Bidder Tips: Disputing Lot Descriptions

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Bidders and auctioneers should follow procedures when disputing lot descriptions. Here are tips for bidders. Tuesday we will share pointers for auctioneers.


When bidders receive a coin that has not been accurately described, they need to be sure to follow these procedures:

  1. Read the service terms. All sales are usually final when the hammer drops, especially as they pertain to grades. Grading is in part subjective (within a few points on the Sheldon scale). Many service terms state no refunds due to grade or condition as described on Proxibid. This type of complaint won’t hold up in a dispute.
  2. Know the exceptions to all sales final. An auctioneer cannot state a coin is gold when it is base metal. Neither can an auctioneer sell counterfeit or replica coins as authentic. Exceptions occur when an item is presented as something it is not.
  3. Deal first with the auctioneer. If you suspect you have a counterfeit or an item that differs significantly from what is described, see if the auctioneer will take back the lot. If not, you’ll have to prove your case.
  4. Prove your point. Send the auctioneer a note, copying in Proxibid Customer Service, that you are going to send the coin to PCGS, NGC, ICG or ANACS to verify your suspicions. Take your coin to a dealer for submission or do so yourself. (See this post for instructions.)
  5. Contact Proxibid Customer Service with the evidence. Take photos of the report by your grading company verifying your suspicions and then contract Proxibid, which will open a dispute in your name.

Describing coins accurately is important if auctioneers want return customers. The Unified User Agreement requires accurate descriptions: “Significantly Not as Described” (SNAD) Claim – means an action taken by a Buyer against a Seller when the Buyer has purchased an item that arrived but was significantly different from the item description.

We have never encountered a problem when we have provided evidence. We worked with auction companies on more than a half dozen fakes and always received refunds. We recently had the same experience with a coin that was described as a rare variety when it wasn’t.

Tuesday we will share tips for auctioneers involved in disputes with bidders.

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.

Fake Bids and “No Pay” Bidders

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Proxiblog has been informed by several auctioneers about the specter of fake and no-pay bidders. Because both violate the Unified User Agreement, you should document infractions and report them immediately to Proxibid Customer Service.

Three of our top houses have reported to us fake and no-pay bidders and wondered what could be done to stop the disruption to their Proxibid sessions. Two auctioneers have told us that they have encountered more than 10 no-pay bidders in the past week. Another auctioneer had to deal with a suspected fake bidder, someone who has been banned from Proxibid and/or who registers under a false name.

Sometimes these fake bidders are Internet trolls who enjoy placing bids with no intent ever to pay or who taunt auctioneers during sessions through the feedback window. Luckily, we find little evidence of that on the portal.

If you are an auctioneer dealing with a no-pay buyer, it is important to notify Proxibid rather than simply ignore the infraction and relist the lot(s). Remember, the Unified User Agreement specifies “in the event for any reason the transaction between the Buyer and the Seller is not consummated or the Buyer otherwise does not make payment of the total purchase price owed to Seller with respect to the successful bid, within fifteen (15) days of the date of the bid, the successful Buyer agrees to pay the Proxibid Premium directly to Proxibid. Any default in payment will be subject to interest and collection fees as set forth under Section 27 below.”

Proxibid has terminated accounts of chronically late/no-pay bidders.

Sometimes those terminations result in the creation of a fake bidder, a person who wants to retaliate against Proxibid or a particular auctioneer.

That’s when sessions can be disrupted, costing auctioneers, consignors and Proxibid time and money. (Keep in mind that auctioneers can choose to increase security in their sessions if they want. It’s a business decision. Raise the bar and fewer people get in; but it’s safer.)

Also know that it is difficult for a bidder to re-register on the portal after an account is terminated. There are various ways to do that–which we won’t divulge, of course–and the bidder may have to change addresses, emails, and even bank, credit card and PayPal accounts. Some bidders pay for an anonymizing proxy or similar service, allowing the banned bidders to stealthily re-enter the portal. Anonymzing proxies are specifically forbidden on Proxibid, yet another serious violation of the Unified User Agreement. Still other banned users get associates to open accounts that they use to re-enter the portal.

Proxibid, like eBay, has technical abilities to identify and ban such trolls, but that can take time. This is why it is essential for auctioneers to report any such incident, along with the specifics, to Proxibid Customer Service.

For more information, or to report an incident, telephone 1-877-505-7770 or email Useragreement@proxibid.com.


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.

Terms of Service Need to State Payment Options

We grow weary with Proxibid auctions that refuse to spell out just what their payment instructions are, believe it is a technical violation of the Unified User Agreement, and ask the portal to require auctions to state how payment will be processed. Anything else is a tacit violation of security–for the bidder and Proxibid, too.

We do not bid, nor do we recommend bidding, on any Proxibid auction that does not also have APN clearance or that accepts payment through PayPal. Beyond that, however, we believe these unnamed auction houses have a user-agreement obligation to state specifically just what their payment options are. Depending on the circumstance, anything else just may jeopardize the agreement with the auction house and Proxibid.

Terms of service are supposed to be spelled out. Not doing so, we believe, is a technical violation of User Agreement 11.m.Risk: “[Do not] conduct your business or use Proxibid Services in a manner that results in or may result in complaints, disputes, reversals, chargebacks, fees, fines, penalties and other liability to Proxibid, other Users or third-parties.”

Here are six worrisome examples from the Coin Category of Proxibid, with our comments in bold blue italics:

  • Payment Instructions: You will be invoiced following the close of the auction. Payment options will be available for your selection.

    So what the heck are those options? These are terms of service. Spell out those terms or don’t sell on Internet.

  • Payment Instructions: Please contact the auction company for payment instructions.

    So you also want us to call you long distance? What are your office hours? Whom do we speak with? What the bleep are your instructions?

  • Payment Instructions: Auction company will contact successful bidders for credit card payment instructions. PROVIDE VALID PHONE NUMBER WHEN REGISTERING TO BID.

    You want our phone numbers. Nice. Do you want to call us at work so that you jeopardize our jobs in a recession? Just tell us your instructions, and we’ll decide to bid. That’s what terms of service are supposed to be for.

  • Payment Instructions: Please contact the auction house for payment instructions. CREDIT CARDS ARE NOT AN ACCEPTED FORM OF PAYMENT. IT IS ONLY A VERIFICATION TOOL.

    Another house that wants us to contact it long-distance without providing business hours, etc. We have better ways to spend our time. One of them is NOT bidding in any of your auctions!

  • Payment Instructions: Please Note: We will be contacting you within 3 days of the Auction Closing, to get your credit card information. We no longer automatically process your charges with the card that you have on file with Proxibid, due to new Merchant Services Requirements.

    We do not want you to contact us at work. Nor at the dinner table. Nor via our mobile phones. Hint: Invest in APN or PayPal. Hint to bidders: Find another auction that has these services.

  • Payment Instructions: We accept Visa, Mastercard and Discover for online bidding purchases. Your credit card will be charged for your total bids, taxes (if applicable), and shipping after total shipping fees are calculated.

    Isn’t that nice? Our credit cards will be charged. Unfortunately, this house doesn’t have APN or PayPal so we have no idea how it is going to charge our card. Do we call them? Do they call us? Here’s a simple solution: We won’t bid.

When you give your credit card information to an auction house, you are actually taking a bigger risk than Proxibid outlines in its Section 11 “Risk” portion of the Unified User Agreement. You don’t know how the house will store your credit card information or who has access to it. Of course, none of the auctions we visited included that information in its terms of service.

Proxibid is technically responsible for signing up clients and holding them to its own terms of service. Requiring how payment will be processed speaks to just about everything in online bidding, which is Proxibid’s source of revenue and brand of “trust.”

If we can’t trust the “terms of service” of individual auction houses concerning payment options, then something must be amiss. Proxibid has an ethical obligation to require houses to spell out payment options in terms of service.

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.

Honoring the Unified User Agreement

We encourage all Proxibid users to read the company’s recently updated Unified User Agreement, which protects seller, bidder, auctioneer and, of course, the portal. We also encourage auctioneers to read their own service terms to discern whether they still are in compliance with the Unified User Agreement.

One of the most persistent myths in auctioneering is the “all sales final–no exceptions” service term. There are, in fact, exceptions.

Sales of some weapons, for example, can be illegal. Same goes for stolen art.

No auction house is excluded from these laws and regulations.

Case in point: Ancient coins were seized a day before an auction earlier this year at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel with the seller detained and later charged with criminal possession of stolen property. You can read about the seizure of coins here and the charges here.

Proxiblog has posted several articles about the illegality of selling counterfeit coins. Here is an example.

So it troubles us that auction houses selling coins on Proxibid continue to insist that “all sales are final–no exceptions” … even if the item is counterfeit, a clear violation of this service term in the Unified User Agreement:

  • 5. DEFAULT AUCTION TERMS If, within a reasonable amount of time, Buyer gives notice in writing to Seller that the lot so sold is a counterfeit and after such notice the Buyer returns the lot to Seller in the same condition as when sold, and establishes to the satisfaction of Seller that the returned lot is in fact a counterfeit, Seller as agent for the consignor will rescind the sale and refund the purchase price.

This week we came across this rather insistent service term in a Proxibid auction, prompting us to cross off this house from our list for future bidding:

  • Special Terms of Sale: Buyer aknowledges (sic) that the property being auctioned is available for inspection and it is being sold “AS IS, WHERE IS” without warranty or guarantee of any kind. We made no guarantee of the authenticity of the item. … All sales are final, NO EXCEPTIONS. … The buyer is responisble (sic) for examining and inspecting, or have their own representative examine or inspect the items prior to bidding and accepts it the way it is, NO EXCEPTIONS.

Even though Proxiblog is an independent entity, we admire the company’s increasing emphasis on quality control. If the above auctioneer sold a counterfeit coin, and refused to make a refund–NO EXCEPTIONS–he might acknowledge that his service term is invalid, not only with Proxibid but also with federal law.

We advise all coin bidders to read Proxibid’s Unified User Agreement and cease bidding in auctions that continue to insist that they are not responsible for authenticity. When it comes to counterfeit coins, auctioneers should place responsibility on the consignor rather than the bidder (as our top houses do in the right sidebar).

In the end, there are exceptions when it comes to fake collectibles.

Proxibid’s New User Agreement

For those who do not read the fine print of service terms, which Proxiblog routinely does, you may be surprised or pleased (we were) at changes in Proxibid’s new user agreement. Here are a few items that may prompt you to read the entire shebang.

You can find the Unified User Agreement by clicking here.

This clause below was news to us–welcome news, we might add:

    4.3 Auction Events. (c) Passed Lot Fee. If Seller conducts bidding for any lot within an Auction Event without allowing Buyers the opportunity to bid using the Proxibid Services (a “Passed Lot”), Proxibid may in its sole discretion charge Seller a fee per Passed Lot.

We have seen too many passed lots in our time on Proxibid. It’s about time the company instituted a fee to make auctions online as exciting as ones onsite.

We’re aware, as is Proxibid, of the various ways to circumvent the passed lot fee. Frankly, we bid on Proxibid because we hope to get a coin on wholesale and then sometimes get caught up in the competitive auction experience and end up paying retail. That’s the allure and risk of an auction.

This clause safeguards that.

We also understand the need to pass on a lot. But not on every lot that fails to bring a retail result, as a few Proxibid auction houses are doing. That practice is unfair to competitive houses who sell through their consignments, as everyone on Proxibid shares technology costs to reach the online bidders through the portal.

This clause on minimum bids is related to the issue above.

    5. DEFAULT AUCTION TERMS Items may be offered with a “minimum bid”, in which case, the Seller agrees to sell the item to the highest bidder who bids at or above the minimum bid price.

We have seen minimum bids posted, and those minimums met, only to see the lot withdrawn (or passed) or then read “a reserve not met” notice. Passed lots and reserves are allowed, of course; but auctioneers should never use minimum bids on lots to attract more bids and, if not, to pass on an item. Once a minimum is posted, honor it. This clause makes it mandatory.

Finally, Proxibid is to be commended for this service term about counterfeit items:

    5. DEFAULT AUCTION TERMS If, within a reasonable amount of time, Buyer gives notice in writing to Seller that the lot so sold is a counterfeit and after such notice the Buyer returns the lot to Seller in the same condition as when sold, and establishes to the satisfaction of Seller that the returned lot is in fact a counterfeit, Seller as agent for the consignor will rescind the sale and refund the purchase price.

When Proxiblog started bidding on coins a few years back, we had to persuade a company to rescind a sale because the auctioneer claimed that all sales were final. They are not, legally and ethically in the United States, as we have noted in previous posts like this one.

By adding such a clause about counterfeits, Proxibid has enhanced its image in the numismatic world.


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.