Grade the Quality of Your Coin Photos!

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Click to expand photo.

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

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


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


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


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


Proxiblog is an independent entity with no connection to the auction portal Proxibid. Our intent is to uphold basic numismatic standards as established by the American Numismatic Association and the National Auctioneer Association and to ensure a pleasurable bidding experience not only on Proxibid but also on similar portals such as iCollector and AuctionZip.

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On the Block: Brad Lisembee, Capitol Coin Auction

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Brad Lisembee, numismatist and auctioneer, has propelled Capitol Coin Auction to the top of our ratings for two years running. We’re proud of his accomplishments because Proxiblog played a role in it. Long ago upon reading our blog Brad lowered his buyers’ premium and focused on photography to accompany his great customer service and accurate coin descriptions. We invited him to tell his own story about Capitol Coin and his success.



Greetings to all and thank you for your interest in Capitol Coin Auctions. We have been in business since 2006, and have been specializing in sales of coins and currency since the beginning. We hold auctions on generally a quarterly basis, and all of our auctions feature floor bidding as well as on-line bidding through Proxibid. Below are some highlights and tidbits regarding our March 1 Coin & Currency Auction.

All of the lots in our auctions come from one of three sources:

  • Estates (people who have passed away and their heirs want or need to sell).
  • Collectors (often older people who don’t have the desire to collect anymore or just want to cash in for retirement funds).
  • Dealers (usually in need of cash flow).

Capitol Auctions does not maintain an inventory for sale, nor do we make purchases for resale in our auctions. In a typical auction, we will have approximately 10 to 12 different consignors. Of those, usually about half are estates, a few are collectors, and a couple are dealers. While probably a fact in most types of auctions, usually the best material comes from estates and the weakest material comes from dealers.

In our upcoming March 1st auction, we have some really nice items that I would like to highlight. From a local estate comes nine consecutive uncirculated 1934 blue seal $10 silver certificates. These were put away decades ago and the heir actually was thinking about taking them to the bank for deposit. We also have 1941 and 1942 proof sets that are housed in old acrylic holders. A personal favorite of mine is the nearly-complete type set in a Dansco 7070 album. While the coins are nice, those albums have been discontinued and are extremely hard to find. I did go into great length describing all the coins in that set so bidders have a good idea what they are bidding on. From the same estate also comes a very attractive 1807 Draped Bust Half. If we had received it with a little more cushion of time, I would have submitted it for grading.

An elderly gentleman in our coin club consigned the unopened box of five 2011 25th Anniversary Silver Eagle Sets. He bought several boxes when they came out and said that he needs the space. He also consigned the 1855-S $3 gold piece and the complete set of Mercury dimes (not to be overlooked, as it includes a very nice 16-D).

A California collector consigned the lovely 1878-CC MS64 DMPL VAM-11 Morgan dollar. It’s in an old ANACS holder. The last ANACS-slabbed 78-CC of this grade in a Heritage auction brought just over $1500. This collector also submitted the scarce 1895-O AU53 ($1000+) and the beautiful 1890-O Morgan NGC MS65 (should bring close to $2000). All of these coins are being sold without reserve.

On average, only about 1% of the coins in our auctions carry reserves, as we discourage sellers from placing them as they tend to discourage bidding. In this auction, only four coins have reserves, and three have already passed the reserves in the pre-bidding a week before the auction. While we have over $33k in pre-bids, there is still a lot of meat left on the bone for buyers who attend the live auction either on-site or on-line.

One final note, I was recently asked to be a presenter at the 2014 National Auctioneer’s Convention in Louisville in July. My topic: Selling Coins at Auction.

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.

SilverTowne, Capitol Auction Win … “Best Shipping”

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SilverTowne Auction and Capitol Coin Auction win the shipping category because they send winnings to buyers without charging handling fees or higher fees for each additional lot (a practice that baffles us because the more lots a customer wins, the better for the house and Proxibid).

We wish more Proxibid auctions can learn from SilverTowne and Capitol Coin Auction. SilverTowne keeps it simple: “Auction lots will be shipped via US Mail within two business days upon receipt of payment. Packages $10.00 – $1,000.00 will be shipped Insured US Mail. Packages $1,001.00 and over will be shipped UPS.”

Capitol Coin Auction, which won the category last year, has one of the best policies on the portal:

    Shipping Instructions: All items will be shipped via the U.S. Postal Service. The Buyer is responsible for the actual cost of shipping and insurance. Unlike most other auction companies, we DO NOT charge our buyers a fee for handling or packing their purchases. All items are shipped within 2-3 business days following the auction.

Some auction houses on Proxibid refuse to ship in-house, using third parties that require your credit card data (unsafe practice) or charge ungodly fees for coins, even though supplies are free at the US Post Office. Take a look at this post about one such company.

Compare that with the shipping terms of service from our other Honorable Mention houses:

Engstrom Auctions


Coins and jewelry will be shipped via United States Postal Service to locations in the United States at a flat rate of $10 (shipping, and handling) for most orders, which will be added to your invoice. … All packaging is done by Engstrom Auction employees. We double check your items against our packaging slip to ensure you get the correct items.


Five Star Auction

Shipping Instructions: Buyers will pay actual shipping cost with no handling fee. Shipping will be within 2 business days of receipt of payment for item (items) purchased. Your credit card will be charged for shipping at this time. We will ship coins anywhere in the world and shipping will cost accordingly. Multiple items will be combined to save shipping costs when applicable.


Star Coin and Currency

Shipping Instructions: We provide fast low cost shipping to our bidders. We ship most items for $4 or less for all items won. Sometimes additional postal services or insurance may be added to the invoice if need, based upon value, weight, size and destination.


Meares Auction Group

Shipping Instructions: Minimum shipping charge for is $2.00 and the prices will be adjusted with the number of items that you purchase. The prices do not double or triple, but reflect the weight shipped and the distance that they are shipped. For more information you may log onto http://www.usps.com for shipping rates and zone information. We insure packages up to the purchase price.


Jewelry Exchange

Shipping Instructions: Packages valued under $100 are sent uninsured via USPS First Class Mail or Priority Mail; packages valued at $100 to $499 are sent via USPS Insured at the buyer’s risk; packages valued at $500 or more are sent via USPS Registered Mail. Shipping is charged at the USPS published rates.


We congratulate SilverTowne and Capitol Coin Auction and our Honorable Mention houses for their emphasis on shipping inexpensively, quickly and securely.

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.

Capitol Coin Auction wins … “Best Photography”

2Best Photography

Capitol Coin Auction does many things right, but perhaps what it does best is combine excellent digital photography with accurate numismatic descriptions.

Only a relative handful of Proxibid auction houses showcase exemplary coin photography that captures detail, luster and color. Capitol Coin Auction does that better than anyone else on the portal. Here’s an example:

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(This coin, by the way, graded MS65 at PCGS, certification 28957041.)

Compare the above photo with this one below, all too typical on the portal, purportedly showcasing another toned 1880s Morgan dollar:

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Now more than ever, sharp expandable photos of obverse, reverse and close-ups of any flaw or variety will be essential on Proxibid because sellers are being rated–not only by us but by Proxibid itself! Auction houses that have gotten away with poor descriptions and blurry photos will be noted as such. In the end, the better the photo the less an auction house has to worry about the numismatic description, although both are indicators of excellence.

Last year’s winner in Best Photography was Key Date Coins, which has not held a recent auction. (We miss you, Eddie Caven!)

Here are photos from Honorable Mention houses in this year’s TOP Awards, showing detail, device and condition (click to expand):

Decatur Coin and Jewelry

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Western Auction

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Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction

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Leonard Auction

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Southwest Bullion and Coin

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Those wishing to improve their photography should visit this post in Coin Update News.

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.