Hit and Miss Bargains

As the new year begins, we’re close to making a resolution to cease bidding in Proxibid auctions whose sessions lack sharp photography. On the one hand, we patronize some of these auctions because we trust or know the auctioneer, in this case, Scott Hall of Hall’s Auction, a fair man and also a numismatist with good grading skills. Problem is, ours are better, and we need sharper photos to make wise consumer decisions.


First, a disclaimer: Consider this post a review and our observations, fair comment. Your experience bidding in this or any auction, on Proxibid, eBay or other portal, may differ from ours. That said, below we will share Hall’s Proxibid photos and ours, taken with a two-year-old $150 Nikon digital camera. You can see what we won for what amount and whether we should or should not have bid, had we sharper photos able to capture more detail and luster. We’ll share our opinion, and it is only that, after each photo shoot. (Click on any photo for a larger version.)

PROXIBID PHOTO: 1882-O won with a $40 bid

nofeathers_noise_Proxibid

We bid on this lot because the reverse looked to us like an 1882 O/S variety. It wasn’t. Score this a miss.

MY PHOTO

nofeathers_noise

For the rest of the article, click here.

Grading Rolling M Auctions

We will run occasional grading checks on Proxibid auctions so you can see how we bid based on condition. These coins are from Rolling M Auction’s Dec. 9 auction. We grade on PCGS standards as found on Photograde, admittedly more conservative than grading of most auctioneers but still the standard in numismatics. Click pictures below to expand.

We call a coin:

    “Gem Uncirculated” if will grade at NGC or PCGS at the MS65 or higher level. We disagree with this grade. We see noise on the cheek and a potential rub under Lady Liberty’s cheek. We put this at best MS63-64 or MS63+.


    “Choice Almost Uncirculated” if it will grade at NGC or PCGS at the AU58. Rolling M calls this almost uncirculated. We disagree and believe it is mint state, possible MS62.


    “Almost Uncirculated” if it will grade at PCGS MS50-58. We agree with this grade and believe it is conservative. Other auctioneers would have called this mint state.


    Deep Mirror” if the luster can capture text or an image at least 6 inches away from the coin, and prooflike if it can do the same from 2-4 inches. We just cannot tell from this photo. We will bid on this coin on condition rather than on deep mirror because the photo doesn’t show a mirror at all. We also suspect this is a rare 1880/79-S because we think we see a part of the “7” in the second “8” of 1880. Again, the photo almost but does not exactly pick this up.


    “Extra Fine” if it will grade XF40-48. We agree with this grade.


    Very Fine” if it will grade VF30-35. We agree with this grade numerically but see rim damage on the “L” and “U” of “Pluribus” in addition to faint scratches or hairlines in that area of the motto. We would label this “Very Fine Details.”


    FINE” if it will grade F12-20. We agree with this grade.


    Very Good” if the coin would grade VG8-10. We agree with the grade.


    Good” if the coin will grade G4-6. We agree with this grade.


    About Good” if the coin will grade G3. We agree with this grade.


    Generally, in our subjective but nonetheless expert opinion, we feel Rolling M Auctions always has a good selection of coins across the grades and does an increasingly fair job at photographing and describing them. We agree with most of the grades, and that is rare in a Proxibid auction. Also, on occasion, Rolling M misses flaws in coins. But it also catches them, too–and that’s saying a lot for the auctioneer. We think a bit more time should be devoted to analyzing the coins for condition. We have bid regularly with Rolling M since its appearance on Proxibid. We know the auctioneer seeks continuous improvement. We encourage the house to go one more step in providing that improvement via descriptions and sharper photography.

    As noted, grading is in part subjective, and is difficult to do via online photographs. Our designations are based on how we bid and why. Thus, the overall grade on Rolling M grading based on our criteria: B+.

    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.

Key Date Coins Lowers BP to 8%; Other Houses, Take Heed!

Eddie Caven of Key Date Coins does everything right, from the best coin photography on the portal to superior numismatic descriptions, including varieties. He has just lowered buyers’ premium to 8%. He needs one more component to be the best coin auction on Proxibid. We don’t know if he will do that because only a few of our top-ranked houses do: and that is, 0% seller premiums.

To begin with, take a look at the digital email advertisement used as a photo for this post. If there was a Proxibid badge for Internet advertising promotions, Key Date Coins and, perhaps, Weaver Signature Coin Auction, would deserve it.

In one screen on desktop, laptop and, yes, smartphone, Eddie Caven describes the Nov. 27 auction in three lines, provides hotlinks to the auction as well as his home page, uses complementary colors, and provides email contact including access to join mailing lists, learn more about his house, and so much more. Journalism and advertising students at Iowa State University can learn much from this.

And his photographs–amazing! There are houses in our top-ranked list to the right that never rise to the top because they just cannot master digital photography, something that irritates us to no end, because we can do it with a cheap cell phone.

To see Eddie Caven’s expertise, take a look at the descriptions and 27–yes, 27 expert numismatic photos–of this Carson City Morgan. (Click to expand.)

Key Date Coins also ships within a day, and updates shipping as on eBay. Several houses will drop in the rankings next week because of slow shipping.

The only thing keeping Key Date Coins from being the best on Proxibid is the consignments. Eddie specializes in Carson City Morgans, but those are plentiful everywhere else. He needs to feature fewer common Franklins and rounds and more rare and gold coins.

He needs to use his communication and numismatic skills to attract better and more diversified consignments.

The top houses in our rankings have that variety, especially Western Auction, Leonard Auction, Capitol Coin Auction and SilverTowne. Others have good consignments, but allow too many self-slabbed or dipped coins into the mix, making buying on their sites hazardous. We have purchased much from each of our top-ranked houses, but only in a select few do raw coins actually grade reasonably well at PCGS. See this post as evidence.

We have recommended in the past that auctioneers fire–yes, fire–consignors who continue to send them dipped, damaged or problem coins. We suspect these consignors are coin dealers. We know the dealer network intimately. See this post for more information.

Every time we mention this, suspect coin dealers consigning to Proxibid houses send us emails noting that several of our top-ranked houses are owned by dealers. Yes, and for the most part, they follow ethics of the Professional Numismatists Guild.

We hesitate to mention one house with low BP, excellent shipping, and good credentials, whose house dropped dramatically in the rankings for the past several months and may not rank at all next month, because its owner believes consignors are expert numismatists who never would send problem coins. Right. Another house, which we don’t mention, features an auctioneer who in the past was an officer in an organization representing many of the houses on Proxibid. He just doesn’t want to hear that his consignors are sending problem coins. As a result, he no longer is listed in our rankings. We stopped bidding in his auctions.

Here’s a tip: It’s your business and your reputation on the line. Forget friendships. Learn numismatics if you are going to schedule regular coin auctions. That is why we are grading auction companies and posting regular features titled “Find the Flaw.”

In the 3+ years we have been buying on Proxibid, we began to notice trends. Some houses wonder why they fall or are unranked in our evaluations. The answers are simple: your consignors, poor photography, slow shipping.

If Key Date Coins had the consignments of Western, Capitol Coin Auction and Leonard Auctions, his house would emerge as the preferred coin buying place on the portal. It’s not only about the buyer’s premium. We would rather bid in an auction with high premiums and honest-to-goodness gradable coins than in one with zero percent that sells inferior products or doesn’t note flaws or problems.

We just lost another $1000 in one of our favorite houses because the auctioneer did not mention problems with dipping. The pictures seemed to indicate dipping in this case, but we decided to trust the auctioneer. This is the second time in a month this has happened to us, setting back our scholarship fund at least six months.

Recommendations for Key Date Coins and other houses looking to enhance consignments?

  • Offer 0% seller fees for choice consignments. (Competitive bidding will increase your bottom line.)
  • Do not accept “junk” consignments with a few choice lots as cherries on dung piles.
  • Advertise regionally to secure consignments from estates or travel to estate auctions and make purchases yourself.

We hope this post informs current houses and helps Key Date and others secure the consignments that attract competitive bidding.

To view two recent auctions that did just that, take a look at Fox Valley Coins and a newcomer who made a big splash this weekend, Braxton Auctioneering. Seldom do we see a newbie online house like Braxton do everything right–well, almost everything (as we have yet to evaluate shipping).

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.

Grading Silver Trades

We will run occasional grading checks on Proxibid auctions so you can see how we bid based on condition. These coins are from Silver Trades auctions in October. We grade on PCGS standards as found on Photograde, admittedly more conservative than grading of most auctioneers but still the standard in numismatics. Click pictures below to expand.

We call a coin:

    “Gem Uncirculated” if will grade at NGC or PCGS at the MS65 or higher level. We agree with this grade. We see two small dings that may be faint staple scratches on the left fore thigh and on the body. We won’t bid because of that.


    “Slider” if it will grade at NGC or PCGS at the AU58. Silver Trades calls this a slider, AU58. We agree.



    “MINT STATE or UNCIRCULATED” if it will grade at PCGS MS60-63. We see a combination of what appear to be slide marks and hairlines (lines going in two directions, across and then sloping up from left to right). Coin appears to have luster and full breast feathers. We’d call this “Mint State Details,” indicating it may not slab.


    Almost Uncirculated” if it would grade AU50-58. We agree with this grade. But we also see rim damage at 12 o’clock. We won’t bid.


    “MS64” if the fields are relatively clear with a strong strike and undamaged devices. We agree with this grade.


    MS63″ if bag marks and dings are kept to a minimum in the choice devices and fields, such as Lady Liberty’s cheek. We agree with this grade, but also see what looks like a staple scratch from “Unum” on the right side of the coin. We won’t bid.


    MS62” if bag marks and dings happen in choice devices and fields. The coin also should have luster. This one doesn’t have much. We see wear on the hair by Lady Liberty’s ear. We say this is a slider, AU58, possibly cleaned.


    Choice AU” if the coin would grade Au55-58. This is an 1897-O, a rarer coin, which usually has a soft strike. We agree with the grade.


    Mint State Gold” if the coin shows good luster and devices such as feathers feature a strong enough strike in an incuse style (images sunk into the coin). We disagree with this grade. We say AU55, cleaned.


    Generally, in our subjective but nonetheless expert opinion, we feel Silver Trades provides lots of numismatic content in its descriptions, and that’s a value added. While we do agree with most of its grades, we also note when flaws are overlooked. To its credit, Silver Trades has sharp, expandable photos, so the knowing collector can make determinations themselves. And on choice lots, Silver Trades offers buyback guarantees. On some coins, within one point, and that includes coins sent to PCGS.

    Silver Trades starts with high opening bids, but then lowers them considerably when you attend the auction online, if there are no prebids on coins. The company does see maximum bids, and it can bid up a coin, too, as indicated in transparency notices. But we often attend the online sessions because the auctioneers sing their descriptions and obviously love numismatics.

    As noted, grading is in part subjective, and is difficult to do via online photographs. Our designations are based on how we bid and why. Thus, the overall grade on Silver Trades grading based on our criteria: B.

    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.

Grading Capitol Coin Auction

We will run occasional grading checks on Proxibid auctions so you can see how we bid based on condition. These coins are from Mascari Auction Company’s October timed sessions. We grade on PCGS standards as found on Photograde, admittedly more conservative than grading of most auctioneers but still the standard in numismatics. Click pictures below to expand.

We call a coin:

    “Gem Uncirculated” if will grade at NGC or PCGS at the MS65 or higher level. We agree with this grade. Capitol says this could grade MS66 or higher. We also agree. The luster is perfect and the fields have no discernible bag or contact marks. Strike is reasonably strong. We’re bidding.


    “Uncirculated” if will grade at NGC or PCGS at the MS60-62 level. Capitol says this looks low uncirculated; we agree, taken more by burnt orange color of 2-cent pieces that often indicate mint state. We’re bidding.


    “MINT STATE or UNCIRCULATED” if it would grade MS60-63. This is one of those unrecognized slabs that routinely call uncirculated coins MS66 or higher. Capitol calls it correctly. This is not MS66 but more like MS62.


    Almost Uncirculated” if it would grade AU50-58. We agree with this grade. Look at the hair above Lady Liberty’s ear. That’s slightly worn, indicating an AU58. But the milk spots on the reverse trouble us, hurting eye appeal. We won’t bid on this one.


    “AU55” if it shows wear on an otherwise well-struck planchet with devices clear and distinct. This has all of that, but also exhibits what Capitol identifies as “cabinet rub.” As the name suggests, this occurs when a coin is kept in a drawer or other box and slides on the box surface over time. Cabinet rub is difficult to detect. We would have missed this had Capitol not pointed it out.


    EXTRA FINE” if it would grade XF40-45. We put this at XF45 and agree with this grade.


    VALUE ADDED” if the auctioneer lists multiple grades in a coin lot. Capitol does here, and we agree with each grade.


    VALUE ADDED” if the auctioneer identifies alteration. Capitol believes this coin is puttied, one of the worst alterations that essentially renders a silver dollar as melt.


    VALUE ADDED” if the auctioneer corrects consignor mistakes and provides a full description of what a lot contains. Once again, our hat’s off to Capitol Coin Auction.


    “Very Good” if the coin grades VG8-10. We agree with this grade and will bid, as there is no indication of cleaning.


    “Good” if the coin grades G4-6. We agree with this grade and but also see faint remnants of PVC, which MS70 coin cleaner might not be able to remove as it does not work well on copper. We’re not bidding.


    Generally, in our subjective but nonetheless expert opinion, we feel Capitol Coin Auction continues its reputation as one of the best coin graders in Brad Lisembee in the business. We are excited every time we see a Capitol Coin Auction on Proxibid because we can bid high and even get a cash discount on some of the best estate auctions on the portal. Capitol at times catches flaws that we miss. Its photography is excellent. Its shipping inexpensive and secure. This is the standard that every coin auctioneer should strive for in professionalism and service.

    As noted, grading is in part subjective, and is difficult to do via online photographs. Our designations are based on how we bid and why. Thus, the overall grade on Capitol Coin Auction grading based on our criteria: A+.

    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.

Grading Topless Collectible Coins

We will run occasional grading checks on Proxibid auctions so you can see how we bid based on condition. These coins are from Topless Collectible Coins’s Oct. 7 session. We grade on PCGS standards as found on Photograde, admittedly more conservative than grading of most auctioneers but still the standard in numismatics. Click pictures below to expand.

We call a coin:

    “GEM” if will grade at NGC or PCGS at the MS65 level or higher. We see bag marks by the eye, cheek and chin on the obverse on an MS63-64 coin, at best, which is “choice BU.”


    “GEM” if will grade at NGC or PCGS at the MS65 level or higher. Topless clarifies flip, which states “GEM,” and calls this slider almost uncirculated bordering on BU (brilliant uncirculated). We’re happy to see AU, but disagree it is a slider (AU58) bordering on uncirculated. We call it AU50.


    MINT STATE” or “UNCIRCULATED” if it would grade MS60-62. We agree with the grade here, but worry about what looks like hairlines across Lady Liberty’s cheeks. (We would not bid on this coin because of that.) Topless calls an 1889O a “key date” in the Morgan series. It is NOT a key date, which has a special definition in numismatics. Morgan key dates are 1881-CC, 1885-CC, 1889-CC, 1893-CC, 1893-S, 1895-S. An 1889-O is not a semi-key date, either. At best, it is “scarce.”


    ALMOST UNCIRCULATED” if it would grade AU50-58. We call this borderline AU, not AU+ (slider), and again worry about hairlines in the chin area of Lady Liberty.



    EXTRA FINE” if it would grade EF40-45. We dsiagree with this grade and call it Very Fine 25, especially when you view the reverse.


    VERY FINE” if it would grade VF20-35. We agree with this grade, but not with the designation “key date.” Key dates in the Buffalo series are 1913-S Type 2, 1918-D 8/7, 1921-S, 1924-S, 1926-S and 1937-D 3-legged reverse.


    FINE” if it would grade F12-15. We agree with this grade.



    VERY GOOD” if it would grade VG8-10. We disagree with this grade and call the obverse Good4 and the reverse Good6.


    GOOD” if it would grade G4-6. We disagree with this grade and call it AG2-3.


    Generally, in our subjective but nonetheless expert opinion, we feel Topless overgrades by one designation in many of its lots. (Some Proxibid auctions overgrade much more extensively than this.) Again in general, because a one-grade overgrade is within subjective debate, we leave it up to you to agree or disagree with our designations. Again, keep in mind we grade on tough PCGS standards.

    As noted, grading is in part subjective, and is difficult to do via online photographs. Our designations are based on how we bid and why. Thus, the overall grade on Topless’s grading based on our criteria: C-.

    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.