Spotlight on Key Date Coins

This week we begin a series of spotlight reviews on the top five houses in our numerical rankings. Depicted here is a copy of our score sheet. Earning a 4 or 5 in our rankings is significant, and few top 20 houses earn more than one or two maximum scores. Those earning the highest scores this month also tied for top house, with Capitol, Key Date, SilverTowne, Weaver and Western all registering the maximum 25 points.

One way to affirm Key Date Coin’s listing as a top Proxiblog house is to visit our Boos and Booyahs page and view the dozen entries in which auctioneer Eddie Caven showed his numismatic expertise and displayed his exceptional coin photography Here’s but a sampling:

One of Key Date Coins’ best features is speed, cost and quality of shipping. Eddie uses numismatic packing and almost always ships the same day, with email notices to winners showing tracking numbers.

We are especially proud of the continuous improvement that Key Date Coins has made in the past two years. In 2011, Eddie Caven wrote us:


    “Auctioneers and bidders alike should subscribe to Proxiblog and read about all aspects of bidding, buying, selling, auctioning. Thank you, Proxiblog, for sharing your knowledge and advice!”

Eddie was the first to sponsor our scholarships, designating a lot for that purpose and generating more than $150 for Iowa State students. More recently, he took our advice about maximum-bid viewing and discontinued that. In every respect, bidders and sellers won’t be disappointed by patronizing this company.

To learn more about this auction house, or to consign, visit Key Date’s website by clicking here.

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 GWS Auctions for noting that this coin is fine 20 and appears to have been dipped, basically making this silver melt, as the 1885-O in this condition has no real numismatic value. We know some Proxibid coin auctions that would have called this deep-mirror prooflike and taken bidders for a numismatic ride. GWS knows coins and does a good job with descriptions.


One Big Booyah to Leonard Auction whose auctioneer John Leonard routinely assigns appropriate grades to hyped bottom-tier slabbers. We’re seeing these awful slabs increasingly on the portal because eBay’s quality control restricts them by not allowing sellers to refer to grades.


Booyah Weaver Auction! for lumping bottom-tier slabbed coins into one low-tier lot without bothering to photograph the inflated grades of each coin … or actually try to persuade bidders that the grades are legit, as some unscrupulous or numismatically ignorant Proxibid auctioneers do.


Boo! Deep Mirror? DMPL? This is flipping ridiculous! This unnamed auction house routinely believes or promotes the ridiculously hyped grades on flips of his consignors. This is basically silver melt. We continue to see Proxibid auctioneers unethically calling ordinary coins deep mirror prooflike (DMPL). For a coin to be deep mirror, it has to reflect type accurately 6 or more inches. To learn how to test for mirrors, read this article.


Boo! to this unnamed auction house for showing pictures of a box rather than the coin … after stating that the coin has golden highlights. We’re selling coins, not boxes. When will Proxibid coin auctioneers understand that photography is everything for the online buyer? Houses that invest in photography get higher bids. If you’re going to sell online, treat that audience with the same courtesies as your onsite bidders.


Booyah Key Date Coins! for noting that the capitol holder states 1951 but 1954 coins are inserted in the holder, a small but important notation in the description and one that shows auctioneer Eddie Caven cares about accuracy in his regular coin auctions.


Booyah Munda Auction! for noting possible light cleaning on this coin. Digital photography often does not pick up cleaning, especially when it is only suspected (usually a dipping rather than a scouring). That’s why we need the auctioneer to inspect the coin and depict it as accurately as possible. It’s yet another method to insure return bidders and, in the end, helps consignors once again because buyers trust the house.


One Big Booyah! to Larry Fuller of Silvertowne Auctions, one of the top graders on the portal, who knows how to list and grade raw California gold coins, one of the most counterfeited coins on the Proxibid portal. We recommend all auctioneers invest in CoinFacts to identify California gold. Quick way to identify authenticity: There should be no bear on the back of the coin where a denomination will be displayed 1/4, 1/2, 1 “dollar.” The word dollar is critical. Bears were a means to sell replicas without being charged as counterfeiters by the federal government. For more information about California fractional gold, click here.


Booyah Leonard Auction! for the second time in a week for clearly identifying fake California gold as replicas. These typically are made of brass, have a bear on the reverse, and are worth no more than a few dollars whereas real California gold can be worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars. John Leonard, like Larry Fuller of Silvertowne, takes time to write accurate lot descriptions so that buyers can bid with confidence.


Booyah Star Coin and Currency! for noting solder on the reverse of this otherwise desirable gold coin. Without such notice, which is also in the title as well as the lot description, a bidder is apt to hurriedly place a maximum price and then complain later upon receiving the coin about the solder on the reverse. Better to deal with this upfront. Honesty as always is the best policy on Proxibid!


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.

Photograph Luster for Higher Bids

This is yet another installment about photographing coins. In an earlier post, we noted that straight-on photography shows wear while slant photography obscures wear while exaggerating luster.

Increasingly, however, we are noticing straight-on shots that show wear but obscure luster. Without luster, bidders have to rely on auctioneers for accurate lot descriptions. That can lead to trouble, if the buyer disagrees with the auctioneer’s grade.

We know how difficult it is to capture the condition of a coin online, but that skill is worth the effort. Nothing is as important to the online audience as accurate pictures. Onsite bidders can discern the condition of a coin by viewing it up close whereas Internet bidders must rely on the photographic skill of the auctioneer, as well as his or her lot descriptions.

To capture the true condition of a coin, you need straight-on expandable photos in proper lighting and camera setting to capture luster, or lack thereof. This is especially important for dipped or doctored coins. Some camera settings adjust for lighting and in doing so, depict coins in false light, dimming luster so that all coins looked dipped when they actually aren’t.

Here’s a case in point. (Click picture to expand.) This 1885-O coin bore a description of choice mint state (MS63-64) proof-like. But the picture doesn’t bear that out. Especially with a proof-like coin, we expect to see the level of luster for a mirrored effect. This camera setting prevents that. You would have to know the auctioneer, and in this case, we do, to trust his numismatic judgment (and again, we do). But other bidders may not know that the auctioneer also is a coin dealer who grades coins accurately.

Here is a similar coin photographed correctly by Eddie Caven of Key Date Coins, another coin dealer who features some of the best numismatic photography on Proxibid. He uses a black black ground, too, but doesn’t shoot the coin from a vertical stand. He takes the extra step of putting the coin on a mount and fixing his camera for a horizontal straight-on shot in proper lighting, catching both the condition of the coin and its luster.

Both of these coins are choice BU. But we can only discern the luster of one, clearly seeing that this is not dipped but true brilliance. Caven’s photo is so clear that he doesn’t need to add a lot description. The picture speaks for itself.

That’s the goal. There are other auctions that take care to shoot photography so that it accurately reflects the true condition of a coin. Check out for comparison the top-photographing houses of Western Auction, Capitol Coin Auctions, and Matthew Bullock Auctioneers.


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.

Don’t Say “DMPL” Unless You Mean It

Proxiblog has written about how to identify and photograph deep mirror proof-like coins, mostly Morgan dollars. Click here for an example. Or click here for an article about that. Because DMPL coins command such a large premium, we’re seeing that designation used in more Proxibid auctions. Problem is, the coins range from merely proof-like to just plain ordinary.

For the record, we have won 39 coins in the past year described as deep mirror proof-like, or DMPL. Only 9 earned that distinction when sent to top grading company PCGS, or a failure rate of more than 75%. Of the 30 that didn’t earn DMPL, 12 were prooflike, 15 grade-worthy and 3 altered or cleaned.

For a Morgan dollar to be DMPL, it must reflect readable type at a distance of 6-8 inches. Both sides of the coin must do that. While devices do not have to frosted, they almost always are, because DMPLs are associated with first strikes from a new die. On Morgan dollars, a DMPL has a watery surface. You can literally shave by it as if it were a mirror. When you see a high mint state example, you won’t forget it.

Of Proxibid auctioneers, the ones who have accurately designated DMPLs in the past year when their raw coins were sent to PCGS were Eddie Caven of Key Date Coins (2 out of 5 with 3 returned as proof-like), Dave Zwonitzer of Western Auction (3 out of 6 with 2 returned as proof-like and one mint state), Scott Strosnider of Scott Auctions (2 of 3 with 1 returned as proof-like) and Matthew Bullock of Matthew Bullock Auctioneers (2 out of 3 with 1 returned as proof-like).

Keep in mind that Proxiblog is bidding on these coins and not bidding on others described as DMPL, rejecting others with that designation because there was no chance of earning that distinction from PCGS. Even though we know our DMPLs, in more cases than not, we were wrong.

The ability to correctly identify a DMPL coin as judged by the most rigorous grading company, PCGS, is a true talent, so I have no problem with praising the auctioneers above. Moreover, they all use the term relatively sparingly, and when they are wrong, the coin is at least usually proof-like.

Here’s an example of a coin purchased from Matt Bullock that graded MS64 DMPL by PCGS.

Five other Proxibid auctioneers are batting zero, with one house claiming eight coins were DMPL in the past 12 months, only for us to see 5 returned by PCGS as proof-like and 3 mint state.

That just shows how difficult it is to designate a DMPL. However, to illustrate how frequent the DMPL designation has become on Proxibid, we won five coins in an auction described as such, for the sheer purpose of photographing them and documenting that they were just common Morgans with a cartwheel effect. Here’s a photo of the best coin (click to expand). Compare it to Matt Bullock’s above.

Several points here have to be made:

  • If you don’t know how to test for a DMPL, don’t use the designation. Do as Brad Lisembee of Capitol Auctions, John Leonard of Leonard Auction and Dave Weaver of Weaver Coin and Currency Auction do, using the word “DMPL” sparingly and preferring to call such coins Gem, Premium Quality, or High Mint State/Proof-like.
  • Don’t quote the DMPL PCGS value on any raw coin–or any coin not holdered by PCGS, for that matter–because such coins are truly rare, and chances are, yours isn’t when graded by the top slabbing company.
  • If your consignor says it’s a DMPL, quote the consignor (and if you know coins, correct him or her in that generous assessment).Larry Fuller of Silvertowne Auctions and Eddie Caven of Key Date Coins often make this distinction, earning bidder trust.
  • If you’re a bidder and want DMPLs, buy them from trusted auctioneers who know how to test for the grade and who use the term relatively sparingly in lot descriptions. Otherwise bid on DMPL coins in graded holders by reputable companies (ANACS, ICG, NGC, PCGS and, on occasion PCI and Numistrust Corporation).

Finally, all deep mirror coins aren’t beautiful. Because they have mirrored surfaces, they scratch easily and often, especially when they have been stored in certain coin albums with plastic separators. Sometimes it’s just better for auctioneer, consignor and buyer alike to treat all potential DMPLs as proof-like, which often are handsomer coins.


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

Boos & Booyahs: Best & Bad Auctioneer Lot Descriptions

It’s important to be in sync with the Proxibid technology to showcase your photos, hone your lot descriptions, and highlight your consignments for top bids on the leading portal! In the latest installment, Proxiblog laments and compliments best and bad auctioneer lot descriptions during the past week. We will name the best, but you will have to search Proxibid for the bad. (Click pictures to expand and view lot descriptions below.)

Booyah Silver Trades Auction! for a linked video to a charming scene of a young numismatist selling her collection. This shows real technological savvy, and the little girl sold her collection, to boot! Wonderful use of the Proxibid portal.


Booyah Bid-A-Lot Auction! for noting polished coins, which turn up frequently on Proxibid and which always need to be described because this is a form of coin altering. Moreover, some unethical consignors target auction houses for all their polished coins, especially when the auctioneer states “I AM NOT A COIN EXPERT.”


Booyah! Kaufman Auction for describing this coin as cleaned, even though the cleaning isn’t readily apparent from the photos. Shows auctioneer knows coins and respects bidders!


Boo! to this unnamed but knowledgeable auctioneer who doesn’t take the time to note that these are replicas recently banned from eBay. Perhaps he thinks anyone purchasing them should know that as these if real would cost a fortune. With stakes so low, just mention these are copies, OK?


Boo! to this otherwise fine auction house that claims in the description that an outlaw owned this coin. In this case, do not show us the money; show us the certificate of authenticity that an outlaw really owned the piece. Otherwise, keep mum.


Booyah! to Key Date Coins whose auctioneer Eddie Caven knows his VAMS and numismatic errors. Eddie calls ’em as he sees ’em–literally. Moreover, he keeps on improving with each auction. His pictures are great, and he ships inexpensively and quickly.


Boo! to this unnamed auction house that claims it doesn’t know coins and then only shows one side of the coin as if bidders are to make a determination on this basis alone. For all we know, this could be a Carson City dollar, but we would have to see the reverse to make that call.


Booyah Silvertowne Auction! for describing the damage to this coin in addition to advising bidders what top dollar would be if they still desired the lot. This is yet another reason why so many bidders trust Larry Fuller’s descriptions. Good work!


Booyah Rick’s Relics! for using a stock photo of coins and being sure to emphasize that in the lot description, a practice accepted in numismatics as long as the mention of “stock” photo and description of condition are accurate, and we believe these to be.


Booyah Weaver Coin Auction! for noting that the coin is altered (whizzed) and then providing a large format photograph so that bidders can see for themselves. As this is a key date coin, bidders were sure to place high offers for this coin. This mitigates disappointment later and is yet another indication of why this house as been in our top three best companies most of last year and overall winner for best house in our awards.


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.

On the Block: Key Date Coin Auctions

I’m Eddie Caven with Key Date Coin Auctions. I have a few things to say about coin auctions and hope it benefits both auctioneers and bidders.

Customer service is a top priority for auctioneers. Without customers, there would be no auctions (and hence, no service).

In response to Proxiblog, Key Date Coin Auctions lowered its buyer’s premiums to 15%. For starters, the difference between a 15% and 18% premium is not that great. As pointed out in this blog, if you attract more bidders you will see more competition. Lower buyer premiums and starting bids are ways to spark a competitive auction.

Part of that competitive atmosphere comes from auctioneers themselves. They should engage bidders onsite or online, in person or with audiovisuals, so that buyers are part of the auction experience. They should feel that sense of excitement, especially with a winning bid, knowing they came out on top. Check out Proxiblog’s “How Competitive are Your Auctions?” This is very informative.

As for consignments, I had a gentleman email me recently stating that he was considering Key Date Coin Auctions. He couldn’t find a consignment form on my website to see my charges.

I sent him the email response below.


    “Thank you for taking interest in Key Date Coin Auctions. I’m in the process of putting on a larger, higher-end coin auction in Oklahoma City. I charge between 5% and 10% for consignments. Everything depends on the items being auctioned and quality of those items. If I had more of an idea of what you wanted to auction, that would help. I don’t have to pay 20 employees like some other auction companies. I’m not out to make a killing off of other people’s items.

    Coins are the only thing I deal with as I am a coin collector myself. Every consignment is different. I do a lot of consignments on a hand shake. As an example, if you had 20 proof sets, and they sold for 5 dollars each, it would usually take 48 hours for bidders’ funds to clear my bank … at which time I would send you a check. If you had $5,000 dollars worth of items that sold in 10 lots, I would charge 5% or $250.

    I am easy to get along with. This is what I do to enjoy life. I could have my attorneys draw up contracts but that would make this too much like a job. … I like what I do, and if you would like me to list some of your coins, I think we can come to an agreement and a happy outcome for both parties.”


The consignor wrote back: “Those are much better rates than I was quoted at other sites. I have many coins and would like to send you a smaller low-dollar pack for a future auction, at least for the ‘first’ time. What I will do is compile a detailed list and you can determine if you even have interest in handling same.”

I received that list today. His items may be on the block in a few weeks.

This is a typical business transaction. If this were an elderly couple having to sell their collection to make ends meet, well, that’s another issue. Auctioneers can strike deals that they feel are right in their hearts.

I guess that is why I find Proxiblog’s “Honor Roll Houses” to be a good thing. Auction companies on this list have the bidder’s best interest at heart.

Most auctioneers know how the bidding process works. Bidders usually are looking for a few coins to add to their collection. Sometimes bidders are looking for items to resell. They all have one thing in mind, and that’s to get a good deal. But many bidders don’t know what it takes to get an item ready on Proxibid. We have to log that coin in to keep track of it, take pictures (not always as easy as it seems), describe the item, lot number, lot title, lot description, quality, and opening bid. And then transfer all the information to Proxibid. Once we get to this point, we still have several more hours to go.

Now consider that 15% buyer’s premium, which includes a 3% credit card fee and 5% Proxibid fee. That leaves the auction house making 7% per item sold. You do the math. That’s not too much to ask for all the work.

Then again, hosting an auction is somewhat like gambling. If we have a coin we bought for $40 and it sells for $35, that’s the chance we take: $35 + 7% =$37.45. We just spent $2.55 for bidders to enjoy the show. If the coin sold for $40 + 7%, that’s $42.80. So if that’s the case, we hope the bidder enjoyed the show and received a nice coin in return.

In closing, auctioneers and bidders alike should subscribe to Proxiblog and read about all aspects of bidding, buying, selling, auctioning. Thank you, Proxiblog, for sharing your knowledge and advice!

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.