Service Terms for Absentee Bidding

This is the second in a series about auctioneers seeing or increasing bids. The first post discussed absentee vs. maximum bids. The last will question the need to see or raise bids if auctioneers know coins in the first place.

Nothing prevents Proxibid auction houses from specifying their own absentee bid service terms, apart from the portal, as long as those bids do not go through the portal and happen at an onsite session.

Onsite auctions that hold sessions independent of any portal often have well-developed absentee bidding terms. We especially like this one by “Another Scott Auction” of Garden City, Kansas, which states:

    If you wish to bid on an item on any of our auctions and can not attend the auction in person, simply email or call Scott Auction and let us know which item(s) you wish to leave an absentee bid on. Your bid will be treated as a Proxy bid, meaning that our staff will bid for you as if you were in the crowd bidding for yourself. The attending bidders will open the bid and our staff will bid for you in the same increments that the attending bidders are raising the bid in. If your absentee bid is the high bid at the fall of the hammer, you will pay what the last bid is on that item. We will not enter your bid as the opening bid and will not raise the bid to your high bid just because we know your high bid.

For the entire absentee bid policy of Another Scott Auction, click here.

We encourage all auction houses to develop absentee bid policies because they typically cause troublesome issues when two absentee bids are the same (first received usually is honored) or when the potential buyer is vague ($500++). Click here to view a well-developed absentee bid explanation by Amoskeag Auction Company of Manchester, N.H.

  • Click here to see a sample “Absentee Bidder Agreement” by United Auctioneers, which also conducts online sessions via Proxibid.
  • CLick here to see a sample of a typical online Absentee Bidding Agreement by Landry Auctions of Essex, Mass., which uses the AuctionZip portal.

As you can see, absentee bidding is much more complex than viewing a maximum bid via the Proxibid portal, as our first post in this series documented. This is why we disagree with the justification by some auctioneers that maximum-bid viewing is merely absentee bidding.

Add another component–the ability of the auctioneer to raise bids at his or her discretion–coupled with maximum-bid viewing. This is the worst of all online worlds that would quickly doom a company’s reputation in onsite auctions, if word got out. In fact, re-read the ethical practice of Another Scott Auction above concerning absentee bidding.

Now imagine a Proxibid Auction House that allows maximum-bid viewing and auctioneer bidding. Who would patronize a company with a service term like this below?

    If you cannot attend the live Proxibid session, just leave a maximum bid via the Proxibid portal. Our staff will monitor the technology and bid for you as if you were in the crowd bidding for yourself–but our intent will be to make the maximum on each lot. For example, if the auctioneer finds that your bid is insufficient, or if the auctioneer figures he can make a few extra dollars, we will jump to the highest possible bid that your maximum allows. You will win the lot only if someone else online or onsite fails to place an even higher bid. Also, when they are available, we will place consignors in the audience who will keep increasing bids. Again, the goal is to generate the maximum amount of dollars for each lot. In the past, we practiced this but now are forced to explain because Proxibid wants an even playing field for its online customers.

As you can see, such a service term is hardly appealing. That is why we are appealing to auction houses to end the spurious practices of allowing maximum-bid viewing and auctioneer/consignor bidding.

And in our next installment, we will explain why both are not needed if an auctioneer knows 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.

What’s the Difference?

This is the first in a series about auctioneers seeing or increasing bids. A second post will discuss absentee vs. maximum bids in service terms. The last questions the need to see or raise bids if auctioneers know coins in the first place.

A few Proxibid auctioneers have communicated to us that viewing maximum bids is the same thing as accepting absentee bids. It is decidedly not.

An absentee bid is conveyed via email, text or telephone (and, in some cases, through private online registration of the auction company). A maximum bid is conveyed via the portal.

There are typically five ways to place a bid at an auction:

  1. In person, attending the auction onsite.
  2. Via a portal, leaving a maximum bid.
  3. Via the auction company, using an online form that bypasses Proxibid.
  4. Via written absentee bid, sent, emailed, texted or faxed to the auction company.
  5. Via telephone bid, through a company employee.

An absentee bid is an offer independent of any opening bid or reserve. In other words, if an auction house opens with high bids but then sells during the auction at any winning level, an absentee bidder can secure the coin below the opening high reserve, knowing he will not be present during the live session onsite or via Internet. In the past, Proxiblog has sent opening bids via email to auction houses and won coins below opening levels.

Unlike an absentee bid, however, the Proxibid portal will not accept bids lower than the reserve level set by the auctioneer. For example, if a house sets an opening bid of $400 on an 1882-CC GSA Morgan dollar, and we want to pay no higher than $300, Proxibid technology will not allow that. But an email to the auctioneer in the form of an absentee bid of $300 just might, if the highest bid in the room is only $250 or $275. (More on that practice in our second post later in the week.)

Portals dislike the practice of absentee bidding because auctioneers can claim that the sale happened “onsite,” avoiding fees. This is strictly forbidden by eBay for that reason. EBay allows buyers to obtain a seller’s contact information “if they bid on or buy one of the seller’s items. Sellers can only obtain the contact information of bidders or buyers on their listings.”

Conversely, Proxibid receives a fee when a coin sells via a maximum bid, and the technology raises those bids by set increments. Many buyers object to auctioneers seeing maximum bids because the temptation to increase the bid to the max exists with nothing but the auctioneer’s word that he or she won’t. Then doubt sets in. Often, a coin will sell at a maximum bid legitimately; however, when the maximum is reached, the buyer has a lingering suspicion that the house deceived him or her by jumping to the maximum without doing so by increments.

Proxiblog does not bid with confidence at any auction seeing maximum bids, even if that house is listed as a top one on our blog. We have tested houses, as this post notes. Rather, we will bid Grey Sheet (or wholesale) and take pains not to bid higher even if a competitor has the top bid (and we know all our competitors, despite Proxibid’s trying to hide those by printing only the first and last letter of the user name).

Seeing maximum bids just plain hinders competition.

In our second post, we will explore service terms of houses allowing absentee bids while not allowing maximum bid viewing. In our third post, we will provide ways for auctioneers to eliminate maximum- and consignor-bidding and challenge them to try our methods, comparing results.


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’s Maximum Bid Issue

Of all the terms of service Proxiblog monitors, including those lacking APN clearance or padding shipping costs, the one that concerns us most involves a Proxibid practice of sharing maximum bids when a lot comes on the block. As a matter of quality control, it’s high time Proxibid stopped the practice, and we explain why.

Proxiblog is in the process of bidding on fewer and fewer Proxibid auctions, and advising other bidders in our numismatic circles to do the same, because of issues we regularly bring to light (i.e. lack of APN clearance, poor photography, retail or higher opening bids, excessive buyer’s fees and pricey shipping). Now we’re seeing an ominous term of service that reads something like this: “The auctioneer will open bidding at any level and may set bidding increments as he/she deems necessary.”

Now before auctioneers reading that text react defensively, step back a second and imagine yourself at a live onsite auction in the year 2025. A futuristic technology company has sold you a device that can read bidders’ brain waves, decoding just how much each person in the room is willing to spend on a lot. Numbers flash on the digital handheld screen with a person’s face appearing on the monitor. You see the bidder in the crowd and know just how much he is willing to spend on a 1894 Morgan dollar: $1300.

You open the bid at $1300. Reluctantly, that targeted bidder raises his hand.

SOLD!

The futuristic device has only one drawback: It flashes data of the unlucky bidder only when the lot appears on the block.

If you’re an auctioneer on Proxibid, the future is now because Proxibid posts the maximum bid when a lot comes on the block, meaning the auctioneer with a specific term of service can immediately jump to the maximum rather than proceeding by bid increments as in a typical auction.

We bring this to the attention of auctioneers because, indeed, there is a difference between an online and onsite auction. Technology surveils as much as it sells. And if Proxibid truly wants an even playing field, it needs to stop this practice. Here’s why:

Proxibid has done much by way of bidder security even to the extent of no longer showing who won what coin as soon as a lot sells. The portal also doesn’t share credit card data with auctioneers to protect the bidder. We applaud that but question why it still allows this unseemly practice that gives the auctioneer every advantage in addition to excessive terms of service that everyone needs to read before bidding a dime.

It is time for the online portal to end the practice of sharing maximum bids. In the meantime, Proxiblog will monitor our maximum and winning bids and cease doing business with those houses that sell (purportedly coincidentally) only at our maximum bids. We advise other bidders to do the same.

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.