids because of those reasons out of 1000 in a month–and then receive a warning, well, then, that rather changes how I will bid in the future.

      I also don’t get any funds or recognition from the many hours I invest in Proxiblog, which was created because of auctioneer inexperience in the coin business. My goal was to correct that, and perhaps I have reached that goal.

  5. Michael

    The auctioneer that raised the opening bids when pm’s rose deserved everything he got when it fell. I support you on that. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t bid at his auctions again.

    No one should email credit cards numbers. I don’t care if the auctioneer asks, don’t do it unless the auctioneer has some pretty serious verisign certificates. (Most of us don’t).

    If an auctioneer made a mistake, (Intentionally or unintentionally) then a bidder should have the option of retracting or modifying a bid. This is reasonable.

    I knew that there had to be reasons why, but your original post did not address the specifics. I did not want people thinking that bid retractions are to be taken lightly. I know that you do this on your own and taking time to shed the light to a stubborn auctioneer can be very time consuming. 🙂

    Regards

    Chris

  6. Another great article!

    With so many problems in our hobby, it becomes a necessity to only follow and use those who opt for quality in their listings and their follow through with customers.

    Dick Fee

    • Thank you, Dick. After this post, and the comments associated with it, several coin dealers emailed and called me outraged at selling rules by Proxibid auctioneers. I have another post forthcoming on Monday of a coin dealer who was so troubled by all of this that he plans to run Proxibid coin auctions to show auctioneers how it is done in the numismatic world. And that’s the real issue here. Auctioneers are used to doing business by their own sets of rules. But now they are gravitating toward coins because that is where the money is. It’s up to them to learn numismatics, take returns on inferior goods, and allow bid retractions when we sense unfairness or discover counterfeits, alternations, and other fraudulent activities on so many coins. Most auctioneers are unaware that a good 5-10% of US coins put up for bid, especially raw coins on Proxibid, fall into those categories. I still support Proxibid because its employees are among the best in the portal business. Your message is quite affirming, and I appreciate it greatly.

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