Any Other Recommendations? Installment #4


best_practice

A new coin seller on Proxibid asked us pertinent questions about best practices, and we promised to share our opinion and to solicit yours in the comment section. Auctioneers look to this site for recommendations on how to sell, ship and improve their services. The more you and we share, the more bidders will be drawn to our sites. We will treat each question as a post running throughout the week. Scroll down to view previous questions and answers. This is our last installment.

QUESTION:Anything else you can recommend to improve online service?

PROXIBLOG: The most important component is photography. We highly recommend that every Proxibid coin seller read this article about improvements made by Gary Ryther, a favorite seller, whose photography we profiled in Coin Update News. Click here to read the article.

Click here to view our other posts on photography.

We continue to urge auctioneers not to take photos on a slant because that hides flaws of coins and inappropriately enhances luster. Here is an example of a lot that sold for $2050. We stopped bidding at $600 because we could not ascertain condition of a Morgan dollar worth thousands in low mint state condition, the 1884-S Morgan. See photo below.

1884S

Yes, the auction house took in a magnificent bid … but still thousands below what the coin is worth if truly in mint state ($20,000 at MS62, $115,000 at MS64). The chances of this coin being graded as mint state are slim because almost all uncirculated examples have been accounted for and submitted, due to condition rarity. However, it is possible that this coin is the real deal. But unless the photo is shot straight on, we cannot tell whether it has been altered and whether the luster is real or a camera effect?

How do you think the buyer is going to feel if the $2050 bid bought an altered coin? Do you think the consignor would be happier with the $2050 bid … or one that was $20,050? That’s the power of photography.

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.

New Rankings, New Houses, Almost 40,000 Views!

Competition among top coin-selling houses on Proxibid is becoming increasingly keen meaning houses that do not strive for continuous improvement will find their numismatic buyers bidding elsewhere. We continue to see erstwhile top houses fall in the rankings because of slow shipping or photography incapable of capturing luster. We can no longer bid here on raw coins but continue to bid on slabbed ones because these houses manage to secure good consignments by PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG. We no longer will bid on bottom-tier slabs, even considering them raw, because we usually encounter problems when submitting to a top holdering company. It will be difficult for anyone to match Decatur Coin Auction’s premiere session on Proxibid. Capitol Coin Auction, Leonard Auction, Western, Weaver and SilverTowne remain solid stand-bys. As for Proxiblog, we are approaching 500 posts and 40,000 views since our inception in May 2011.

Decatur Coin Auction is featuring top numismatic consignments and zero buyer’s fee. Opening bids were below greysheet, sparking competition. Its “Buy It Now” Auctions feature the same lovely lots but without the excitement of a live or timed auction. We hope to see more sessions such as Decatur ran on July 9th.

Capitol Coin Auction has roared back with another fabulous quarterly auction. It and Leonard Auction remain premiere places to find rarities. Weaver and Western auctions continue to offer top lots with excellent customer service. SilverTowne is impressing us with dozens of auctions each month and occasional fabulous consignments. Its grading remains up there with that of our most favorite houses.

Gary Ryther Auctions continues to improve, moving up in the rankings. So has Meares Auction, Engstrom Auction and Midwest Coins. Back to the Past Collectibles continues to sell desirable coin lots and retains a top spot on our list, featuring a low 10% buyer’s fee.

Spencer Auction makes our list this month, hosting more coin auctions with mostly slabbed coins and 15% buyer’s fee. It doesn’t accept APN so that delays shipping. Matthew Bullock Auctioneers returns to our list after several months of no coin auctions. We’re happy to see that as this house has sharp photography and good consignments.

Our top houses all feature one or more of the following:

  1. Lower buyer fees. We prefer 15%. We like 10%. We fancy 5%. We love 0%.
  2. Numismatic lot descriptions. Note flaws and bone up on grading, reading our “Find the Flaw” articles.
  3. Sharp photography. Obverse, reverse and expandable digital shots.
  4. Quick, inexpensive shipping. Some companies take 2-4 weeks to ship. That’s unacceptable. Coins should be sent within 5 business days.
  5. No maximum-bid or shill-bidding. Do that, and you will not qualify for our rankings. Reason? We do not have faith in our maximum bids when we see those transparency notices, no matter the good intentions of auction houses.

Some houses fell in the ranking because they are not improving their photography or because of slow shipping, problem coins, etc. We are worrying about a few of our favorite houses whose photography cannot capture luster on raw coins and that seem to be taking consignments from coin dealers sending their cleaned, polished or altered coins in each session. We worry about seeing more and more coins in slabs by bottom-tier companies.

In our opinion, slow or outsourced shipping, poor photography, inadequate descriptions and high buyer premiums (along with lack of APN), are signs that a house has not yet adapted–or is unwilling to adapt–to the Internet.

Given the convenience of flat-rate shipping with packages picked up at your door, we’re flummoxed when houses take 3-4 weeks to send out coins. If you cannot do basic photography with the type of enhanced, low-cost equipment at your disposal, including smart phones, then you are short-changing yourselves and your consignors.

That said, our rankings are reviews of favorite houses based on our buying and/or selling experience and numismatic expertise. Your experience with our top houses may differ from ours. Our intent is to educate and praise whenever possible–to our own buying detriment, at times! We have seen when we showcase an auction house how bidding becomes more intense, often edging out our own bids.

Good news is that more auction houses are contributing to our scholarship fund. We distribute Proxiblog for free. All we ask is that those who appreciate our efforts make a small contribution to help college students defray debt. You can make the contribution directly online to the Iowa State Foundation.

Our viewership continues to grow. we had more than more than 1,500 in 30 days and are approaching 40,000 lifetime views from all over the world.

July views

The favorite and most accessed page? “How and How Not to Describe Bottom-Tier Slabs.” The all-time most favorite post? “California Gold: Real, Replica and Fake,” which gets on average 50 views per week, indicating once again that auctioneers need to take care before they label those tiny yellow tokens “gold.”

We routinely report counterfeit or misidentified coins using the “Report this Item” link. We continue to applaud Proxibid for using this function.

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 Enhances Photo Magnification

iCollector has it. eBay has it. And now Proxibid has it, the ability to enlarge thumbnails merely by sliding the mouse over the photo.

This is a great technology for coins, because die varieties need close inspection.

One glitch seems to be hovering over the photo, liking what you see and then trying to click to expand the whole shebang. In the first few seconds, the program doesn’t know what you want to do–magnify the thumbnail or go to expanded version.

Eventually it decides on the expanded version because a click trumps a mouseover in the tech world.

But that’s a small price to pay for the innovation.

Now we need auctioneers to upgrade their photography so that images are sharp and expandable, showing both sides of the coin.

In the online trade, photography is everything.

We continue to encourage Proxibid to award a badge for photography.

And we continue to love “Proxibid Live.” This new tech feature is part of an eventual revamp that began with Proxibid’s redesign.

We applaud that kind of continuous improvement!

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.

What’s with DMPL photos on Proxibid?

We have become so annoyed at awful photos of proof-like deep mirror coins on Proxibid that we threw a few coins on a table, took out a smart phone, and captured DMPLs far better than several houses.

Here are Proxibid photos of DMPLs (click photo to expand):

Here are smartphone photos:

The latter shows a true DMPL, able to catch a mirror reflection 8 inches away from object. If you’re not capturing DMPLs, you’re doing your consignors a disservice. As for bidders, don’t place a maximum unless you see the mirror.

Please show the mirrors of Morgans and the cameos of Franklins. See this article for more information.

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.

New Look, New Rankings

Proxiblog took a brief hiatus but now has returned with a new look, new rankings and new features to serve both auctioneers and bidders.


We have redesigned our site to be more viewer-friendly with larger fonts and easy-on-the-eyes color. We hope you approve!

Our rankings are becoming more consistent as our very top houses continue to offer ever choice consignments on a regular basis with reasonable premiums for buyers, quick shipping, excellent photography and other specialties, such as concise numismatic lot descriptions. You’ve seen almost every house in our top rankings for several months now, although ones at the very top continue to compete with each other based on where bidders are most likely to spend their numismatic dollars and not be disappointed when the shipment arrives at the front door.

Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction was poised to be alone atop the rankings until Western Auction posted two alluring auctions in the same week with rare Morgans and other uncirculated scarce silver pieces. Winning in each auction was difficult. More than half of the lots in Weaver and Western auctions sold above retail.

Leonard Auction charges a higher buyer’s premium at 20% with a cash discount; however, John Leonard’s numismatic knowledge and terrific consignments almost always assure bidders that they will not be disappointed in their winnings. The trick here is to take the buyer’s premium into account but bid high if you really want a lot because you’ll often win it for less than your maximum.

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers continues to offer some of the best estate auction coins on the portal. SilverTowne offers regular coin auctions, both live and timed; and we bid on choice lots when we desire them, such as California Fractional Gold or holdered and raw coins. Because of the online and onsite audience, it is difficult to get steals on this site; but you will get authentic and often accurately graded coins. (Personal note: Our friend and professional numismatist, Larry Fuller, has been out of the pocket for awhile and we send him our very best wishes.)

We get to know auctioneers as friends and business clients. We know they are trying their best to keep standards high and have witnessed improvements across the portal. Sometimes, however, bidders forget that auctioneers do not make killings when they showcase coins on Proxibid. In addition to fees, consignment costs, shipping and more, even the best and most advertised sessions typically only bring $1500-$3000 or less to the auction company in profits. Hosting coin auctions is time-intensive, requires numismatic knowledge and photography skills unlike that of other collectibles auctions.

But buying coins as a hobby or investment calls for ever higher standards, and we will do our part to educate both auctioneer and bidder on the finer points.

One new feature planned this week is “Find the Flaw,” when we will depict a coin offered on Proxibid that has a flaw so subtle as to be missed. We will let you view the coin on one day and then reveal the flaw on the following day. We also will be spot-checking auctions for how they grade in their lot descriptions. We will post our first spot-check review this week on Southwest Bullion. We also will continue to do feature posts on standards and disseminate news and articles to help both bidder and auctioneer succeed in this very engaging but challenging field.

Finally, we will try to post each week day as we continue to upgrade the site. Thank you bidders and auctioneers for your patience and patronage! We appreciate you more than you know (and that appreciation also extends to 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.

Good Photography Requires Color

We have been noting the importance of sharp, expandable photos in online bidding for coins. Without quality numismatic photography, auctioneers cannot command top prices for their consignors. But there is another aspect to photography, and that is the ability to capture color.

Toned coins can bring premium prices, as much as 10 times the lot’s worth. Auctioneers must be able to tell genuine toning from artificial kinds, which include chemical and laser techniques and which qualify as coin doctoring–illegal in some cases, unethical in all. See this article to spot artificial toning.

Every now and then, however, coins develop the most marvelous patina. Below is an example of such photographed by a Proxibid auctioneer whose camera did not capture color. We won the lot. Here is our photo. Which would command the best prices?

Note: Top photos are from Proxibid. Bottom ones are from Proxiblog, taken with a $99 camera in a room with fluorescent and natural lighting.

Sharp photography a wise investment

Clear, sharp expandable pictures online remain the best way to spark bids in coin auctions, especially if your close-up photograph is able to capture luster.

Luster is one of the most difficult qualities to capture with a digital camera. The best way to depict luster, or the metallic shine and metal flow of a silver coin, such as a Morgan dollar–with its spectacular cartwheel effect–is to photograph in natural lighting or in natural lighting plus fluorescent lighting.

Here are two Morgans, one shot correctly so that luster is visible, and another shot without natural lighting.

Even with adequate lighting, the photographer has to make sure there are no “hot spots” (or distorting light reflections) on the coin. Those spots can obscure or present in false light key areas of a coin, again decreasing bids. See the example below.

If hot spots continue to plague your photos, invest in a light box. You can use it for jewelry as well as coins.

Accurate photographs do more than bring higher bids; they cut down on complaints and make the Proxibid experience every that much more enjoyable for all.

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 I: Two Weeks on eBay

This is the first-part in a five-part series on Proxibid vs. eBay. Our first post covers our initial bidding experience. The second post will compare shipping between the two portals. The third installment will cover IT functions and payment options. The fourth post covers consignments and lot descriptions. The last post discusses which is the best portal to bid on coins.

Almost uniformly, eBay sellers are amateurs and not auctioneers, with a smattering of coin dealers doing mega-business on the portal. Surprisingly, almost every seller has photographs superior to what normally is found on Proxibid. That’s due to eBay’s strict control over photo quality.

Summarized, each eBay listing must include 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.”

If buyers are unsatisfied with photos, they can inform eBay quality control.

Expand the picture below to see how this seller promotes his lots via photography.

Concerning counterfeits, the company even provides a link to the Secret Service for more information about illustrations of coins.

I purposefully cut down on my Proxibid purchases and instead sought two types of coins on eBay: toned silver eagles and 1950s double mint sets. I chose these for a reason. Toned silver eagles often are lasered for color or otherwise doctored with chemical treatment. And double mint sets are particularly risky. Paper used by the US Mint naturally tones coin, tempting owners to extract the best rainbow coins and replace them with lesser ones.

I’ll report whether the toned silver eagles are chemically treated. Of the seven that I purchased from different dealers, I won’t be sending in four of them for slabbing because they were obviously artificially toned. I’ll be sending coins in on some of the mint sets, too, to see if circulated coins were put in place of desirable ones.

Some dealers were not selling double mint sets, although they were using that title in their eBay descriptions. Double mint sets include two of every mint, PDS (or 30 coins) in some years. Other sets without S mint marks total 20 coins. Sellers were displaying mint sets that had cherry coins removed, with lesser coins in the paper holders.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was how quickly all the winning lots shipped. I received each of a dozen or more packages within a few days. Clearly, when it comes to shipping, eBay has a big advantage over Proxibid.

Finally, bidding on eBay was fierce. It is difficult to win prime coins without approaching or surpassing retail. And many owners of prime lots opened bids above retail.

More to report on this in future weeks. …

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.

Kudos to Proxibid’s Badge System

Proxibid has many things right, and we praise the portal whenever we get a chance to do so. In particular, we admire the company’s quality control officer who is taking steps (gingerly, to be sure, but he is doing it), to make the portal more transparent and a model for online auction security and fairness.

We wrote about the badge system before in this post. There are badges for APN Clearance, Shipping Policies, Low Buyer’s Premium, Lot Description Accuracy, and Complaint Rate.

These badges, along with transparency notices about ghost-bidding and maximum-bid viewing, are essential to promote the Omaha-based company’s brand: TRUST.

Respectfully, we make one more suggestion equally as important as “Lot Description Accuracy,” especially to Internet bidders, and that is, quality of photographs–a topic we have written about regularly (most recently in this post).

Auction houses are known for their glossy catalogs and superb photography. We receive such wonderful brochures regularly from Manor Auctions and Affiliated Auctions, for instance. Somehow, when it comes to Internet, the majority of coin auctions on Proxibid neglect to make digital photography a priority, even though service terms of these houses often state that bidders acknowledge that buying online may be riskier than onsite because of the inability to see a lot fully and clearly.

Our advice? Proxibid should inform us about houses with superior photography and make this a badge consideration.

Why? An uncirculated coin depicted accurately will bring ever higher bids, meaning more profit for Proxibid and more trust for Proxibidders.

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.

New Rankings, New Top House

Silvertowne Auctions has overtaken two of Proxiblog’s favorite houses, Western Auction and Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction, to ascend to the top of our rankings, primarily because of the consistently reliable grading and lot descriptions of veteran numismatist Larry Fuller and frequent top-quality coin auctions by Rick Howard.

Back in the top rankings after several months’ hiatus is Matthew Bullock Auctioneers, which has some of the best coin photography on the portal and choice consignments accurately described.

New to the sidebar rankings are Leonard Auction and Capitol Coin Auction, both of which charge more than 15% buyer’s fee and had been excluded in the past from our top houses. But based on those auction houses’ superior consignments, numismatic knowledge and excellent customer service, we have amended our rules and will list exceptional companies like these in our rankings.

Also making an initial appearance is Southwest Bullion, which recently set online buyer’s fees at zero, with APN clearance and flat-rate shipping. We saw auctioneer Justin Quinn add rare and precious metals to one third of his lots, and we bid $15,000+ but failed to win one item, as most lots sold at retail or above. How does he do it? We suspect he is buying consignments directly rather than going through out-of-town coin dealers. Watch for a post on that this week.

Finally, Chaparral Trading Company made our rankings, featuring lower 15% online fees, good photography and other amenities.

You’ll also notice some of our regular top 20 houses missing from the new rankings. After several complaints from peer auctioneers and online coin buyers, we have decided to omit from sidebar rankings any house viewing maximum bids or allowing auctioneer/consignor bidding. We have run a half dozen articles on why these practices are frowned up, even when the auctioneers honestly only want to know where limits on an item are. Problem is, other houses take advantage of these computer-assisted irregularities. We’ve heard all the justifications and excuses. Fact is, ghost-bidding is unethical. Shill bidding is unethical. Auctioneers should know the wholesale value of items, especially coins, and can pass on underbid lots. And if consignors buyback their own coins, auctioneers can penalize them with fees.

For more on this issue, read this article.

In closing, please know that several of these houses seeing maximum bids are entirely reputable. We patronize their auction houses. We admire their auctioneers. But we have to institute this policy in keeping with Proxibid’s own standards and new badge rankings, which add a level of transparency and quality control, sure to enhance the portal’s reputation.

Congratulations to all in the top 20. Competition is stiffer than ever 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.