Please Don’t Hype Lots

This is the kind of issue that eBay has been combating since 2008, allowing consignors to hype coins by citing Coin World or PCGS values for lots that exaggerate worth.

The above coin has many flaws, from probable cleaning to bag marks and scratches. It is not worth $12,000. It’s only our opinion, but we place worth at about $50.

Compare it to a real MS66 courtesy of CoinFacts (which every auctioneer should subscribe to for latest values and data about every US coin).

As for grading companies, and knowledge about which are reputable, see this article by numismatist Susan Headley.

Some auctioneers know better and still hype worth. This is hypothetical, but imagine how an unsuspecting buyer would feel taking a coin that may be damaged to a dealer to make good on the investment, only to learn that the coin was worth a few dollars over silver melt?

We have been noting how eBay has made the playing field more level in recent months. Check this earlier article on Proxiblog.

The best way to combat hype like this is for each bidder to make a decision on whether to patronize Proxibid sessions that hype coins. We know what we’re going to do. Do you?

Beware Dipped Coins


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.

Dealers Flooding Proxibid with Problem Coins

Last week we spoke or corresponded with four trusted Proxibid auctioneers who have sold us problem coins in the past, and we were stunned to learn that all of them either relied on coin dealers for their consignments or actively sought their coins so that they would have enough lots for regular auctions.

It’s time to set the record straight on coin dealers as consignors.

Ask yourself: Why, for Pete sake, would a coin dealer ever consign to an auctioneer prime, choice or rare coins when he has dozens of dealer and customer outlets to sell his wares? Answer: Most likely, he’s selling you junk and problem coins, ones that have been dipped or doctored or otherwise rendered upgradeable if sent to NGC or PCGS. The cleverer dealers will consign a prime coin or two to cover their tracks.

If you’re accepting coin consignments from out-of-town dealers, you’re probably a target, with the dealer unloading his junk and problem coins under the theory that you or your bidders will not be numismatically savvy enough–or your photos will not be good enough–to capture the flaws.

Many dealers are trustworthy. Some, like Silvertowne, Capitol Coin Auctions or Fox Valley, are dealers themselves and follow Professional Numismatic Guild practices of describing problem coins accurately. Others, like Matthew Bullock Auctioneers and John Leonard Auctions, sell estate coins or have consignment policies that protect the reputation of their houses.

Proxiblog is in the process of buying fewer coins from a wide range of Proxibid auctions because of the flood of bad coins. In the past, auctioneers would schedule Proxibid sessions when they received coins in an estate auction or actually purchased the coins themselves. Because they want to schedule regular coin auctions, they are actively accepting or even requesting coin dealer consignments.

That’s an open invitation to out-of-town dealers to send you their problem coins.

Worse, many auction houses lack the photo equipment to capture the detail or luster of a coin. So their photographs cannot discern the doctoring or dipping. A camera has to be able to pick up luster and detail. Here’s an example of one that does just that by auctioneer Matthew Bullock.

Rather than consign our problem coins, purchased from Proxibid–as many as 30 per month–we take them to Iowa coin dealers and suffer 60-80% losses. That happened again just last week. We asked the dealer what he was going to do with the coins, and he said, “We put them into auction.” He named the auction. It sells on Proxibid.

Eventually, this is going to taint Proxibid’s reputation, especially when one of its biggest fans (Proxiblog) is buying less and questioning more on what is being sold on the portal.

If you are going to continue auctioning coins by dealers, remember that you set the rules. Not them. Never agree to “grey sheet” reserves unless the coin is slabbed by NGC, PCGS, ANACS, ICG or PCI or is in a GSA holder (for Morgan dollars).

If you are going to accept consignments from out-of-town dealers, get a local numismatist to go over the lots with you and describe the condition accurately. Local dealers have to live with you. Out-of-town dealers just find somewhere else to consign.

Invest in a light box and better camera. For experienced bidders, digital photography is the only recourse to sniff out dipped and doctored coins. This photo box is $72. You can use these lights for coins, jewelry and other smalls. Cost is only $94.

Before accepting a consignment from any dealer, ask him point blank if he is giving you dipped or problem coins. Share this post with them, and our stern warning about PNG ethics. Proxiblog is dedicated to serving the hobby. That’s our motive. What is the dealer’s motive?

Finally, YOU are in charge. YOU call the auctions. YOU call the shots.

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.)

Booyah Scott Auction! for noting the rim ding and its position. These flaws are enough to keep an otherwise good-looking coin from being graded by top houses PCGS, ICG, ANACS and NGC. The flaws aren’t always apparent in photos, so auctioneer’s reputation is enhanced by noting them in the lot description.

Boo! to this unnamed auction house that takes a photo so dark as to make extremely difficult any type of online evaluation. If you’re going to sell on Proxibid, get your photography in order … or get off the portal because you’ll be losing money for your consignors (and yourself).

Baloney! Deep Mirror? One unnamed auction house labeled more than a dozen uncirculated coins “deep mirror,” probably because that designation sells coins or because the auctioneer doesn’t know numismatics. For a coin to be deep mirror, it has to reflect 6 or more inches a 12-14-point piece of type so that the words are readable. Few, if any, of these coins qualified in the auction.

Booyah Brian’s Auction Service! for noting a probable grade (I think it’s too generous) on coins in this holder, all too prevalent on Proxibid. What’s worse, we’ve seen auctioneers cite PCGS values for coins that should sell with a slight premium over silver melt.

Booyah Brian’s Auction Service! once again for noting cleaning of this particular coin, although the photo shows little evidence of cleaning, again enhancing the auctioneer’s numismatic honesty.

Booyah Weaver Auction! for noting the correct designation of California gold, which often is just a dipped brass replica with a bear on the reverse, hyped by unknowing auctioneers to be genuine gold of a very desirable series … but one also fraught with fakes. This is a credit to Dave Weaver for taking the additional time to identify the item, another indication why Weaver’s is maintaining its top Proxiblog ranking.

Boo! to this unnamed auction house that seems to miss the fact that “genuine” on PCGS labels means ungradeable but authentic (not fake). This is a clear example of chemical treatment. To learn about artificial toning–altering of coins–click here.

Boo! to this unnamed auction house for noting that a coin is slabbed but withholding information about the particular slabbing company. If you say a coin is slabbed, show the picture AND the certification number. As we have seen on Proxibid all too often, self-slabbed overhyped coins are usually worth only a small premium over melt.

Booyah Gary Ryther Auctioneers! for identifying an illegally altered key date coin and explaining how it was done so hobbyists and bidders can learn how to spot them. Some bidders collect doctored coins so that they can identify the various methods of fraudulent alteration.

Boo! to this unnamed auction house for believing this is an expensive coin rather than a Morgan retaining a little cartwheel effect after being lightly circulated and dinged. On the other hand, you can sense that this auctioneer is smitten with Morgan dollars. Wait until he sees a real “deep mirror” coin!

Boo! to this unnamed auction house hyping as “deep mirror” an ordinary coin and then getting the designation wrong. You can’t have an extra-fine coin that reflects 6-8 inches a strip of 12-14-point type. Let’s please stop identifying coins as deep mirror. They are truly rare. That’s why they command high prices … and why few auction houses ever see them.

Booyah Key Date Coins! for noting that a coin has been dipped, difficult to detect in digital photos because the surface of the coin contains small grains and dull finish and usually has to be identified via a loop with good lighting.

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.

eBay Coin Rules Offer Good Advice

As Proxiblog has reported previously, the mega-coin portal eBay has banned all replica and copy coins in an effort to crack down on counterfeits flooding the online market. In the company’s new guidelines for listing coins, we find several standards that Proxibid auctioneers should adopt, concerning photography, lot listings and more.

Here are updated eBay guidelines for coins that also would enhance the quality and bidding experience on Proxibid, with our comments in blue underneath:

  1. “Include all relevant information that you know about the item, such as origin, date of issue, and condition.”
  2. Lot descriptions are among the most important sellers online in Proxibid auctions. Don’t skimp on describing each item to the fullest. If you don’t know coins, but plan to sell them regularly on the portal, contract with a local numismatist who will write the descriptions for you. It also helps to note what the consignor says, and duly note that this is his description, not yours.

  3. “Include a clear picture of the actual item being sold—don’t use only stock pictures.”
  4. Very few Proxibid auctioneers do this, although we have caught a few in our “Boos and Booyahs” features. If you’re selling junk silver, such as 50 lots of circulated 1964 half-dollar rolls, you can take a representative photo and duly note that in the description, something along the lines of “not actual roll, but a sample roll of what you will receive.”

  5. “Include all information about any alterations that may have been made to the item.”
  6. Again, on our “Boos and Booyahs” tab, you’ll see Slivertowne, Weaver Coin and Currency Auction, Leonard Auction and other top companies noting rim dings, whizzing, artificial color and other alterations. The more you do this, the more bidders will trust your descriptions and bid with confidence.

  7. “Individually identify every item listed to avoid misunderstandings about what is for sale.”
  8. Sometimes auctioneers are selling hundreds of coins in one lot, such as Wheat Cents or Foreign Coin Hoards. It is not feasible to do this, item by item. However, we have seen too many lots of six or fewer coins described merely as “silver mix.” Better to identify each coin in those cases.

  9. “Don’t list the item if you’re unsure of its origin or authenticity.”
  10. If a consignor indicates that a coin might not be authentic, or questions its authenticity, do not list it. If you know coins and suspect a copy or replica, consider withdrawing the lot rather than sell a counterfeit.

  11. “Not allowed: Replica coins, counterfeit coins, counterfeit bank notes …”
  12. Proxibid does not allow the sale of counterfeit coins or bank notes represented as authentic. There are laws concerning coins designated as replicas or copies, and they are covered by the US Hobby Protection Act.

  13. “[L]istings for certified coins must include an image of the item, showing the coin in its graded holder. The image needs to be clear and the grading company, grade, and certification number should easily be readable.”
  14. We have advocated these standards for many months, beginning with this June 2011 post.

  15. Coins minted before 1980 must show the full front and back of the holder. Coins minted in 1980 or after must show the full front of the holder.
  16. Proxiblog has always advocated for pictures of both obverse and reverse as is customary in any numismatic sale, whether via onsite catalogs or online auctions. Also don’t think that showcasing a PCGS or NGC coin doesn’t require a photo of the reverse. It does, especially with PCGS Old Green Holders that might qualify for an upgrade.

  17. “The listing includes a photo of the coin being sold. Images that are dark, out of focus, edited, or might be misleading aren’t allowed. Also, stock photos aren’t allowed.”
  18. Proxiblog has advocated for similar standards since our inception. See our latest post about the importance of photography.

  19. “Coins that are sealed in original United States Mint packaging include a photo showing the actual packaging.”
  20. Proxibid auctions have featured the packaging on occasion without the coins, or the coins without the packaging. It’s a good idea to photograph and display both, as the packaging sometimes has value (as in GSA boxes and certificates).

The more you adopt these standards, providing APN clearance with 15% or less buyers fee, sharp pictures and reasonable shipping–without seeing maximum bids or allowing auctioneer/consignor bidding–the more returning customers you will see at your auctions, including Proxiblog.

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.

Coin Scam Alert!

Recently a Proxiblog viewer asked what dealers and auctioneers should do when authentic coins are switched with counterfeit ones inside the holder or flip and then returned for a refund. This is one of many numismatic scams. Here’s how you can protect yourself.

In one month, top grading company PCGS typically sees 500 counterfeit coins. That is due not only to the flood of fakes from China but also ones from the Middle East in the 1960s when gold merchants there realized they could sell more precious metal if they replicated US coinage. And they were right.

That’s why the gold in estate bank boxes (which auctioneers love so much) also may contain counterfeit coins.

Criminals, being what they are, often see opportunity in the predictability of honest auctioneers. Trustworthy people tend to do things based on right and wrong, so it is fairly easy to see how such auctioneers may react if told a coin was counterfeit … when it was not.

The scam usually involves a new bidder. Typically he will place winning bids on low-ball items, such as a mint set or two, and allow you to charge the credit card. He may even do this in a few auctions before he springs the bait and wins an expensive coin. When he receives it, he notifies you that it is a fake and asks to return the coin. You allow this, because you are trustworthy and honest, and then send it back to the consignor.

Only it is not the seller’s coin or the one that the bidder won in your auction. The criminal has replaced it with a fake.

To counter the scam, you have to assess the authenticity of every consignment. Once you do that, you can inform the seller of any suspect coins. Here are tips:

  1. Purchase an electronic gold tester that does not require acid or gels that can harm coins. There are handheld digital analyzers. They’re expensive, but worth the investment if you are an auctioneer dealing in precious metals.
  2. Subscribe to CoinFacts or other databases that contain weights and measures of coins. Even if you use a gold tester, remember that many fakes of rare coins are made of gold and handheld analyzers also can be fooled by gold plate. Knowing correct weights and measures with sharp photos of coins will help you identify many replicas.
  3. Use a digital scale to weigh precious metals in grams, karats, etc., and a caliper to measure coins, as many fakes have wrong rims or dimensions.

If you do this when you receive a consignment, you’ll know in advance which of your coins are obviously genuine or fake. But counterfeits can be sophisticated, so do consult with a local numismatist to look over your consignment especially if you do not know the seller.

Here are tips to guard against scammers taking your authentic coins and then returning counterfeit ones.

  1. Do not broadcast in your terms of service that “we are not coin experts.” That is tantamount to hanging a sign on your home stating “we are away on vacation. Rob us.”
  2. Take sharp pictures of all the coins in the consignment. A clear and expandable photograph that contains specific markings–such as bag or mint marks–will go a long way in identifying the fake coin.
  3. Examine returns carefully. If coins are mailed to you without the original holder or flip, that also may be a sign of a scam. While it is possible to extract coins from flips and insert fake ones, not every crook is skilled in doing this.

If you have done due diligence as recommended above–first in checking for fakes in a consignment, and then in gathering evidence that genuine coins were switched for replicas–you can provide Proxibid’s quality control officer with those data and, depending on the strength of your case, potentially ban scam bidders from your site and the portal.

Throw out those Proxibums!

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.

Counter Counterfeits with CoinFacts

For the sixth time in two years, this weekend Proxiblog purchased another counterfeit coin. And for the sixth time, a Proxibid auctioneer graciously allowed return of the coin for a full refund because fakes are the responsibility of consignors. Which leads to today’s big questions: How many fakes are being sold on the Internet each month and, if you’re a bidder, how many are in your own collection?

One of the biggest so-called “sleepers”–rare coins often overlooked–is the 1862-S quarter eagle, which rarely comes on the market. And when it does, bidders and auctioneers seldom realize that fewer than 100 actually are thought to exist. We spotted one in a Proxibid auction, and the coin had all the earmarks of being genuine, including the correct weight at 4.18 grams. This meant it could be a genuine 1862 Philadelphia quarter eagle with an added “S” mint mark in the wrong place on the reverse. Or an entirely fake replica in gold.

Michael Fahey, senior grader at ANACS and also a Coin World columnist who often writes about fake coins, has seen this kind of counterfeit before with the “S” in the wrong place.

This is the type of coin that can fool an auctioneer because weight and dimensions are correct. However, mint marks on quarter eagles can occur in various places on the reverse. It’s something we neglected to check. But when the coin arrived, that “sixth-sense” feeling of something being wrong–which numismatists cannot explain–arose.

We went immediately to CoinFacts, pulled up a picture of an authentic 1862-S quarter eagle, and studied the devices … only to see with a sinking feeling that the mint mark was misplaced and too small for the year.

Without PCGS CoinFacts, the coin would have been submitted for authentication, adding unneeded expense and making it difficult for the Proxibid auctioneer to refund the purchase. (This particular house, one of our top-rated companies, did so with no questions asked.)

If you’re an auctioneer or a bidder–or a quality control officer at Proxibid, for that matter–we strongly encourage you to subscribe to CoinFacts. We highly recommend the numismatists responsible for the data and auction prices of this indispensable online aid, which not only provides all the details of every year of US coinage but also features expandable pictures, current auction prices and so much more.

Visit the site and decide for yourself if it is worth the monthly fee. We never bid without it.

However, the true worth of this database is in detecting counterfeits that have lain dormant in bank boxes for generations as well as the tens of thousands of fakes flooding the auction market from China, as this post documented last month.

We commend the Proxibid house for upholding its consignment policies, placing liability squarely on the seller rather than the Proxibid buyer, and recommend that you adopt a similar policy.

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.