Timed Transparencies Troubling

While Proxibid has taken proactive steps to advance quality control, so that the portal retains its reputation for trust–a corporate brand–we still find some aspects of online auctions troubling, particularly transparency notices in timed auctions.

Viewers of Proxiblog understand our objections to maximum-bid viewing and ghost-bidding in online auctions. We reject justifications that these are absentee bids and believe that both activities undermine the age-old auctioneering maximum of “bidding with confidence.” See our three-part article about the topic by clicking here.

We bid with confidence in top coin auctions listed in the right-hand sidebar. If we want a $100-retail-value coin in a Weaver or Western auction, for instance, we may bid over retail at $110 because we need the lot for a collection or client. We know that Dave Weaver or David Zwonitzer, auctioneers of those houses, are going to approach our maximums by increments, and that frees us on two counts:

  1. We can bid similarly at retail for more desirable lots in an auction, knowing that only a few will reach or surpass our maximums.
  2. We have a chance to secure an attractive lot at wholesale (or under greysheet), which is, after all, the motivating reason that people attend auctions online or onsite, for that matter.

Maximuum-bid viewing and ghost bidding cause us to bid lower or not at all. This is why we recommend to bidders viewing Proxiblog to think twice about bidding in any auction that posts transparency notices. This is why we urge auctioneers to lose transparency notices and compete in the auctioneering tradition by advertising your lots and securing choice consignments. Anything else is an excuse if your aim is to engage Internet bidders.

However, a new wrinkle has occurred in our past arguments against maximum-bid viewing and ghost-bidding, and that is, posting of transparency notices in timed auctions. A timed auction, theoretically at least, is run by Proxibid technology with little an auctioneer can do other than set reserves and then sit back to see if they are reached.

Proxibid, in fact, has rules about timed auctions in its Unified User Agreement, including this clause:


    Once a timed Auction Event has started, Seller may not cancel, add, or remove any lots or modify the end time of the Auction Event unless Seller has obtained Proxibid’s prior written approval (which may be withheld in Proxibid’s sole discretion and may require an additional fee paid by Seller).

We are not accusing any auction house of ghost-bidding in a timed auction. We are advocating two actions, however:

  1. If you are an auctioneer posting transparencies in a timed auction, we encourage you to stop the practice, as it undermines bidding with confidence–essential in timed sessions. If you are not doing anything unethical, why keep the transparency?
  2. Proxibid should ban the use of maximum-bid and ghost-bidding in a timed auction, ensuring that the intent of its service terms as documented above are met and enhancing the company’s reputation for trust. Why allow it when it only opens an avenue for potential future unethical behavior?

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 rules for timed auctions

Proxibid sets new rules to discourage high opening bids and reserves, enhancing the bidding experience. We still have concerns about a few live auctions, but this is a step in the right direction.

New rules affect timed auctions, resulting in one of the two options outlined below.

  • Option #1 will be a flat rate of 2% of everything that sells or not. (This means 2% of the final or start bid or reserve, if the house has one.)
  • Option #2 will be $400 and 2% of what sells.

The rules are meant to encourage reasonable opening bids. With regard to coin auctions, they also will discourage the 25- to 50-item “junk auction” of inexpensive mint and proof sets, culls and slider lots.

Proxiblog has lingering concerns about live auctions with high opening bids and reserves. Of course, “live” is a relative term. Some auctioneers are seasoned pros calling sessions in large warehouses or spacious hotels; others use a microphone and computer in the den.

In one sense, that’s the beauty of an online auction. In another sense, it affords a very small number of auctioneers to abuse live sessions by listing for weeks on end lots with high reserves–so high, in fact, that two-thirds or more of lots do not sell.

This latest change in the Proxibid fee schedule, regarding timed auctions, is the most recent in a series designed to attract more bidders. It is working. We’re especially supportive of the transparency about auctioneers seeing maximum bids or allowing consignors to bid, as this post states.

The safer and fairer the auction environment, the more our top and Honor Roll houses will thrive. Integrity counts with online bidders who tend to be repeat customers of sessions with 15% or lower buyer’s fees, clear and expandable photography, and quick and reasonable shipping.

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.