We Applaud Proxibid’s Quality Control Badges

Increasingly online portals whose entire livelihood relies on the Internet audience will have to exert greater quality control over auction houses catering to onsite audiences or taking numismatic shortcuts. To combat those and other negative attributes–and to keep up with eBay’s ever stricter quality controls–Proxibid has tolled out quality control badges noting APN Clearance, Shipping Policies, Low Buyer’s Premium, Lot Description Accuracy, and Complaint Rate

APN Clearance is as important as ever in using credit card purchases with ease and security. (Watch for a post on the downside of using PayPal.) Shipping, Low Buyer’s Premium, Lot Description Accuracy and Complaint Rate have been quality control issues that Proxiblog has monitored since launching this site in May 2011.

We now are approaching 20,000 views because of our focus on quality control for both auctioneer and bidder, in addition to our numismatic knowledge as a buyer and seller on Proxibid.

We applaud Jason Nielson, quality control exec, and his Proxibid team for instituting these much-needed badges. And one more thing: Because Proxibid now is covering with badges much of what we covered in our Honor Roll page, we now will include superior houses with higher than 15% buyer’s fees in our sidebar rankings. We’re putting a greater emphasis on quality of consignments, shipping, customer service and lack of transparency notices. Watch for a post on that in the near future.

Our reasoning is simple: While we advocate for low buyer’s fees, some of the best numismatic catalogs are being posted by Leonard Auction, Capitol Coin Auction, Scott Auctions, Fox Valley and others. They will qualify for our Best on Proxibid rankings.

Beginning next week, however, we will exclude from our sidebar rankings all auctions that see maximum bids or allow auctioneer/consignor bidding. There is just no place for either. Auctioneers should know grey sheet values. If a bid doesn’t reach it, they can pass on it. An auctioneer should NEVER ghost-bid (raise the bid even though no buyer has). And finally, a house can allow a consignor to bid on an item, but if the consignor wins, he bought it, meaning he has to pay both consignor and buyer fees. That will discourage shell-bidding entirely.

We’ll end with photos of each badge and the Proxibid description:

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.

On the Block: Southwest Bullion Rolls Out 0% Buyer’s Fee, Flat-Rate Shipping

Southwest Bullion, located in Houston, Texas, has rolled out a 0% buyer’s fee with flat-rate USPS shipping, APN clearance with no maximum-bid-viewing or consignor bidding.

By Justin Quinn, licensed auctioneer

The coin market has for many years been stricken with a BUYERS PREMIUM fee structure that supposedly only really benefits the seller, but in our opinion, leaves buyers with a bad taste in their mouths. Being one of the nation’s largest coin buyers ourselves, we know first hand how high buyer’s premiums, as well as minimum lot fees and excessive shipping and handling fees, affect our own buying and the negative effect those “fees” have on the personal enjoyment of coin collecting. We realized recently how much time we spend “backing out” buyers premiums and fees from our bids, fiddling all through the auction with the calculator.

Like most others, our business started as a hobby. We simply enjoyed collecting coins, but that hobby soon turned into a full-scale business with customers, orders to fulfill, customer service needs, and most of all the need for more inventory to supply our steady demand for quality products. In order to keep up with the demand we started buying from auction sites ourselves and companies (most all having a buyers premium).

As our business grew, we tried to find a sales model that would work for us, and frankly it was easy to NOT “reinvent the wheel” so to speak, following suit to our competition and their methods. We too charged a buyers premium (with minimum lot fees) and followed that industry standard for awhile, but that’s NOT what our customers or even dealer/customers wanted.

They didn’t hesitate to tell us either!

So, as customers continued to complain about our BP & fees (just as we complained about those same fees at Heritage, Teletrade and others), we realized that what the customers really wanted was for the seller to pay those fees just like on eBay! Let’s face it, without happy buyers, we as dealers wouldn’t have any business at all.

We want our customers to feel comfortable buying from us with the knowledge that we will not be charged outrageous buyers fees, shipping fees, or other hidden fees on invoice after the auction. We also want our buyers to know that they can bid without having to calculate fees on every push of a bid button. We want to bring back the hobbyist and the collector who like attending auctions for the enjoyment with a fully transparent market.

The reason so many people use eBay is due to eBay policy forcing sellers to pay the sales expenses and allow their customers to buy with an “all inclusive bid,” which equates to a wider customer base who are willing to buy products for the product itself (at full market value), instead of always searching for the least amount of fees associated with an item they want to purchase.

Over the span of our auction operations on Proxibid, we have expanded our catalogs from just offering a few bullion coins to a very wide variety of coin and bullion products, as well as jewelry, comics, sports memorabilia and other collectibles. From copper two cent pieces, to rare Morgan dollars, to kilo lunar series coins, we want to bring our broad base of products to the entire collecting and/or dealer community by giving them the ability to buy from a trusted seller, one who keeps their needs as buyers foremost in mind, all with easy no-hassle pricing.

We read recently that the two largest names in the coin auction industry just decided to INCREASE buyers premiums to 17.5% and minimum lots fees to $14-$25/lot, because its better for the “consignors/sellers.” We think that focus is not where it should be! Without happy buyers and bidder participants, those consignors have no market to sell to, and as a buyer ourselves, frankly we’re mad as hell at the fee increase. Not only we will no longer buy from those giant auction houses, but we decided to go 180 degrees in the other direction in our sales effort.

For all the problems eBay presents representing tens of thousands of sellers (some of which are unscrupulous) and a badly abused feedback system against honest sellers, they got this fee structure part right. Fees should be borne by the SELLER, not the buyer, and the growth of the on-eBay coin market proves it. Shipping should not be a profit-center either, and any hidden fees are just unacceptable. We were none to happy to have $40 “shipping and handling” recently added to our “major auction house in Dallas” order the other day. We just feel strongly that these continued high buyer fee arrangements are unacceptable, and know that vast majority of our customers feel the same way we do.

On our upcoming Proxibid auctions, we have decided to employ an ongoing list of catalogs that are “type coin specific” in order to make our auctions more enjoyable to collectors of certain types of coins or bullion items. This is especially important for buyers who don’t want to spend hours waiting for their coin-type lots to come up for sale.

As a buyer, there are certain coins that are generally the area of interest to any particular collector or dealer, and most times they will have to surf through multiple auctions to find just the right coins they are looking for while not being able to be totally interested by one single auction catalog chocked full of their favorite type of coin. We want to give our buyers the ability to sit in one auction with their own area of interest and not miss the lot they want because the entire auction is an area of interest focusing on that specific type of coin.

We are planning to unveil a schedule of catalogs that will cater to almost every type of buyer from the U.S. cent buyer to the rare world bullion buyer, and hopefully in doing so we can gain the business and confidence of all Proxibid coin customers.

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 coin buyers to benefit from higher fees at Heritage, Stacks Bowers

Coin auctioneers on the portal should take advantage of a trend among top numismatic houses Heritage and Stacks Bowers Galleries, which each announced higher buyer’s fees of 17.5%. Combined with new eBay coin rules, which Proxiblog reported in this post, coin auctioneers on the portal should lower Internet buyer’s fees to take advantage of the trend.

Several Proxibid houses in the rankings to the right have 15% or lower buyer’s fees. Currently Teletrade has 15% and GreatCollections, capitalizing on the unfortunate trend of Heritage and Stacks–raising buyer’s fees during a recession–boasts 10% fees. Teletrade not only has a 15% buyer’s fee but also has 0% no reserve auctions every Tuesday.

We admire the competitive spirit of Ian Russell, GreatCollections owner, who also auctions raw collections and lots in addition to coins holdered by top companies. See his latest advertisement (click to expand picture).

We recommend coin auctioneers on the portal go against the trend of raising online buyer’s fees. It makes no sense for Heritage and Stacks to raise their fees when old gold–$5, $10, $20, etc.–is selling with a small premium over bullion.

When consignors get less for their money at houses with high buyer’s fees, because of lack of competition, they will migrate to GreatCollections, Teletrade and, of course, Proxibid.

A final note to Proxibid: Take out more advertisements in numismatic publications showcasing auction houses on the portal with low online buyer’s fees. That will begin the migration to Proxibid and yield results in today’s numismatic market!

Proxibid Due to Pick Up eBay Coin Bidders

EBay, the largest portal for Coins and Currency, announced controversial policies this week that favor coins slabbed by PCGS and NGC. The policies are complex–you can read about them by clicking here–but it is Proxiblog’s opinion that eBay’s loss will be Proxibid’s gain.

Proxibid is being contacted by numismatic writers to comment on the eBay policy. In our analysis, we mentioned Proxibid, noting that Proxibid supports many of our recommendations, although we are independent of the portal. We also mentioned that “after a long hiatus from eBay (because of fraudulent, doctored and overhyped coins),” we bid this week on a few select coins and questioned several other sellers.

One eBay “top seller” was asked how a 2012 coin could have pastel colors, and this is what he wrote: “It is my secret, and I am not going to disclose it. No chemicals are used during this process.” Yeah, we responded, but electricity might (a way to cause silver to blush in primary and pastel colors). We noted in our interview that eBay had no problem listing this coin without such a disclaimer. And we saw clearly chemically treated Morgans being listed for $12000+.

We mentioned that we agree with Proxibid’s newly revised terms of service and complimented the company on adopting a zero-tolerance policy on counterfeits sold by independent auctioneers.

In the end, we think eBay’s new guidelines are overly complex, open perhaps to legal analysis, and will drive more business to Proxibid. So auctioneers should heed our best practices as listed in our Articles page and prepare to outshine eBay sellers by focusing on integrity and numismatic knowledge.

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.

Auctioneer Advisory: Fakes are on their way!

Coin World is reporting that eBay no longer will allow on its site replica US and world coins of any kind, with violators risking their selling privileges being suspended for any infraction. Pictured here is a counterfeit coin purchased on the Proxibid portal. We secured an immediate refund when explaining the illegality of selling counterfeits.

The new eBay policy even bans coins marked as “copy” in keeping with the Hobby Protection Act.

We applaud eBay for this policy.

The world’s largest online auction portal made the move to showcase the company’s commitment to improve the buying, selling and collecting experience on eBay, Coin World reported in an exclusive story.

Get ready, Proxibid coin auctioneers. Be prepared, Proxibid. You’ll be targeted next as you are becoming the portal of choice for the selling of coins and currency.

The world counterfeit and replica market for coins is responsible for tens of thousands of fake coins flooding into the United States, mainly from China.

In the past three years, even Proxiblog with its keen understanding of numismatics has purchased five counterfeit coins on Proxibid. You can read about our experiences here as well as the policies of some of our top auction houses, including Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction, Key Date Coins and Crawford Family Auction.

What concerns us about the anticipated flood of fakes into the Proxibid auction stream is how some auctioneers are unaware that they cannot sell counterfeit coins no matter what–repeat, NO MATTER WHAT–your terms of service state. It’s a violation of federal law, and you can be investigated by the Secret Service or worse, sued.

When we have explained this after purchasing fake coins on Proxibid, all auctioneers refunded our purchases. In one or two cases, it took some convincing.

We have repeatedly advised you to make consignors rather than bidders responsible for fake, doctored or otherwise altered coins.

We’re also hoping that Proxibid’s resolution center understands and prepares for the coming influx of fakes on our portal. We recommend an internal policy for auctioneers on Proxibid concerning bidder refunds for counterfeit coins when adequate proof is provided. As the influx of fakes becomes more apparent in the months ahead, given the new eBay policy, stricter selling rules must be enforced or bidders will look elsewhere–probably eBay–for alternatives.

As for auctioneers, here are some tips:

  1. Purchase a strong magnet. Fakes often are made of base metal and will stick to the magnet. Silver is non-magnetic and also has a special ring to it unlike the clang of cooper-nickel coins. Test for that sound with a Franklin half dollar.
  2. Invest in a gold coin tester. There are several brands and methods, from stone to liquid. This is especially important if you are selling so-called “California fractional gold.”
  3. Buy coin scales and calipers to weigh suspect coins, checking their weight and diameter in coin guides. We recommend subscribing to PCGS’s CoinFacts to learn about weights and measures of coins.

To learn more about the multi-billion-dollar Chinese counterfeiting industry, read this expose by Susan Headley.

Also be on the lookout for consignments by unknown entities. Professional coin thieves also slip in fakes with a shipment of bonafide coins. Flooding auction portals with counterfeit and replica coins is only one of the latest cons being perpetuated on portals, dealers and auctioneers. We learned with great sadness yesterday that one of our top auction houses was robbed in the past week. This is the third theft of consignments we learned of this year, prompting us to recommend that auctioneers store rare coins, gold jewelry and other precious smalls in large local bank boxes for enhanced security.

As for bidders reading this post, never ever keep more than a few coins in your home. Insurance will not cover rare coins. Take out a bank box if you are pursuing this hobby or reinvesting in coins as part of your portfolio.

If ever your coins are stolen, report it immediately to local authorities as well as the Numismatic Crime Information Center.

Take every precaution in the months ahead, with a poor economy prompting more counterfeiters and criminals suddenly as interested as your bidders in precious metals and rare coins.

Please share other tips or warnings if you are an auctioneer in the comment section below.

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.

High Reserves Cost Everyone, Especially Proxibid

We’ve mentioned this before as an abuse of the Proxibid portal–the setting of high opening bids or reserves (sometimes ridiculously high)–enabling a handful of auctioneers to use the portal as their own free eBay coin store, in as much as they do not have to pay the portal for lots that do not sell. We’re hoping Proxibid’s policy has changed so as to charge those houses for passed lots … because other auctioneers are footing the technological costs.

Some companies selling coins on Proxibid upload hundreds of pictures on the portal and hype lot descriptions to their hearts’ content, all of which would cost per item on eBay.

Each coin as listed would require an eBay insertion fee, upgrades for multiple pictures, plus additional money for reserves and length of sale. You can get much of this without cost on Proxibid and use the portal as an inexpensive online coin store, guaranteeing retail prices and above for any item that happens to sell to an uninformed bidder.

Take a look at eBay fees by clicking here, and you can see what a bargain Proxibid actually is.

While it is true that some items require a reserve, and that auctioneers should decide whether or not to sell an item, those traditional rules assume that the house is not taking advantage of the system and that other lots lack high opening bids.

Look at it this way: What auctioneer in a traditional onsite location would be in business for long if 80-90% of lots failed to meet reserve? Just as there are setup costs for onsite auctions, there are technological costs for online ones. On Proxibid, those costs are distributed.

We’re not asking that Proxibid cease allowing opening bids or reserves; that’s part of the auction business. We’re asking that the portal crack down on abusers of the system that are costing other auctioneers operational fees in the long run.

And if your consignors demand high reserves, you should charge 5-10% for each item that fails to sell as a “buyback.”

We make these suggestions not on behalf of bidders but to maintain the tradition and excitement of auctions where lots can sell for multiples of retail … or multiples below wholesale. That has been the allure of the auction for decades onsite. It’s no different online.

Granted, it takes numismatic skill to discern which houses are charging retail for items. We just saw an opening bid of $900 for a common 1921-S Morgan dollar; that is beyond retail, especially when the house hypes the lot description and then proclaims that it is not responsible for grading.

To tell whether a slabbed coin is being sold at retail, input the certification number on the holdering company’s site. Here’s one for NGC. Here’s another for PCGS. Then add the buyer’s fee.

Here’s an example, a $20 Saint Gaudens with a retail of $5500 and a rejected bid of $4800. This house charges more than 15% buyer’s fee, but even with that, and the rejected bid at $4800, this coin is selling for shop retail prices–at the expense of other auctioneers on the portal.

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.

Proxibidding Wars

Proxibid auctioneers enjoy an unacknowledged benefit reaping profits that have little to do with buying and shipping fees or even auctioneer reputation. It’s a bidding war, and like real ones, they can spill across borders (or auction houses) and ring up cash in your tills.

Auctioneers welcome bidding wars. In fact, their rapid voices ticking bids ever higher is geared to spark them. But those happen onsite in one auction at a given place and time. A victorious bidder usually pays exorbitantly for ownership of a specific lot.

When wars ignite on Proxibid, they usually don’t just end when the hammer falls or even the session ends. If combatants are sufficiently irked, and the “whales” (high rollers) often are, they go after each other in other auctions where a rival’s name appears as high bidder. After all, whales not only know each other by their Proxibid handle, but also other bidders’ preferences and buying habits. Like a country gathering intelligence on neighbors, one may strike the other without warning.

Wars usually happen because of two reasons:

  1. A newbie continues to pay retail or higher prices for coins. These are Proxibidders who keep raising bids–no matter how high a rival takes them–until they win the coin. Often they don’t know the value of specific lots. In the coin world, they’re typically Carson City GSA hoarders or maybe VAM addicts. A whale might want an occasional GSA or VAM, gets agitated, and seeks out the newbie Proxibidder name across auction houses, raising bids unmercifully until the newbie runs out of cash.
  2. War over.

  3. A whale outbids another whale during a live session. They could be two bidders after the same coin type, denomination, mint mark or gold piece. Usually these are not collectors but sellers. Using Proxibid’s new bidder application, often to steal coins from each other, one whale may decide not to allow the other to own the lot. This is similar to what happens in onsite auctions. Only now, because the loser of the lot knows who has bid against him–and that person’s Proxibid name appears on lots across auction houses (or worse, can track back to an eBay store [security, folks, security!])–the vanquished may decide to go on the offensive.

That’s when things get interesting.

The losing whale leaves the live auction where the winning counterpart is still engaged, visiting other houses selling coins and looking for the rival’s name. Bids are increased on each lot just one fraction higher than maximum. By the time the rival leaves the live auction and checks email, she or he may see a hundred or more Proxibid alerts. Each time the rival checks who has outbid him or her, you guessed it!, up pops the angry whale’s Proxibidding handle.

Then that person has to rebid the coins to reclaim most of the losses but now must pay higher prices, no longer getting coins on discount but near retail.

If that whale decides to go after the culprit who caused the situation–doing unto his rival as has been done to him or her–things can really get dicey. The war can continue, until someone cries numismatic “Uncle,” or the cleverer whale lets above-retail bids stand, instilling a lesson.

Bidding wars are done for reasons. They inform newbies and deflate whales, eventually creating an even playing field. One whale respects the other, and the newbie learns about numismatic values.

In the end, Proxibidding wars, like real ones, may not be all that ethical. They are profitable … and another reason to do business 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.

High reserves bring low hammers

Proxiblog has been noticing a troubling trend in several auctions involving opening bids set higher than retail prices. That not only discourages competition; it can cost you return bidders because, in effect, it erodes the auction experience–competitive bidding by seller vs. buyer.

Pause for a moment. Think about the possible outcomes if you are setting high opening bids to insure a reasonable profit. Aren’t you undermining the whole allure of an auction, the sense that lots can be had at wholesale prices? Isn’t that what drives bidders to a site? Sometimes the bidder wins. Sometimes, the seller does. The auctioneer’s job, from the distinct voice (onsite or online) to the hammer–bang!–is meant to spark competition so that bidders “go to war” and bids approach or surpass retail for items.

Auctions–especially coin auctions–should not be as static as an online shop with set prices. On Proxibid, this is worse than eBay‘s “Buy It Now” auctions! With the latter, as soon as you pay retail or more, you get the item. On Proxibid, the auctioneer is hoping that one bidder pays retail and then a bidding war starts.

Fat chance.

If your consignors are setting high reserves or opening bids, then charge them at least a 5% “buyback fee.” That’s only reasonable, as the auctioneer has set-up and technology costs. There’s another wrinkle in setting bids so high and passing on items. Proxibid, as yet, doesn’t charge “buyback fees” for items that fail to sell. The portal only gets a fee if an item sells. Thus, if more auctioneers persist in setting high reserves or opening bids, that, technically, can be construed as an abuse of the system.

Consider this from an eBay perspective, even though the mega-portal’s technology is programmed for a different purpose than Proxibid’s (i.e. replicating online the auction experience). If an item with a high “Buy It Now” or “Opening Bid” doesn’t sell, eBay still gets its set-up, picture posting/storing and advertising fees.

Proxibid doesn’t. Like anything else, auctioneers have to police themselves. Right now, Proxibid is absorbing the cost of passed lots.

Here are a few examples of exceptionally high opening bids:

The opening bid on this coin, a Morgan 1880-S MS65PL, was set at $500. The retail price, which can easily be checked online using NGC’s certification service, is $325.

Here is another auction’s inflated opening bid of $90 for a 1944-D MS66 RD Wheat cent. NGC sets retail at $30, according to the coin’s certification number.

You can check opening bids on slabbed PCGS coins at this link.

With one or two exceptions, we believe Proxibid auctioneers are not intentionally making these mistakes. Some may be following a consignor’s request. Others may just be guessing.

Consignors should follow your requests. Guesswork suggests poor legwork on the part of the auctioneer. Like a good pawn broker, an auctioneer should have an idea of what a lot is worth before listing a reserve or opening bid.

If you’re selling coins, you just have to know about them. That’s why we have archived previous numismatic posts in our “Articles” page.

The best auctioneers will attest that high reserves bring low hammer prices. It’s worse than that. Sometimes the hammer fails to fall!

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 Security Policies

Last week Proxiblog received an email from an auctioneer stating Proxibid no longer provides full credit card data used during registration. The auctioneer noted the new policy prevents immediate processing of invoices and implored bidders to “email or call us with full credit card number, expiration date, and security code and inform us whether or not you would like your items charged and shipped soon after the auction.”

Hmmm… NO.

Proxiblog doesn’t necessarily blame the auctioneer for feeling pinched by the new policy, although the house seems more concerned about billing than security (more on that momentarily); however, we support Proxibid’s policy fully for a variety of reasons associated with Internet and credit card security.

To understand why, we have to acknowledge what many of us take for granted: online commerce. A little more than a decade ago, only a handful of Internet users (13%) felt secure enough to purchase items online, primarily because scammers, phishers and identity thieves were stealing billions without leaving the comfort of their digital lairs. Data from Forrester Research now informs us that more than 85% of Internet users routinely make online purchases.

The reason for that is simple: Portals like Proxibid (and eBay, for that matter), which rely on Internet for their earnings, invest a substantial portion of profits into online security to remain one click ahead of cyber-thieves.

Also, good security is transparent so we hardly even realize that it is there.

Perhaps this is why the auctioneer in question put a higher premium on immediate billing than on security. How else to explain his request? “It is important that you contact us via email (my italics) or call us … as soon as possible with your full credit card details.”

Perhaps unconsciously, the auctioneer has recommended the worst possible method of informing his company about credit card details, especially the security code. Email? Are you kidding?

That suggestion is a red flag, which brings into question the history of the “card security code” (CSC) also known as “card verification value” (CVV), “card verification code”(CVC) or “card code verification” (CCV). Typically found on the back of a credit card, these are three or four digits initially meant to provide extra credit card security for online purchases.

Proxibid requires the code to provide that security. However, as Internet thieves are omnipresent, all they need is the code to make all manner of unapproved purchases.

Take it from Proxiblog, we’re dealing now not only with professional Internet criminals but also digital natives, several of whom would never shoplift from an auction house but who routinely steal music, movies and video games based on knowledge of how Internet operates. Most long-time auctioneers can remember goods being stolen from their onsite premises. If not, check out the theft occurring at our top-rated auction house, Western Auction, by clicking here.

By emailing credit card data to an auctioneer, bidders expose themselves to a multitude of online dangers at any location that message can be accessed, including a company’s computer file or worse, printed file of CSCs.

Auctioneers also may not be aware of the latest Internet scam undermining the intent of the security code to prevent fraud. Phishers routinely hack into databases containing names and credit card numbers. The phisher then contacts the owner of the credit card and says a purchase cannot be immediately processed without the code. Can the buyer please provide it?

You know how that story ends.

Alas, the convenience of online bidding that Proxibid provides will likely require more security measures in the future. For this, auctioneers and patrons should be grateful in as much as their clientele is often worldwide and bids logged seamlessly during sessions.

In closing, everyone should take a moment to read Proxibid’s security policies, which contain this statement:

  • “Proxibid has security measures in place to help protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of the information under our control. We restrict access to your personal identification and contact information within the company to only those authorized employees who need to use that information for a specific job function.”

Does your auction house have a similar policy? Who has access to your clientele’s data? What measures are you taking to counteract cyber-fraud?

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.