New Rankings, Improved Service

Ranking our Honor Roll auction houses is becoming increasingly difficult because each house seems to be making improvements in a competitive spirit that speaks well of the auction business.

We read terms of service. We evaluate consignmnents, lot descriptions, shipping and customer service. Our top houses are as professional and numismatically savvy as they come anywhere on the portal or online, for that matter.

We’re seeing top-notch email advertisements. We’re emailing regularly with auctioneers who answer questions about coins. We’re seeing a lot more “Booyahs!” than “Boos” in our regular installment of that popular feature.

This is credit to Proxibid’s continual emphasis on improvement (and a little nudge now and then from Proxiblog).

Holding steady in our rankings is Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction in our No. 1 slot for the past several months. Dave and Cheryl Weaver continue to attract top consignments and innovate, whether it is with a 10% buyer’s fee, expert photography, customer service, quick shipping or just plain numismatic prowess.

Western and Silvertrades, consistent top houses, continue to hold upper slots.

Breaking into the top 5 are Matthew Bullock Auctioneers and Gaston and Sheehan Auctioneers.

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers is the best timed coin auction on Proxibid. Auctioneer Matt always seems to find excellent consignments. His photography is sharp, and he goes out of his way to make things right for his clients with fine customer service.

Gaston and Sheehan Auctioneers, a Texas firm, does US Marshall Service auctions, so you have to read the terms of service carefully. This is one of the top auction houses in the country. You’ll be bidding against major dealers, whales, and well-off hobbyists. But if you can weather the competition, and fill out the advance and after sales forms (including a $1000 pre-bid cashier’s check), you might get a wonderful deal.

Thank you again to our Honor Roll auctioneers who are confident in competition, conscientious about fees, continue to attract top consignments, and work proactively with clients and sellers alike.

How to photograph DMPLs

“DMPL” is an abbreviation of the term “deep mirror prooflike,” one of the most desirably coins, especially in silver dollars, with frosted devices and real-mirror surfaces. Photographing them correctly is essential if you wish to bring top dollar to your consignor.

Click the above picture from Matthew Bullock Auctioneers, one of our top houses, to see how to handle with cotton gloves and photograph the mirror surfaces of a Morgan dollar, especially desirably in mint state.

Several houses continue taking angled pictures of coins rather than straight-on ones that show defects or mirrors. The coin below may or may not be deep mirror prooflike. The photographs make it look washed out so that little detail can be seen. As such, we have to take the auctioneer’s word that this is a DMPL. In this case, we know and admire the auctioneer who understands coins. But he can sell more at higher profit with a little attention to photography.

Here is an example of the wrong way to photograph DMPLs.

The challenge for online auctioneers is to prove the lot description to win the trust of online bidders.

Silver Trades, like Matthew Bullock Auctioneers, takes several pictures to document DMPL. Devices should be frosted so that the black-mirrored fields stand out.

Click and expand this example from Silver Trades to see how it’s done.

After your clear, sharp and expandable straight-on shots, hold the surface of the coin (with gloves) or put the coin on a small stand at a slant against text of your business card (for added advertising). The reflection should be “deep”–at least four inches of readable depth from the text, and preferably six inches.

We still are confused as to why auctioneers take photographic shortcuts and then pay (and sometimes complain about) Proxibid fees. The portal is giving you the opportunity to reach a wider Internet coin-buying audience. You can quadruple your hammer price and spark bidding wars just by showing (and not necessarily knowing) that an uncirculated coin is deep mirror.

Try it, and share the results in an “On the Block” on 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.

Most Improved Auction Houses

Competition inspires rather than worries the best auctioneers, and while dozens of Proxiblog houses have improved substantially in the past several months, three stand out.

A mere six months ago Key Date Coins was charging 18% buyer’s fee and making numismatic errors–sometimes to its own detriment. Its pictures didn’t expand and opening bids were often over retail. It took constructive criticism directly from Proxiblog. It has clear, expandable pictures; a 15% buyer’s fee; precise numismatic lot descriptions (including VAMS); and ships super-fast and inexpensively. Moreover, its terms of service rank among the fairest on the portal.

Last year Matthew Bullock Auctioneers also had an 18% buyer’s fee, substandard photography and occasional imprecise lot descriptions. Now its photography is among the best on Proxibid, numismatic descriptions are accurate, buyer’s fee is 15% and shipping quick and reasonable. Proxiblog doesn’t rank the best timed auctions, but this one is heads and tails better than any competitor on the portal.

Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction was always a top numismatic auction house with an experienced numismatist in Dave Weaver, a confident entrepreneur in Cheryl Weaver, and a reputation for customer service. It not only took Proxiblog advice about business–from lot descriptions to sharp photography; it took all those a step further to rise as No. 1 in our rankings over “super-houses” Silvertowne and Western Auction considered among the best numismatic sellers in the business.

If you’re an auctioneer looking to become more competitive on the portal, visit our “Articles” pages and take tips from there as these auctioneers did to attract better consignments and more bidders for their wares.

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.

Constructive and Instructive Criticism

What’s the difference between constructive and instructive criticism of Proxibid? The former concerns issues Proxibid may be aware of and has not yet addressed or may not address. The latter concerns issues the portal may not be fully aware of. We’ll discuss both below.

In addition to touting Proxibid as a preferred numismatic portal, Proxiblog also is a major buyer and reseller of coins, as are several of the big spenders whose names most auctioneers recognize as we bid on just about every rare coin or precious metal. Proxiblog has had on occasion more than 1000 individual bids across several auction houses. We retract, too, when the price of precious metals drops or when we reach our buying quotas or when we find better deals on the same coins from trusted auctioneers (more on those later).

Proxibid sent out a message to us recently warning us about bid retractions with possible punishment being banned from the site. We’ve had these discussions with Proxibid before, noting that retractions serve their purpose, especially when auction houses lack adequate photography or APN clearance or sell doctored coins or try to earn retail prices with high opening bids and steep reserves.

Proxibid’s message concerning bid retractions is to make the buying experience more palatable for the average customer. We get that. Our message is that it keeps auctioneers on their numismatic toes. We can agree to disagree about that, but Proxiblog now must change its buying habits after a week in which we lost thousands of dollars because we patronized houses that hyped the condition of coins, that lack APN clearance, and that provide inadequate photos of lots.

Proxibid needs to do the following if it is serious about a more palatable buying experience:

  1. Note specifically that an auction house lacks APN clearance. Buyers of coins cannot afford to risk security by giving out credit card numbers. Nor can we wait weeks to send in checks or take calls from auction houses at work, home and school. We need badges, banners and more to identify houses with or without APN clearance so that bidders can make the choice to patronize them or not.
  2. Require clear photos of obverse and reverse of coins that expand more than 200% from the lot picture (not the thumbnail).
  3. Charge auctioneers who routinely abuse the Proxibid system by setting high opening bids with steep buying fees on top of that. That indicates the auction house cannot compete in the numismatic world, is desperate or just plain greedy. It kills the auction experience and abuses the portal because the auctioneer uses Proxibid resources as a showcase for an online coin shop. Go to eBay if that’s your goal.
  4. Be more transparent about how Proxibid works to resolve bidder complaints. We’re making ours public. We know a lot more about auctioneer abuses than we typically state in our regular “Boos and Booyah” features. Or even here.

We can add to this list, but we’ll stop here for the moment and explain how we plan to operate in the future to lessen bid retractions and patronize only those houses we trust.

  • We no longer will be buying from houses with high opening bids or reserves. We’ve even seen auctioneers open with high bids only to retract those offers because they wanted more money for the coins. This is ridiculous. These houses should be booted off the portal.
  • We no longer will buy from auction houses that lack adequate, sharp, clear and expandable photography, even if the buyer’s fee is 15% or lower.
  • We no longer will patronize auction houses that hype coins or lack numismatic knowledge. Stop the exaggeration and get some education if you sell coins regularly on the portal. Your notices about all sales being final no matter what you state about the coins, from grade to potential investment, is, frankly, an abuse and a lie.
  • From the majority of houses with 15% or lower buying fees, we will only purchase slabbed coins by PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG. Unlike eBay, Proxibid does not require auctioneers to identify self-slabbers posing as grading companies who place inferior coins with houses that lack (or turn a blind eye to) this potentially fraudulent practice.
  • We no longer will patronize any house lacking APN clearance. Here’s the problem with Proxibid not identifying these houses prominently on the portal. If burned once by this practice, we will not buy from that auctioneer again, even though the house may change its policy and get such clearance without our knowing it.
  • Whenever we question a house’s standards and practices, we will discontinue our patronage altogether.
  • We will continue to buy from auction houses with high numismatic standards. We cannot list all of the houses here, especially since a few do not specialize in coins or have yet to establish a track record selling on Proxibid. But here are a handful of our Proxibid favorites: Weaver Signature Coin Auction, Silvertowne Auctions, Western Auction, Matthew Bullock Auctioneers, Scott Auctions, and Leonard Auctions.
  • We will buy fewer coins on Proxibid until these standards are met and more coins from Teletrade’s Tuesday auctions which in our view qualify as the best in the business. At least we know what we are buying there–slabbed coins from the top companies–and the buying fee is 0%.

Over the past few months Proxiblog feels that is has raised numismatic standards on Proxibid. We know some of our suggestions have been taken seriously by the company, and we applaud its customer service and sales team for the excellent work that both do to promote best practices and high standards. One of the reasons we patronized Proxibid so much is the customer service and the ability to retract coins. But if Proxiblog keeps losing thousands of dollars, especially given our numismatic knowledge, we can only wonder how much other bidders are losing–knowingly or unknowingly–by buying coins on the portal from the typical auction house.

We hope that the above is constructive as well as instructive, not only to Proxibid but also to the 4500 viewers of this blog.

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

When items warrant, Proxiblog will lament and compliment best and bad auctioneer lot descriptions in this light-hearted feature meant to instruct. We will name the best, but you will have to search Proxibid for the bad. (Click pictures to expand and view lot descriptions)

In the past month we continue to see auctions with high opening bids pass item after item. In one case, only about 40 out of 460 coins sold. We wrote about this in an earlier post, “High Reserves Bring Low Hammers,” noting that Proxibid only gets a small fee when an item sells but gets nothing at all when a lot passes. This trend of setting high opening bids not only undermines the auction experience but also, in our independent view, qualifies as an abuse of the Proxibid system.

Without naming the auction companies, here are three photos from three houses whose auctions had an extraordinarily high volume of passed coins–in one instance, setting a high reserve and then inexplicably passing on the item:

  • . The house set high opening bids on slabbed coins, as in this case of an 1888-O Morgan variety, only to pass on items, an issue that Proxibid might look into as it undermines the auction experience.

  • This auction advertised “LOW” starting bids. They were high, as passed items attest, usually about 13% under retail when buyer’s fee and shipping were added. This coin has a retail value of $165. Assuming the opening bid won the item, the price plus shipping comes out to about $158. Better to advertise these as “wholesale” rather than “LOW” opening bids. Better to have no reserves at all. (Footnote: In a new auction, this house did not post opening bids at all–booyah!)

  • Opening bids in this auction were so high that only about 40 of 450 lots sold. That seems unreasonable when 18% buyer’s fee is added, plus shipping. Thankfully, Proxibidders are not patronizing these auctions to the extent that they are no-reserve sessions where bidding wars often underwrite the occasional bargain.

  • How fine to see a gloved hand holding a Morgan dollar correctly. You’ll see auctioneers holding coins to the camera in several Proxibid auctions. This is the first to show how to handle coins correctly, holding a Morgan dollar by the rim. Booyah to Matthew Bullock Auctioneers.

  • Another booyah to Bullock Auctioneers for correctly identifying artificial color! Every week in online auctions doctored coins such as this taint the auction block. If you need to bone up on artificial color, click here.

  • This house doesn’t complete the lot description sufficiently and provides too small a picture to make out the coin. If you’re selling on Proxibid, you need to master the basics for the online audience so that they can see and identify what they are buying!

  • Booyah to Silver Trades auction for this nicely depicted and described lot. Silver Trades takes great care in describing the numismatic components of each coin. The house also publishes several photos of the same lot so that bidders can view the coins from different angles.

  • We’ve written before about “Sticker Shock“–obscuring vital parts of a coin with lot number stickers and the like. Boo! In this case, the auctioneer hides the arrow feathers of an 1879-S Morgan, which could have the parallel feathers of the 1878 reverse, elevating the coin’s worth substantially.

  • Booyah to Jewelry Exchange for correctly identifying a stock photo, notifying buyers that the photo is “representational” of the lot and does not portray the actual item for sale.

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.

Proxiblog Keeps Growing: Updated Rankings and More!

In three months Proxiblog has established a growing audience with more than 3000 unique viewers and steady subscriptions, showcasing increasing numismatic interest in the Internet portal Proxibid.

When Proxiblog began posting in May, only 11 auctions met our standards with a mere 5 of those exceeding them–a buyer’s fee of 15% or less, clear and expandable pictures of obverse and reverse, and reasonable shipping fees with items sent within 7-10 days. Now 48 auction houses meet our standards with more than a dozen of those exceeding them, often crediting this site for practices that spur competition.

The latest to do so was Matthew Bullock Auctioneers, which has some of the best coin photography on Proxibid–in addition to wonderful consignments. Bullock, a numismatist, lowered his buyer’s fee to 15% with APN clearance and 12.5% with mailed checks. He also is offering 0% fees on quality consignments.

The combination of all of that elevated Matthew Bullock Auctioneers to the No. 3 slot in our rankings (to the right).

We have posted more than 45 articles, features, news items and columns illustrated by more than 100 photographs. Our most popular pages remain the Honor Roll, rankings of various houses and their practices; On the Block, posts by auctioneers themselves; and Articles, covering news and practices associated with the Internet coin auction business.

For those new to the site, we are independent from but supportive of Proxibid, one of the largest online auction portals in the country, known for excellent customer service and proactive security measures. We also hope to reach auctioneers doing business on iCollector and AuctionZip, other online portals selling coins.

Best Coin Photos on Proxibid

These six auction houses provide needle-sharp straight-on coin photos on Proxibid, surpassing standards so that numismatists can check for varieties and condition.

Proxiblog spent part of this week analyzing photography on all coin-selling sites on Proxibid. The test was a comparison of breast feathers on an uncirculated Morgan dollar, which requires our Honor Roll standards of clear, expandable obverse and reverse photos. However, an added analysis to test the photography was the clarity and size of the expanded photograph and whether the viewer would be able to discern a variety such as an 1880-CC VAM-4 Reverse of 78 Overdate, required by some set registries.

These six were chosen because of the needle-sharp images and more than 200% expansion of those images allowing fine details to be seen, such as overdates, hairlines, rubs, cleanings, doctoring, artificial coloring and so much more:

    Matthew Bullock Auctioneers. (Click to expand the Bullock photography of the Morgan reverse to the left.)

    Capitol Auction. (Click to expand the Capitol Auction photography of the Morgan reverse to the right.)

  • Chaparral Coin Auction. (Click to expand the Chaparral photography of the Morgan reverse to the left.)
  • Dixon’s Auction. (Click to expand the Dixon photography of the Morgan reverse to the right.)
  • Leonard Auction. (Click to expand the Leonard photography of the Morgan reverse to the left.)
  • Western Auction. (Click to expand the Western Auction photography of the Morgan reverse to the right.)

CONGRATULATIONS to these six auction houses!

Postscript: Several auction houses came close to top photography standards. Others had acceptable photography. Honorable mentions go to Culpeper Auction, Engstrom Auctions, Furlo Auctions, Gold Crown Auction, Hall’s Auction, Jackson’s Auction, James Peterson, Key Date Coins, Linkous Auctioneers, Jewelry Exchange, Kreuger Auctions, Meares Auction, Midwest Coins, Scott Auctions, Silver Trades Auction, and Weaver Coin and Signature Auctions.

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.

Turn Bad Practices to Best

Proxiblog realizes that some auctioneers may fail to adopt our best practices; however, some practices are just plain bad for bidder and business alike. Occasionally we’ll add to the list below. Feel free to email your own observations, and we’ll include them in the next installment.

  1. Hyped lot descriptions. One Proxibid coin seller continues to cite Red Book and PCGS retail prices for problem coins slabbed as “high mint state” (MS66) by unscrupulous sellers. Noted numismatist Susan Headley writes about this in “Graded Coin Value” Fraud at Online Auctions – Learn to Protect Yourself.” Every Proxibid auctioneer should be concerned about auctions like this in as much as sooner or later rules may be established that will affect everyone, even our honest top-rated sellers who not only cite coin values properly but also point out problems like cleaning or tooling.
  2. High buyers’ fees combined with near-retail opening bids. Some auctioneers believe an 18% buyer’s fee is fair. Well, that depends. One of Proxiblog’s favorite auctions, though not yet on “Honor Roll,” is Matthew Bullock Auctioneers. He charges an 18% buyer’s fee but evens the playing field in timed, no-reserve auctions. Several Proxibid auctions charge 18% but also list near-retail opening bids, either outright or by inflating the worth of their consignments. Matthew Bullock and other auctions turn a bad practice (high buyer’s fees) into a best practice by placing no reserves on top-quality consignments.
  3. Photographing only the obverse of coins. Nothing is more exasperating than auctioneers who cut corners by photographing only the “heads” side of coins. They are shortchanging themselves because the strongest buyers on Proxibid are numismatists looking to cherrypick coins. Proxiblog’s not asking auctioneers to become coin experts on varieties and mint errors. For example, an 1878 Morgan dollar comes in several varieties, all discernible on the reverse, with some worth hundreds more than others in mint state. Many 19th century California gold tokens are fake, neither gold nor 19th Century; but the only way to know that is by seeing the reverse. Typically, if there’s a bear with no denomination, the token is worth $5. If there is a denomination, it can be worth hundreds. The best online coin auctioneers realize this and invest heavily in accurate, expandable photos.
  4. Selling the same types of coins, auction after auction. Several Proxibid auctions must have consigned rolls of the same date silver dollars, junk silver and mint and proof sets. Such a consignment might be fine for an auction or two; without variety, however, you’ll lose return customers or only attract those who are accumulating silver. It’s better to postpone an auction until a better consignment is procured rather than selling the same type items in consecutive sessions.
  5. Not accepting returns from valued customers when problems arise. Yes, Proxibid terms of service allow auction houses to reject returns on coins. You can apply that rule uniformly as you see fit on good or bad bidders alike. However, some complaints are legitimate, ranging from hyped descriptions to altered or even counterfeit lots. Fail to accept a return from a return customer with a valid concern, and you risk losing him or her in the future.
  6. Not filling out lot descriptions and titles accurately. You can read about that in depth by clicking here. Email alerts to bidders are useless without titles of lots, with buyers informed that have been outbid on a “coin” or a “Morgan dollar.” That bidder is apt to ignore such a generic alert. However, he or she is apt to rebid if informed about a specific coin or date Morgan dollar. That only requires listing the title of a lot.
  7. Not using Proxibid audio. Again, you can read about the consequences by clicking here. Online bidding requires technology. It’s a matter of fact and trust. Fail to invest in audio, and you risk losing that trust, which is key in attracting return customers in an especially competitive auction category like coins and collectibles.

Each of the examples above contained a bad practice that easily is transformed into a best one. The best houses typically describe coins accurately (including lot titles), note any problems with items, offer a variety of lots, do not charge high buyer fees with higher opening bids, accept returns when legitimate complaints arise, and take advantage of Proxibid audio-visuals.

The business lesson here is simple: Each shortcut costs profit. Maximize your profits by turning bad practices to best.

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.