To spot a fake

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Can you spot a fake 1893-S Morgan dollar, one of the most counterfeited coins? This article explains how.



Compare the photo above of a probable fake 1893-S with the genuine article below, offered by Jewelry Exchange.

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They look almost identical, an indication of how good counterfeit coins coming into this country from China are being manufactured.

There is one particular diagnostic, however, that counterfeiters often fail to get right, and that is the date. Compare the dates of the two coins:

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The number “1” of the date must sit squarely over the denticle below. The “1” on the left does not, indicating it is a fake. The “1” on the right is square over the denticle. Also, there is a difference here in the number “3.”

If you are an auctioneer getting an 1893-S Morgan in a consignment, which can bring thousands, it pays if you can identify whether the coin is authentic. This can save you time and trouble if a bidder files a complaint.

Concerning “ALL SALES FINAL,” keep in mind that selling a counterfeit coin is a violation of the US Hobby Protection Act. As we have advocated for many years now, auctioneers should create policies that make the consignor and not the bidder liable for counterfeit coins.

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.

Charge Consignors for Reserves

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One of our top-ranked auctioneers recently held a session on Proxibid, offering coins slabbed by ICG–a good, but not the best–holdering company. Reserves were set at PCGS levels. We knew the result. Those coins were not going to sell and auctioneer Darren Meares was going to have to foot the bill.


In this case, we’ll let email correspondence speak for itself:

PROXIBLOG: APRIL 23, 2:35 p.m.

Just a note for your consignor with high reserves on ICG coins. Typically, ICG coins grade down two notches, sometimes one, rarely crossover, with PCGS. The result of the reserves is I stopped bidding. Cases in point: On your mercury dimes graded ms67FB, I bid $35 and did not meet the reserve. Bidders do take chances on ICG coins. But here’s the reality: an MS66 or MS66FB ranges from $25-35. So bidders like me look at the coins and decide the chances of crossover. This, for example, is a horrendous ICG coin. The reverse looks stained:

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MEARES: APRIL 23, 2:35 p.m.

I am in agreement… that is one reason I put the disclaimer on the lot prior to all of the graded coins. He is one of our larger consignors and I have done my best to tell him about buying from these non-traditional grading companies. I will be dropping the reserves on these lots – I do hate reserves, but sometimes you get stuck with them to keep consignors.


PROXIBLOG: MAY 1, 8:45 a.m. I admire the note you put on your auction yesterday about top holdering companies. I also see that your consignor had 37 passed and about 10 sold. I know how hard auctioneers like you work on behalf of your consignors. Your consignor in this case is a fortunate man.



MEARES, MAY 1, 8:57 a.m.
: I am rewriting my terms for consignors in the next few weeks. One of the main points is no reserves on coins from ‘other than major graders’. They will all be sold to the highest bidder. … I’m thinking of also adding a no-sale fee for the ones that do have reserves attached.


We concur. Consignors who insist on high reserves should be held via contract to pay fees for items that do not sell. As Darron puts it, “It takes the same amount of time and effort to sell a coin as it does to try and meet a reserve price.”

We think an 8% of value fee is fair for lots with reserves that do not sell.

What do you think?

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.

Grade the Quality of Your Coin Photos!

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Click to expand photo.

The above photo by Certified Rare Coin Auctions, one of our top-ranked favorite sellers, captures luster, condition and color, the three components essential in selling high quality coins. This is an example of photography sharp enough to spark a bidding war. Below we grade photos of some of Proxibid’s top sellers. Which photo is similar to the ones you are showcasing on your portal site?

F-: NO CONDITION, SOME LUSTER, COLOR (DO NOT BID: Blurry, Impossible to Detect Flaws)
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F: SOME CONDITION, NO LUSTER, NO COLOR (DO NOT BID: You Cannot Tell What You Are Buying)
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D: GOOD CONDITION, SOME LUSTER, NO COLOR (BID AT OWN RISK: Cannot Tell If Cleaned, Dipped)
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C: SOME CONDITION, LUSTER, COLOR (BID AT OWN RISK: Slant Photo, Cannot Tell Condition)
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B: EXCELLENT CONDITION, GOOD LUSTER, FINE COLOR (WORTH THE RISK: Bid But Do Not Declare Bidding War)
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Lot from Weaver Auction


A: EXCELLENT CONDITION, EXCELLENT LUSTER, GOOD COLOR (LITTLE RISK: Consider Bidding War)
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Lot from Fox Valley Auction


A+: EXCELLENT CONDITION, EXCELLENT LUSTER, FINE COLOR (NO RISK: Declare Bidding War)
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Lot from Capitol Coin Auction


In the comment section, share your experience bidding on coins based on photos. We also think Proxibid should rate photography on the portal. What do you think?


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.

Take 4 Photos on Slabbed Coins

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As we have noted multiple times, photos sell coins online. The worst shortcut is to take one photo of a raw coin with no reverse. The second is to take one shot of the grade of a slabbed coin. Even with PCGS and NGC coins, photos of an obverse and reverse are not enough for discriminating buyers who also assess the value of the strike as well as the condition of coin and holder.


Here is a typical newbie photo of an 1879-S Morgan in a holder. Only the obverse appears.

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It’s unfortunate that the auctioneer only provides an obverse photo because the 1879-S has varieties such as the 1879-S reverse of 78 (parallel rather than slant tail feathers) that can bring much higher bids and even spark a bidding war.

This top-rated auctioneer (see photo below) has improved his photography to some extent. But still takes shortcuts. A slabbed coin, even by NGC or PCGS, deserves 4 photos for strike assessment, especially when the coin is rare and deserving of ever-higher bids, as this lot illustrates:

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SilverTowne Auctions provides four photos of slabbed coins. The first shows the label, the second a close-up of the obverse, the third a close-up of the reverse, and the fourth a shot of the reverse label:

Obverse Holder

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Close-up Obverse

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Close-up Reverse

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Reverse Holder

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Photos of the holder are important to check the certification number of a coin and the condition of the holder. (Cracked, scratched or damaged holders should be described in the lot description). Close-ups inform the bidder whether to send the holdered coin to a fourth-party grader (Certified Acceptance Corporation) or resubmit for an upgrade.

When you take a shortcut with coin photography, you as auctioneer will take a cut in your fees.

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.

Some PVC coins can be cleaned

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PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, an additive to plastic that makes it pliable. Problem is, it poisons coins with a green tint that eventually eats away and destroys metal. PVC was used for decades in coin flips, and many Proxibid coins are contaminated. Some you can clean; others are beyond hope.

The Buffalo Nickel above has faint green spots indicating PVC. But this is an example of a coin that can be cleaned without harming the metal. (Caution: If you attempt to clean a coin, we bear no responsibility for any damage that might ensue; in other words, proceed at your own risk.)

Proxiblog uses a product known as MS70. Some coin dealers use acetone.

To clean, dip a soft Q-Tip in MS70 and roll the Q-Tip so that the swab part gently rolls on the surface of the coin. Then hold the coin by the rims under warm running water for a minute or two … and set on a cloth to air dry.

Click here for a YouTube video showing how to do this step by step.

Below is an example of what PVC can do to a coin. These Indian Head cents are beyond repair:

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MS70 and acetone work well on silver that has minimal PVC damage. Copper brings mixed results.

This Morgan dollar below had PVC traces; it was cleaned with MS70, and it slabbed at PCGS.

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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.

Rewriting Bad Descriptions

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Sometimes we get so frustrated viewing hyped descriptions that we are tempted to write our own. Click to expand photo above and see whom you agree with, the auctioneer or Proxiblog?


We wonder sometimes how auctioneers, especially those who deal regularly in coins–or even are coin dealers–can post descriptions like these. The auctioneer sees “beautiful”; we see “dipped.” The auctioneer sees “wonderful”; we see scratch; the auctioneer sees “stunning”; we see bag marks; the auctioneer sees a rare 1901 Morgan; we see a common 1901-O Morgan.

Oh, well. Grading is subjective, right?

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.

Back to the Past Collectibles Enhances Photography

We are as happy as the auctioneer when numismatic photography is enhanced at some of our favorite houses so that we can see varieties or devices clearly before placing our bids. Today we praise auctioneer C. Scott Lovejoy of “Back to the Past Collectibles” for working diligently to provide sharp, expandable photos for Proxibid viewers.



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The dual photo above of similar quality 1924 Buffalo nickels shows a before and after effect of enhanced photography. The photo on the left was taken last month, and Lovejoy has labored to perfect his lighting and camera selection over the past several weeks, continuously experimenting until he found the right combination.

“There are so many guides out there about macro photography and in particular about coins,” Lovejoy says. “We just kept at it, looking for the right combination of camera settings and lighting to make it work for us. Took three cameras, three different equipment setups and four different lighting setups before we settled on the current state, and we’re still watching for ways to improve.”

The sharper the photographs, the higher the bids, especially if you have cherry consignments. Some of our favorite auctions have not learned that lesson. (We bid mainly on holdered coins there because of that, as we cannot trust raw ones photographed improperly.)

Here is an example illustrating how photos play a role in bidding:

Hobbyists look for full bell lines that add a handsome premium for Franklins. The abbreviated designation “FBL” indicates a strong strike especially on the reverse of a Franklin Half so that the two lines on the bottom of the bell run unbroken to the crack. (To learn more about that topic, click here.)

Take a look at this photograph of the reverse of a Franklin half from one of Proxibid’s “top sellers.” (Click to expand all photos in this post.)

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It is impossible to tell full bell lines.

Take a look at these two Franklin half reverses in Back to the Past’s March 8 auction on Proxibid; to see how sharp photography enhances the bidding experience.

Despite its glowing luster, which conceals flaws and devices when photographed poorly (not the case here!), this lot does not contain full bell lines:

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This one does:

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Without the enhanced photography, buyers would not fight for this lot in a bidding war.

Lovejoy understands the value of that. “The primary lesson learned, as far as I am concerned, is how important it is to not only seek industry expert feedback, but also remain open to the criticism and keep looking for the best result. People I respect (like you!) had some not kind things to say about poor photos as we worked out the kinks, but we’re far the better for the honesty.

“When I think about how far we’ve come since we started doing coins on Proxibid, it’s pretty amazing.”

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.

Some PVC Damaged Coins Can Be Cleaned

Proceed at your own risk!

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PVC is an abbreviation of “Poly Vinyl Chloride,” found in some soft plastic flips that gradually eats away at the surface of a coin. If not caught in time, the effect can render a coin essentially worthless. But PVC is also fairly easy to clean, if you know what you are doing, and as we cannot be held responsible for any damage you might do to a lot, please proceed at your own risk.

The 1915-S Wheat Cent above is beyond repair. The PVC poison already has eaten away at some of the coin, above the “Y” in “Liberty and right of Lincoln’s mouth. Had this coin not been stored in a PVC flip, it would be worth at least $35 retail. Now it is a $3 damaged, ugly coin filler.

We used the cent above as an example of how bad PVC damage can be. This lot sold for a few dollars recently on Proxibid.

Conversely, this 1917-D coin as presented would bring a lower bid than if cleaned with an approved solution. The cleaning described here works best on silver and nickel, not copper or bronze.

1917pvc

You might use a coin cleaner called “MS70,” which is not a dip that alters the surface of a coin, but a mild soapy cleaner. Pour a small amount of the MS70 solution in the bottle’s cap. Then use a Q-Tip with a paper rather than plastic stick holder, dip it in the solution and then gently swipe it across the PVC area. If the PVC is on both sides of a coin, use another Q-Tip and dip it in the solution and go through the same process. (Never dip a used Q-Tip into the solution. Also, discard the solution from the cap when finished, rinsing the cap to be sure it is free of all contaminants.)

After gently rubbing MS70 on the coin with a Q-Tip, go to a sink and run the coin under warm water to remove any traces of the soap solution. Then set the coin to dry on a soft cloth. (Do not rub the coin dry!)

Once again, use MS70 on silver and nickel, but not copper or bronze. It has a tendency to turn the metal into a slightly unnatural bluish color. If you dare to try this, buy some PVC-damaged coins on Proxibid, bidding below low-ball. When you get the coins, experiment with the soap cleaner and see the results for yourself. And once more, you are doing this at your own risk.

The best bet might be to ask your local coin dealer about MS70 and whether he or she recommends cleaning coins with it. His or her opinion may differ from ours. The shop also should stock the product.

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.

Update Your Email and Network Socially for Bidder Interaction

Some auction houses on Proxibid do not include their email addresses, thus eliminating bidder interaction that typically means more and higher bids. Other auction houses are savvy enough to add an “info” account to their email services, engaging bidders and ensuring return sales. The auction business is changing as more bidders migrate online. Would you ignore onsite sellers who stop at your house to see lots? Don’t ignore Internet bidders. Instead, correspond with them on your site and on social networks.

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Recently Garrison Auctioneers sent us an excellent example of how to open an information channel with your bidders and ensure that your messages are being received rather than trashed by browser settings. The photo above features text that reaches out to the Internet audience. You should be doing the same.

Engstrom Auction, Weaver Auction, SilverTowne Auctions, Leonard Auction and nearly all of our top-ranked houses have been doing this for years. It’s time for you to do the same, if you want online sales to increase.

Decatur Coin and Jewelry not only interacts with online bidders but also uses social networks, again as many of our top houses do. See example below.

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When Decatur Coin and Jewelry sends an email, it reminds bidders to “like them” on Facebook. (We did!)

The auctioneering business is changing rapidly. We have been at the forefront of advising you on best practices. Pay heed, and buyers will pay you back with compliments and bids.

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.

Don’t Hide Certs Because You Could Be Selling a Counterfeit

Auctioneers love stickers, especially on holdered coins. We can’t tell you how frustrating it is for savvy online bidders, looking for rare and pricey coins, when auctioneers cover the certification number on a slab by PCGS or NGC. We can’t bid because we can’t check for counterfeits. The photo below shows a counterfeit PCGS slab next to an authentic one. Other photos show what’s been going on in Proxibid auctions.


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We have been writing about stickers and fake slabs for years now. See this post.

We will NOT bid on any coin whose certification number is obscured or hidden by a sticker. We advise all bidders reading Proxiblog to do the same as the number of Chinese counterfeits in fake slabs continues to grow. The problem of fake slabs has been afflicting the online market since 2008. See this post about the problem.

And yet we see lots like this King of the Morgans, often counterfeited, an 1893-S–with a sticker over the cert number.

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Here’s another recent example.

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All auctioneers should keep in mind that the Unified User Agreement states that you cannot sell counterfeit coins, no matter what your service terms state about all sales being final.

See this clause:

    If, within a reasonable amount of time, Buyer gives notice in writing to Seller that the lot so sold is a counterfeit and after such notice the Buyer returns the lot to Seller in the same condition as when sold, and establishes to the satisfaction of Seller that the returned lot is in fact a counterfeit, Seller as agent for the consignor will rescind the sale and refund the purchase price.

We have purchased six counterfeit coins in the past three years on Proxibid. In each case, sometimes with some cajoling, we were able to cite the Unified User Agreement to get a refund for the fake lot.

As such, the recommendation today is not only for bidders but for auctioneers, too. See this post to learn how to identify counterfeit coins.

Final tip to auctioneers: If you are presented with evidence of a fake coin, do not punish the buyer. Create a consignor agreement form that puts the liability on the seller. All sales are NOT final and you can be held liable if a complaint is made to the Secret Service that you are selling fake coins and then providing an email trail stating that you will not refund the purchase. The Hobby Protection Act even covers replicas sold as originals.

Moreover, with Proxibid’s new “Report this Item” button, you will have buyers like Proxiblog looking for and reporting counterfeits and replicas in your auction. Start with the sticker as a best practice, and do not obscure it in your photography.

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.