Capitol Auction heads list of top-ranked houses

Capitol Coin Auction doesn’t hold monthly auctions, but when it does–about 4-6 per year–wow, Auctioneer Brad Lisembee creates an event. His Nov. 9 Proxibid auction is one of them, replete with top holdered and raw coins in nearly all series and denominations. Brad also charges a low buyer’s fee and provides quick, inexpensive shipping, with lots showcased by excellent numismatic photography and grading. No new houses were added to our rankings this month, as so many of our favorites are improving regularly, topping newcomers to the portal. As we always state, however, our top houses are just a matter of choice. (Your experience may differ from ours.)

Leonard Auction, SilverTowne Auction, Western and Southwest Bullion continue to set the pace with excellent consignments and concise, numismatic grading. Other fine houses–Decatur, Weaver, Meares, Gary Ryther, et. al., continue to appeal with good photography, neat consignments, accurate descriptions and fine customer service. Back to the Past Collectibles is in our top 10 because of continuing improvement. RitMar Exchange is moving up, too, focusing on improved photography and mastering the basics with low buyer’s fee and great customer service.

This is the first time we have scored 24.5 points to the top 15 houses. Essentially, there is little difference between them except for the particular consignment on a given week.

This is a good sign because Proxibid has inaugurated a seller feedback feature. Watch for a post on that latter in the week.

As for Proxiblog, we continue to grow with more than 42,500 viewers since our inception in May 2011. In the past 10 months we have logged more than 17,000 views with most coming from the United States, Canada, Britain, Russia and India.


The most popular post continues to be “California Gold: Real, Replica and Fake.” Typically we identify a handful of replica and counterfeit lots, claiming to the real fractional gold; we report them via Proxibid’s “Report this Item” link. Sadly, we report, we see little action typically by seller or Proxibid.

Hats off to Meares Auction, which had two such replicas on consignment, asked us to evaluate them, and then changed the lot description. That’s why Darron Meares is a leader in this business.

We continue to provide best practices and numismatic knowledge to our viewers for free. Fortunately, we have several of our top houses donating funds to our scholarship account. GreatCollections, operated by numismatist Ian Russell, sponsored an entire month. We are extremely grateful.

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.

Our top post, accessed more than 50 times per week

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.

Nearly 20,000 Views, New Rankings!

Proxiblog’s audience keeps growing with close to 20,000 views worldwide in the past year, as bidders register to read about top coin auction houses. Speaking of which, after points were tallied for consignments, photography, lot descriptions, buyers’ fees, customer service, shipping and numismatic knowledge, we were as surprised as you might be in discovering 5 houses tied for highest scores. Listed alphabetically, they are Capitol Coin Auction, Key Date Coins, Silvertowne Auctions, Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction, and Western Auction.

Note: Regular postings to begin on Sunday, Aug. 5.

Beginning next week, we will do spotlight features on each of these houses, noting what makes them so special–including what practices they follow–so that bidders and auctioneers can benefit from our reviews.

Making her debut in our top rankings is Debra Johnson of Auctions Unlimited, which has one of the lowest buyer’s fees on Proxibid at 10% and which also dropped transparency notices. Midwest Coins also did likewise, and we’re happy to include this fine Iowa house in our rankings. Braden Auction Service also enters our top houses in the sidebar to the right.

While the competition in the Coins and Currency page on Proxibid continued to grow, Proxiblog’s audience also grew in the same five-month time period. Our audience is closing in on 20,000 views. The United States, by far, provided most of that audience; however, Proxiblog’s popularity is growing in Canada, Philippines, India, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The most accessed articles were “California Gold, real, replica and fake” and “Beware Dipped Coins.”

The most popular pages were “Boos and Booyahs!” and “Honor Roll.”

In the past five months we also had 18 total sponsors, with several sponsoring Proxiblog for several weeks and donating funds to our scholarship account. Sponsors include:

We thank these auction companies and numismatic publications for sponsoring Proxiblog’s scholarship fund to help ease student debt and create the next generation of auction-house bidders! If you would like to sponsor a week’s worth of Proxiblog, email

More Viewers, New Rankings

As Proxiblog grew yet again to 18,000+ views since inception, and more than 4,000 in the past three months, competition in the Coin and Currency page of Proxibid has heated up significantly with top houses improving photography, lowering buyer’s fees and securing top consignments.

As far as audience goes, most views came from the United States followed by Canada, India, United Kingdom and the Philippines, with viewers from 60 other countries logging in at one time or another in the second quarter of 2012.

The five-part series on Proxibid vs. eBay by far was the most viewed item on the site followed by our Articles and Boos and Booyahs pages.

Moreover, several auction companies have donated $1000 for scholarships for the next generation of bidders, including Auctions Unlimited, ClickCoins, Coin Update, Engstrom Auction, GreatCollections, Kaufman Realty and Auctions, James Peterson Company, Key Date Coins, Krause Auctioneering, Leonard Auction, Matthew Bullock Auctioneers, Scott Auctions, Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction, and Western Auction.

Those and other houses are featured on our popular “On the Block” page.

Several of those houses also vied for top spots on our rankings. We judge companies by sharp and expandable photos, quick and inexpensive shipping, accurate lot descriptions, reasonable buyers’ fees, customer service and quality consignments.

Competition has never been keener. Silvertowne Auctions, which recently instituted timed auctions to accompany its several live sessions per month, held on to first-place status, but just barely, with five other auction houses only one point behind, essentially tied in second-place.

Rising toward the top was Southwest Bullion with its zero percent buyers’ fee, good photos, flat-rate quick shipping and numismatically savvy lot descriptions.

Consistently excellent sessions with choice consignments were held by innovative houses Weaver, Western and Key Date Coins. New to the top 10 is Capitol Coin Auctions, which lowered buyers’ fees and features some of the top consignments on the portal with numismatic lot descriptions, superior photography (among the best on the portal) and excellent service.

Leonard Auction shares many of the same attributes as Capitol. Six of the top 10 companies are run by auctioneers, and four by coin dealers.

Although several new houses are coming online in the Coins and Currency pages, including ones with 10% or lower buyers’ fees and flat-rate shipping, the rest of our top 20 have been competing now for months, with Honor Roll standards and cherry consignments. Fox Valley Coins makes its first appearance on our top rankings list.

Finally, you’ll note on top of the sidebar rankings an important observation concerning our criteria. Auction houses in our top 20 do not see maximum bids or allow ghost-bidding by auctioneers or employees. All rankings are based on Proxiblog buying experience to establish informed opinion. While other bidders’ experience may differ from ours or our mini-reviews, and while all such reviews are in part subjective, we wanted our bidders to know that we are ranking companies based on actual buying 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.

Dealers Flooding Proxibid with Problem Coins

Last week we spoke or corresponded with four trusted Proxibid auctioneers who have sold us problem coins in the past, and we were stunned to learn that all of them either relied on coin dealers for their consignments or actively sought their coins so that they would have enough lots for regular auctions.

It’s time to set the record straight on coin dealers as consignors.

Ask yourself: Why, for Pete sake, would a coin dealer ever consign to an auctioneer prime, choice or rare coins when he has dozens of dealer and customer outlets to sell his wares? Answer: Most likely, he’s selling you junk and problem coins, ones that have been dipped or doctored or otherwise rendered upgradeable if sent to NGC or PCGS. The cleverer dealers will consign a prime coin or two to cover their tracks.

If you’re accepting coin consignments from out-of-town dealers, you’re probably a target, with the dealer unloading his junk and problem coins under the theory that you or your bidders will not be numismatically savvy enough–or your photos will not be good enough–to capture the flaws.

Many dealers are trustworthy. Some, like Silvertowne, Capitol Coin Auctions or Fox Valley, are dealers themselves and follow Professional Numismatic Guild practices of describing problem coins accurately. Others, like Matthew Bullock Auctioneers and John Leonard Auctions, sell estate coins or have consignment policies that protect the reputation of their houses.

Proxiblog is in the process of buying fewer coins from a wide range of Proxibid auctions because of the flood of bad coins. In the past, auctioneers would schedule Proxibid sessions when they received coins in an estate auction or actually purchased the coins themselves. Because they want to schedule regular coin auctions, they are actively accepting or even requesting coin dealer consignments.

That’s an open invitation to out-of-town dealers to send you their problem coins.

Worse, many auction houses lack the photo equipment to capture the detail or luster of a coin. So their photographs cannot discern the doctoring or dipping. A camera has to be able to pick up luster and detail. Here’s an example of one that does just that by auctioneer Matthew Bullock.

Rather than consign our problem coins, purchased from Proxibid–as many as 30 per month–we take them to Iowa coin dealers and suffer 60-80% losses. That happened again just last week. We asked the dealer what he was going to do with the coins, and he said, “We put them into auction.” He named the auction. It sells on Proxibid.

Eventually, this is going to taint Proxibid’s reputation, especially when one of its biggest fans (Proxiblog) is buying less and questioning more on what is being sold on the portal.

If you are going to continue auctioning coins by dealers, remember that you set the rules. Not them. Never agree to “grey sheet” reserves unless the coin is slabbed by NGC, PCGS, ANACS, ICG or PCI or is in a GSA holder (for Morgan dollars).

If you are going to accept consignments from out-of-town dealers, get a local numismatist to go over the lots with you and describe the condition accurately. Local dealers have to live with you. Out-of-town dealers just find somewhere else to consign.

Invest in a light box and better camera. For experienced bidders, digital photography is the only recourse to sniff out dipped and doctored coins. This photo box is $72. You can use these lights for coins, jewelry and other smalls. Cost is only $94.

Before accepting a consignment from any dealer, ask him point blank if he is giving you dipped or problem coins. Share this post with them, and our stern warning about PNG ethics. Proxiblog is dedicated to serving the hobby. That’s our motive. What is the dealer’s motive?

Finally, YOU are in charge. YOU call the auctions. YOU call the shots.

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

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.

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.