How and How Not to Describe Bottom-Tier Slabs

John Leonard of Leonard Auction features some of the most accurate lot descriptions on Proxibid, especially when it comes to bottom-tier and self-slabbed coins. He is conscientious about grading them appropriately. A few other auctioneers, not so much. …

The rule concerning any unknown slabbing company is to treat the coin as raw and not to cite Redbook or PCGS values as to its worth. Here are three recent descriptions from John Leonard’s upcoming Saturday, May 18th, auction. (Click to expand.)


In the photo below, the slab states that this common silver dollar, a 1921 Morgan, is gem MS65 worth about $150. Leonard calls this an AU slider with details, and those are harsh cleaning and damage, rending this lot to silver melt, about $20.

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In the photo below, the slab states that this common silver dollar, an 1896 Morgan, is a super gem MS66 worth about $650. Leonard calls this choice BU, or MS64, worth about $80.

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In the photo below, the slab states that this common silver dollar, an 1885-O Morgan, is MS60 worth about $25. Leonard calls this an AU slider, rending this lot slightly above silver melt, at about $22.

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This auctioneer below is not as conscientious as John Leonard. He consistently makes two numismatic errors, hyping bottom-tier slabs (error 1) and citing PCGS values (error 2). See lot below. These are serious ethical errors in the coin collecting world, and this auctioneer who sells coins regularly and has some of the best consignments on Proxibid–featured on occasion in Coin World–knows, or should know, better.

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This is not worth $725 but probably $30 at low-mint state. The coin also may be cleaned, but we cannot discern that from the photo. (We see trouble spots in the right field at about 2:30 o’clock.) We would not bid on this, treating the coin as low-mint state or slider with details.

As a rule, PCGS and NGC are top holdering companies, but each does have different standards. Each company has its own values site on the Web. For ANACS and ICG, use CoinValues or Redbook values.

Some holdering companies, such as PCI, ACG, SEGS, and Numistrust typically grade a few points lower than PCGS or NGC; but it’s best to treat those coins as raw, too, learning about grading (see our regular “Find the Flaw” feature) and bidding on the coin rather than the holder.

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.

Bidder Tips: Disputing Lot Descriptions

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Bidders and auctioneers should follow procedures when disputing lot descriptions. Here are tips for bidders. Tuesday we will share pointers for auctioneers.


When bidders receive a coin that has not been accurately described, they need to be sure to follow these procedures:

  1. Read the service terms. All sales are usually final when the hammer drops, especially as they pertain to grades. Grading is in part subjective (within a few points on the Sheldon scale). Many service terms state no refunds due to grade or condition as described on Proxibid. This type of complaint won’t hold up in a dispute.
  2. Know the exceptions to all sales final. An auctioneer cannot state a coin is gold when it is base metal. Neither can an auctioneer sell counterfeit or replica coins as authentic. Exceptions occur when an item is presented as something it is not.
  3. Deal first with the auctioneer. If you suspect you have a counterfeit or an item that differs significantly from what is described, see if the auctioneer will take back the lot. If not, you’ll have to prove your case.
  4. Prove your point. Send the auctioneer a note, copying in Proxibid Customer Service, that you are going to send the coin to PCGS, NGC, ICG or ANACS to verify your suspicions. Take your coin to a dealer for submission or do so yourself. (See this post for instructions.)
  5. Contact Proxibid Customer Service with the evidence. Take photos of the report by your grading company verifying your suspicions and then contract Proxibid, which will open a dispute in your name.

Describing coins accurately is important if auctioneers want return customers. The Unified User Agreement requires accurate descriptions: “Significantly Not as Described” (SNAD) Claim – means an action taken by a Buyer against a Seller when the Buyer has purchased an item that arrived but was significantly different from the item description.

We have never encountered a problem when we have provided evidence. We worked with auction companies on more than a half dozen fakes and always received refunds. We recently had the same experience with a coin that was described as a rare variety when it wasn’t.

Tuesday we will share tips for auctioneers involved in disputes with bidders.

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.

Subjective Grading

Everyone has his or her own standards, and that applies to people who put coins in holders and then use the Sheldon grading scale (1-70) to designate what looks like an authentic grade. Problem is, auctioneers selling those slabs then cite Coin Values or PCGS prices for the lot. That’s not subjective. That’s unfair.

Take this coin below, which recently appeared in a Proxibid auction. It states that the Morgan dollar is Mint State 67 Deep Mirror Proof-like.

1882ODMPL

In this case, the auctioneer has a disclaimer: “We are not coin experts or graders. Please use your own judgment when bidding.”

Use Your Own Judgment. That cuts both ways. If you are an auctioneer and not a coin expert, please use your judgment and do not cite sky-high prices for what may turn out to be a very common coin worth a bit more than silver melt.

What to make of a coin company that slabs every coin at MS67? (Well, that’s the company’s brand and standard.)

The problem here is that’s not the standard on which legitimate coin values are based.

Take this coin, which looks bag-marked with little reflectivity. DMPLs should reflect text or images from a distance of six inches. PCGS and NGC have graded thousands upon thousands of Morgan dollars. NGC’s top DMPL grade for an 1882-O is MS65. PCGS has one graded at MS66DMPL, with a value of $25,000.

There is no MS67DMPL Morgan graded objectively. If there were, you’d need megabucks to acquire it.

If you’re a bidder, don’t be fooled by coins holdered by little-known companies. If you’re an auctioneer, cite values when coins are graded by third-party companies with high standards, namely, PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG. Treat everything else as raw.


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 III: Search Functions and Payment Options

This is the third-part in the series on Proxibid vs. eBay. Our first post covered our initial bidding experience. The second post compared shipping between the two portals. This post discusses search functions and payment options.

Proxibid’s IT team continues to make slow but steady progress in enabling users to navigate the portal in a seamless experience, something eBay has perfected over the years. Until recently, we were not able to access all Proxibid pages using browsers like Firefox, much quicker than the anally programmed Windows Explorer whose developers were more concerned about security than navigation. In online auction bidding, speed is everything. That is why we prefer Firefox.

If Proxibid can continue upholding navigation capabilities, it can rival eBay for bidding ease.

Search functions on Proxibid are better than those on eBay. You can search for PCI holdered coins, for example, on Proxibid. You cannot do that on eBay, because of quality control limitations that essentially ban any description of slabbing companies apart from PCGS, NGC, ANACS amd ICG. PCI-holdered coins often are correctly graded and able to be procured at lower bidding than counterparts by top-tiered companies.

Proxibid’s search functions also give more data about coin sellers, from location to consignment, whereas eBay’s searches keep defaulting to all categories, necessitating the user to continue to narrow searches by eliminating all categories, choosing one, and then searching again by “newly listed,” “ending soonest,” etc.

Years ago Proxiblog sold and bought exclusively on eBay and encountered PayPal, which we hated then and hate more now. PayPal requires access to your banking account after several purchases are made via PayPal to your credit card company. So you don’t get credit card rewards but still pay PayPal fees. Worse than that, PayPal makes mistakes. We paid for one winning lot and paid promptly, with eBay recording that payment; but PayPal’s program wasn’t as quick as eBay’s, so the seller never got paid.

It put us in the situation of paying a second time and monitoring our personal bank account for the double payment. If it shows up, we’ll do a separate post on that.

So we advise Proxibid sellers to lose the PayPal and gain the APN clearance, which is the safest and most secure way to pay for auction purchases.

In the next post we will discuss coin consignments and lot descriptions, with a final post on Thursday tallying results and announcing where we will do more of our numismatic bidding in the future.


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.

Putting Lower-Tier Slabs in their Place

You’ve heard us in our “Boos and Booyahs” page compliment Larry Fuller, veteran numismatist writing Proxibid descriptions for Silvertowne Auctions. One of his trademarks is putting a realistic grade on those MS66 holders that often encapsulate cleaned, lower grade, or silver melt Morgans.

Grades by PCGS and NGC are the most consistent. ANACS and ICG are also reliable. Second-tier holder companies include PCI, SEGS, Accugrade, and Dominion Grading Service. NumisTrust is less reliable but occasionally gets a grade right. National Numismatic Certification is even less consistent. All others that grade MS66 or MS67 on every coin are unreliable when compared with grading standards by the American Numismatic Association.

In general, a good rule to follow is tout the grade in the lot description only if the coin is holdered by PCGS, NGC, ANACS, ICG.

Here’s a series of lot descriptions from the past several Silvertowne auctions, so you can see how Larry Fuller does it. (Click to expand picture and read Larry’s description in the lower left corner.)






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.