Spotlight on SilverTowne Auction

This week we begin a series of spotlight reviews on the top five houses in our numerical rankings. Depicted here is a copy of our score sheet. Earning a 4 or 5 in our rankings is significant, and few top 20 houses earn more than one or two maximum scores. Those earning the highest scores this month also tied for top house, with Capitol, Key Date, SilverTowne, Weaver and Western all registering the maximum 25 points.

SilverTowne Coin Auctions on Proxibid feature two of the big names in numismatics: Rick Howard’s Coin Shop and Leon Hendrickson’s SilverTowne. Together, both companies have more than a century’s experience buying and selling coins. Perhaps their secret asset on Proxibid, however, is 75-year-old numismatist Larry Fuller whose lot descriptions are among the best on Proxibid.

Proxiblog consigns periodically to SilverTowne, and it is not unusual for Larry to send back a coin because it has a flaw. We never argue with him.

One of his specialties, which we applaud, is identifying slabbed coins of inferior quality–quite a difference from some Proxibid auctioneers, including current ones, who quote Red Book or Coin Values prices for self-slabbed coins worth only silver melt but billed as MS66 or higher.

Click here for an example of Larry’s lot descriptions.

Once again, you can gauge the quality of this house by the number of occurrences on our Boos and Booyah’s page–an even dozen in the past year. Here is a sampling:

Larry Fuller’s expertise adds significantly to that of Rick Howard and other SilverTowne employees, including Dave Nauert, who contributed one of our first and most enlightening “On the Block” posts.

As always, our rankings are based on personal experience with the auction house. Generally, SilverTowne values and designations are close to PCGS ones. The 1891-O one below was designated MS63, although it sold for MS62 rates, which turned out to be also PCGS’s opinion. (Click photos to expand).

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SilverTowne, like Key Date Coins, ships within one day using numismatic packaging. Earlier in the year it discontinued maximum-bid viewing, again like Key Date Coins. We continue to find superior coins, raw and slabbed, in SilverTowne auctions, and we’re excited about its series of timed auctions in which bargains are to be had.

To learn more about SilverTowne auctions, visit the company’s home page by clicking here.

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.

Spotlight on Key Date Coins

This week we begin a series of spotlight reviews on the top five houses in our numerical rankings. Depicted here is a copy of our score sheet. Earning a 4 or 5 in our rankings is significant, and few top 20 houses earn more than one or two maximum scores. Those earning the highest scores this month also tied for top house, with Capitol, Key Date, SilverTowne, Weaver and Western all registering the maximum 25 points.

One way to affirm Key Date Coin’s listing as a top Proxiblog house is to visit our Boos and Booyahs page and view the dozen entries in which auctioneer Eddie Caven showed his numismatic expertise and displayed his exceptional coin photography Here’s but a sampling:

One of Key Date Coins’ best features is speed, cost and quality of shipping. Eddie uses numismatic packing and almost always ships the same day, with email notices to winners showing tracking numbers.

We are especially proud of the continuous improvement that Key Date Coins has made in the past two years. In 2011, Eddie Caven wrote us:


    “Auctioneers and bidders alike should subscribe to Proxiblog and read about all aspects of bidding, buying, selling, auctioning. Thank you, Proxiblog, for sharing your knowledge and advice!”

Eddie was the first to sponsor our scholarships, designating a lot for that purpose and generating more than $150 for Iowa State students. More recently, he took our advice about maximum-bid viewing and discontinued that. In every respect, bidders and sellers won’t be disappointed by patronizing this company.

To learn more about this auction house, or to consign, visit Key Date’s website by clicking here.

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.

Spotlight on Capitol Coin Auction

This week we begin a series of spotlight reviews on the top five houses in our numerical rankings. Depicted here is a copy of our score sheet. Earning a 4 or 5 in our rankings is significant, and few top 20 houses earn more than one or two maximum scores. Those earning the highest scores this month also tied for top house, with Capitol, Key Date, SilverTowne, Weaver and Western all registering the maximum 25 points.

We become excited every time we see an announcement for a Proxibid auction by Capitol Coin of Evansville, Indiana. This house not only is known for auctioneering expertise and numismatic knowledge, as it specializes in coins; it is known for the highest standards of ethics. Its slogan is: “We operate on a high standard of professionalism and ethics that you can trust.”

Auctioneer Brad Lisembee has earned our trust and then some.

In fact, for more than two years we have always trusted Capitol Coins’ reputation, especially when it comes to knowledge of numismatics. Here’s the proof. In March, we purchased an 1898-S Morgan silver dollar, which Capitol graded as MS64. (Click picture to expand.)

We immediately sent in the coin to PCGS, one of the most rigorous grading companies in the business. Here was the result. (Click picture to expand.)

We appreciate Brad’s attention to digital photography, in which he invests a lot of time. You’ll notice that his photos not only are sharp and expandable but also feature obverse and reverse on the same field, a chief reason for Capitol’s increasing online audience, because bidders can discern luster as well as condition.

Until recently, Capitol Coin Auctions was not listed in our top rankings because it carried transparency notices and charged 17% buyer’s fees. We do not support maximum-bid viewing, as our regular viewers know. Capitol Coin Auction never needed to see maximum bids because it consistently sold below that in hammer prices.

See the company’s service terms from March 2012 above and compare that to the service terms below. (Click pictures to expand.)

In a recent discussion with the company, Proxiblog was informed that the auction house decided to heed our advice about losing transparency notices. Capitol also lowered its buyer’s premium to 15%. That spurred vigorous bidding in its most recent July auction, with the majority of lots selling above wholesale with several of those above retail, especially NGC and PCGS slabs. (Click picture above to expand.)

We applaud Capitol Coin Auctions for its expertise in auctioneering and numismatics and for creating buying and selling opportunities for bidders and consignors alike. We commend the company whose memberships include the National Auctioneer’s Association, the Indiana Auctioneer’s Association, and the American Numismatic Association. Capitol Auctions is also accredited by the Better Business Bureau serving the Tri-State Area (Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky).

Visit this page to check on upcoming auctions or to consign to the company.

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.

Nearly 20,000 Views, New Rankings!

Proxiblog’s audience keeps growing with close to 20,000 views worldwide in the past year, as bidders register to read about top coin auction houses. Speaking of which, after points were tallied for consignments, photography, lot descriptions, buyers’ fees, customer service, shipping and numismatic knowledge, we were as surprised as you might be in discovering 5 houses tied for highest scores. Listed alphabetically, they are Capitol Coin Auction, Key Date Coins, Silvertowne Auctions, Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction, and Western Auction.

Note: Regular postings to begin on Sunday, Aug. 5.

Beginning next week, we will do spotlight features on each of these houses, noting what makes them so special–including what practices they follow–so that bidders and auctioneers can benefit from our reviews.

Making her debut in our top rankings is Debra Johnson of Auctions Unlimited, which has one of the lowest buyer’s fees on Proxibid at 10% and which also dropped transparency notices. Midwest Coins also did likewise, and we’re happy to include this fine Iowa house in our rankings. Braden Auction Service also enters our top houses in the sidebar to the right.

While the competition in the Coins and Currency page on Proxibid continued to grow, Proxiblog’s audience also grew in the same five-month time period. Our audience is closing in on 20,000 views. The United States, by far, provided most of that audience; however, Proxiblog’s popularity is growing in Canada, Philippines, India, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The most accessed articles were “California Gold, real, replica and fake” and “Beware Dipped Coins.”

The most popular pages were “Boos and Booyahs!” and “Honor Roll.”

In the past five months we also had 18 total sponsors, with several sponsoring Proxiblog for several weeks and donating funds to our scholarship account. Sponsors include:

We thank these auction companies and numismatic publications for sponsoring Proxiblog’s scholarship fund to help ease student debt and create the next generation of auction-house bidders! If you would like to sponsor a week’s worth of Proxiblog, email mjbugeja@yahoo.com

Proxiblog Will Return in August

Typically at this time of year Proxiblog takes a few weeks off to recharge our numismatic batteries. You can explore our dozens of articles and more than 250 posts. Meanwhile, we would like to thank our sponsors who have been donating funds to our scholarship account to offset student debt. (If you have college-age children, or are interested in the quality of education, you should read about our concern by clicking here.)

We appreciate our sponsors!


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Auctions Unlimited


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Capitol Coin Auction


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Kaufman Auction


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Key Date Coins


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Krause Auctioneering


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James Peterson Auction


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Leonard Auction


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Matthew Bullock Auctioneers


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Scott Auctions


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SilverTowne Auctions


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This Week in Coins


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Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction


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We thank these auction companies and numismatic publications for sponsoring Proxiblog’s scholarship fund to help ease student debt and create the next generation of auction-house bidders! If you would like to sponsor a week’s worth of Proxiblog, email mjbugeja@yahoo.com

Beware Dipped Coins

Lately

Lately we have been noticing more dipped coins showing up in Proxibid auctions. Dipping is a chemical process that requires a high amount of skill to do without harming a coin. But once a large coin like a Morgan dollar is damaged by dipping, it’s essentially silver melt.

There is a difference between dipping and washing. Dipping coins elicits a sheen in silver using a chemical cleaner–there are several on the market for silver–with a popular one being “e-Z-est jewel luster.” This is a useful product that when used correctly and swiftly can remove some stains or other contaminant. Officially, using coin dips are not considered “doctoring.” But using it properly requires experience, and experience is often gotten by damaging coins.

Our intent is not to share how to dip properly but how to spot coins that have been dipped improperly so that you are aware of consignors who send you inferior lots. Here are two of the most common:

  1. A dipped coin may be well-worn but somehow appear to have luster. That’s a sign of properly dipping a slider coin, one that is looks like mint state but is actually an almost uncirculated one, or MS50-59 on the Sheldon scale.
  2. A dipped coin may be uncirculated with a strong strike but somehow appear grainy. That’s a sign of improper dipping, leaving the coin too long in the solution or not washing and drying it properly after its chemical bath.

Dipping differs from washing coins. Often, soap and water can remove small traces of debris although we do not recommend that as even this has to be done properly because the debris can scratch the surface of a coin, especially those with mirrored surfaces. If used correctly, a relatively harmless product is MS70 Coin Cleaner. But again, there are always risks.

The biggest risk to auctioneers is learning that her or his company has received a consignment of dipped and doctored coins. That usually leads to complaints after the coins are received. Better not to deal with consignors who send such coins than to try to clean up the auction mess that many leave behind.

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.

Mystery Lots Spark Bidding

Black and Gold Auction and Southwest Bullion are using an old auctioneering ploy to great advantage in online sessions, sparking bidder curiosity and ever higher bids. We applaud these houses for understanding what motivates bidders, and that is easily expressed in one word: a bargain!

Black and Gold Auction recently displayed a large bag of “cull” coins. The term “cull” simply means coins that are damaged and pulled (or culled) from a consignment or roll because of defects. We love that the auctioneer wrote: “Feel like taking a chance?” See the picture below.

Of course, a large bag like this could have silver melt value. (We think we see some silver in the far right middle section of the bag.) Wonderful!

Southwest Bullion has been innovating all summer, first by lowering its buyer’s premium to ZERO with APN clearance and flat-rate shipping, and now by offering mystery lots. In this lot below, the company sparks bidder curiosity by stating there are 50 slabbed coins worth $500-$600. What a temptation!

Of course, mystery lots are a gimmick and should only be used sparingly, perhaps one or two per auction. But they certainly enhance an auction by playing on the motivating factor of bargain-hunting. The more auctioneers understand that bidders want a bargain, the more bidders they will attract, ensuring that the consignor (and not the bidder) gets the better of the bargain.

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.

Timed Transparencies Troubling

While Proxibid has taken proactive steps to advance quality control, so that the portal retains its reputation for trust–a corporate brand–we still find some aspects of online auctions troubling, particularly transparency notices in timed auctions.

Viewers of Proxiblog understand our objections to maximum-bid viewing and ghost-bidding in online auctions. We reject justifications that these are absentee bids and believe that both activities undermine the age-old auctioneering maximum of “bidding with confidence.” See our three-part article about the topic by clicking here.

We bid with confidence in top coin auctions listed in the right-hand sidebar. If we want a $100-retail-value coin in a Weaver or Western auction, for instance, we may bid over retail at $110 because we need the lot for a collection or client. We know that Dave Weaver or David Zwonitzer, auctioneers of those houses, are going to approach our maximums by increments, and that frees us on two counts:

  1. We can bid similarly at retail for more desirable lots in an auction, knowing that only a few will reach or surpass our maximums.
  2. We have a chance to secure an attractive lot at wholesale (or under greysheet), which is, after all, the motivating reason that people attend auctions online or onsite, for that matter.

Maximuum-bid viewing and ghost bidding cause us to bid lower or not at all. This is why we recommend to bidders viewing Proxiblog to think twice about bidding in any auction that posts transparency notices. This is why we urge auctioneers to lose transparency notices and compete in the auctioneering tradition by advertising your lots and securing choice consignments. Anything else is an excuse if your aim is to engage Internet bidders.

However, a new wrinkle has occurred in our past arguments against maximum-bid viewing and ghost-bidding, and that is, posting of transparency notices in timed auctions. A timed auction, theoretically at least, is run by Proxibid technology with little an auctioneer can do other than set reserves and then sit back to see if they are reached.

Proxibid, in fact, has rules about timed auctions in its Unified User Agreement, including this clause:


    Once a timed Auction Event has started, Seller may not cancel, add, or remove any lots or modify the end time of the Auction Event unless Seller has obtained Proxibid’s prior written approval (which may be withheld in Proxibid’s sole discretion and may require an additional fee paid by Seller).

We are not accusing any auction house of ghost-bidding in a timed auction. We are advocating two actions, however:

  1. If you are an auctioneer posting transparencies in a timed auction, we encourage you to stop the practice, as it undermines bidding with confidence–essential in timed sessions. If you are not doing anything unethical, why keep the transparency?
  2. Proxibid should ban the use of maximum-bid and ghost-bidding in a timed auction, ensuring that the intent of its service terms as documented above are met and enhancing the company’s reputation for trust. Why allow it when it only opens an avenue for potential future unethical behavior?

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.

Boos & Booyahs: Best & Bad Auctioneer Lot Descriptions

It’s important to be in sync with the Proxibid technology to showcase your photos, hone your lot descriptions, and highlight your consignments for top bids on the leading portal! In the latest installment, Proxiblog laments and compliments best and bad auctioneer lot descriptions during the past week. We will name the best, but you will have to search Proxibid for the bad. (Click pictures to expand and view lot descriptions below.)

One Big Booyah to Key Date Coins for noting small but nonetheless signs of damage on an otherwise beautiful coin. As you’ll see in the example below, some auctioneers are not noting obvious damage like scratches and graffiti and even citing values based on Red Book prices for coins that are essentially silver melt or have low numismatic worth. Eddie is more concerned about his integrity as a numismatist than in selling a lot and risking an unsatisfied customer. Our hats are off to him and Key Date Coins.


Boo! to this unnamed auctioneer who fails to note scratches and graffiti and has the temerity to state this severely damaged coin is almost uncirculated 55, a few points from mint state. To the contrary: This coin is a few steps from the silver melting pot and is, at best, a filler in a coin album.


Booyah! to Star Coin and Currency for noting damage to a gold $2 1/2 dollar coin caused by one time being part of a jewelry piece. This type of damage can be obvious or subtle, and is always a problem if a bidder wants to authenticate and slab such a coin with a top grading company. Star Coin’s transparency is appreciated.


Boo! to this unnamed auction house for failing to provide reverse photos, especially of an 1890-CC, which just might be a coveted tailbar variety. We have stopped bidding in auctions that only show one side of a coin and urge our bidders to do the same. Badge or no badge, this auction house needs a tutorial in selling coins.


Boo! to this unnamed auction house for calling a coin “cameo” when the holder clearly states that it is NOT and the price difference is significant ($60+). Moreover, cameo coins require frosted devices on both sides (and this half-dollar lacks that). Let’s not hype coins; let’s really not hype coins holdered by NGC or PCGS as their values are pretty apparent and their graders do not miss much.



Boo! Speaking of PCGS, do not use its price guide for coins that are not holdered by this top-company, even if showing an NGC coin (PCGS’s closest rival). PCGS has distinct grading standards and its values are based on that. No doubt this is a lovely coin, but citing $1000 is out of line as similar ICG coins (ANACS top rival) have sold for $50 or less. To ascertain current values, we recommend subscribing to PCGS Coin Facts which lists sale prices for PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG. (We never bid without checking CoinFacts for current pricing levels.)


One Big Booyah! to McKee Coins for noting this roll of steel cents is reprocessed, or replated, distinguishing its worth from uncirculated rolls of such cents which can sell as high as $100. This is worth less than $20 and of value only to give to youth numismatists to spark their interest in the hobby, showing children a plated and real World War II-era steel cent so that they can tell the difference.


One Big Booyah! to Black and Gold Auctions for noting scratches and cleaning of an otherwise rare key date Indian head cent, coveted by collectors in extra fine to uncirculated condition. This is example is accurately graded as VG, or very good, with damage noted in the lot description. We know some houses that would have called this extra fine and omitted details about poor condition.


One Big Booyah! to Capitol Coin Auction for noting a rare double die on this 1909 VDB cent, even going so far as to reference the page in the popular varieties book (Cherrypicker’s Guide) to alert bidders of the inherent value of this particular lot. Would that all Proxibid auctioneers took this much time in their lot descriptions!


Viewers can point us to other candidates for our “Boos & Booyahs!” series. Just leave a comment but follow our rules–all in good fun as a way to inspire accurate lot descriptions on Proxibid.

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.

Proxibid vs. eBay, Part V: Best Coin Portal

This is the last in the five-part series on Proxibid vs. eBay. Our first post covered our initial bidding experience. The second post compared shipping between the two portals. The third installment covered IT functions and payment options. The fourth discussed consignments and lot descriptions. This tallies the results and announces where Proxiblog will do more business in the future.

    When it comes to photography, eBay is the clear winner. We encourage Proxibid sellers to continue enhancing their photos, the most important component in online bidding. Rare is the auction house on Proxibid that has numismatic quality photos. Currently among the best are Key Date Coins, Matthew Bullock Auctioneers and Capitol Coin Auctions.

    When it comes to shipping, eBay again is the clear winner. We encourage Proxibid to hold auction houses to shipping standards rather than the hit-and-miss service terms currently on the portal. To its credit, Proxibid is doing all it can in this category with a new partnership announced May 22 with uShip. Currently among the fastest Proxibid shippers with quality numismatic packing are Key Date Coins and Silvertowne Auctions. Many others ship within a week. Sellers on eBay often ship for free within days whereas Proxibid auctioneers generally resent anything to do with shipping, one of the key factors hindering Proxibid’s popularity in numismatic circles. Bad photos and worse shipping drive buyers to eBay.

    When it comes to IT considerations, we prefer Proxibid since it has fixed remaining glitches from the recent redesign, especially on browsers meant for speed rather than pop-up security precautions (i.e. Internet Explorer). eBay’s IT is just too cumbersome given the vast coin consignments by sellers requiring numerous attempts at narrowing searches. It is possible not to find lots on eBay even though they are there unless the bidder guesses the precise word combinations–often complicated by eBay quality control rules on lot descriptions and sellers’ general ignorance (“tarnished” silver eagles rather than “toned,” for example). Moreover, Proxibid’s Customer Service and IT divisions work collaboratively to fix technical problems for bidder and seller alike.

    When it comes to payment options, Proxibid’s APN clearance is vastly superior and less intrusive than PayPal. PayPal is invasive, tapping into bidders’ bank accounts after $2000 has been reached on credit cards. Many coin buyers use credit cards for the reward points. Moreover, PayPal takes longer to correct problems and sometimes causes problems itself, as happened to us regularly in the past and as happened once again within the first two weeks of buying on eBay. (We paid using PayPal; eBay stated that we paid; but the seller never received payment, forcing us to repay again and then comb bank accounts for double billing.) If bad photos and worse shipping drive Proxibidders to eBay, then PayPal should drive buyers to Proxibid. Auction houses on Proxibid that use PayPal need to think twice about that because we hesitate every time we see that on service terms. (Sellers on eBay with credit card options are our favorites.)

    When it comes to quality consignments, it’s a tie. While eBay has vast consignments in every numismatic category, it would seem to outshine Proxibid’s 70 or so coin auctions per month. But the problem is two-fold on eBay: First, you have to find the item by searching titles and descriptions–increasingly narrowing searches when the default is “all categories” (a veritable nightmare of lots; and eBay’s IT, search options and subpar quality control hinder bidders, especially if you are searching for bargain coins at best prices, such as might be found in the eBay-banned PCI or SEGs holders, for example.)

Finally, when it comes to bargains–the most important consideration for coin buyers searching online for acquisitions–Proxibid beats eBay, time after time. eBay items often open with bids over retail (with “best offers” considered). Also, because there are thousands of bidders at any second on eBay, using sophisticated “sniper” programs to steal coins at the last moment, lots usually are won over wholesale and often over retail. Ironically, however, Proxibid surpasses eBay only if buyers are numismatically savvy and have the education and/or experience to overcome hyped lot descriptions and poor photography viewed too frequently on the portal and displayed for all to see on our “Boos and Booyahs” page.

Of course, those shortcomings explain why we created Proxiblog in the first place in May 2011. We wanted to protect the hobby adding detailed quality control to complement Proxibid’s then mostly hidden standards. At times we argued with Proxibid, we challenged its quality control, and we continue to hold auction companies accountable, praising best practices and exposing worst. And in the process, Proxibid’s quality control has taken step-after-step to even the bidding playing field and to be more transparent about auctioneer practices. We applaud Jason Nielsen in particular for overseeing quality control and taking measures into hand to rate auction houses with badges and even charge auction houses for violations of the Unified User Agreement.

Finally, a viewer of this blog asked about problem resolution. True, eBay has made strides in that, complicated at times with PayPal. Its community rules are transparent for all to see. Proxibid’s rules are less transparent, but can be found in the Unified User Agreement. The edge here again does to Proxibid for its greatest asset, and that is, Customer Service. There is no better. You get personalized individualized telephone service with a helpful agent who has been trained to serve the customer above all. We know several agents by name. We keep encouraging Proxibid to recognize and reward these agents who are Proxibid’s greatest asset.

Because of that, and the ability to secure choice coins at bargain prices, we will continue to purchase more in Proxibid auctions of top houses listed on the sidebar to the right and in our Honor Rolls.

We encourage eBay bidders to try Proxibid (and vice versa) and report their own comparisons in the comment section below.