Article by:

Ray Gaudette

How To Use The Auctions Without Getting Skinned

The on-line auctions held on eBay, Yahoo and others like it are a good place to pick up those hard to find coins. While deceptively simple to use, there are many things of which to be wary. The following tips are the result of my long experience with on-line auctions.


Oftentimes you will see an item up for auction at a very low price and rush to get a bid in on such a bargain. Well, it’s true that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Many times a fantastic item put up for auction has been found to be a fake. Recently a Sacagawea Dollar / Washington Quarter mule came up on one of the auction sites for less than $25.00. The price in itself should have been a giveaway, as there is probably only one collector, somewhere in Adak, Alaska, who has not heard of “The Mule” and it’s $50,000.00 and up price tag. If it were real, why would someone sell it for $25.00?


Always check the picture (scan) that accompanies the auction. Make sure that the seller is clear that this is a scan of the actual coin upon which you will be bidding and not just, “one like this”. Grading is an art and not a science so make sure that you are conformable with the seller’s grade for the coin. Check for nicks, scratches, gouges, dents, holes, fingerprints and/or signs of cleaning. This is your only opportunity to “examine” the coin before you buy it so make the most of it. If an auction doesn’t have a scan, pass it by, regardless of the price! If the seller can’t post a picture of the coin, there may be something that he doesn’t want you to see. Unless it’s a $50,000.00 one of a kind coin, the general rule of thumb is, there will always be another one coming along sometime soon so wait for it.


Make sure that you know the value of the coin on which you are bidding! There are plenty of good reference materials around (Red Book, Blue Book, Black Book, Coin World Trends, COINage Trends, etc.) that will give you an estimate of the value of that special coin on which you are bidding. Read them and don’t get infected by “auction fever” where you bid continuously higher and higher just because you WANT that coin! Know what the coin is worth and what it is worth to you. Stop bidding when you reach that figure.


Each auction site allows the buyers to rate the sellers and the sellers to rate the buyers. This is called “feedback” and shows up as a number next to the sellers (or buyers) name. Click on it and you will see what other buyers have had to say about this seller. If you read too many negative comments about this seller then by all means pass him/her by. If others have had problems with this person then don’t take the chance that you will too. Common sense prevails here, though. No one is perfect and if you sell or buy long enough you will accumulate “some” negative feedback. Use your head. If a seller or buyer has a rating of 500 and you find 5 negative comments, chances are this is a good seller or buyer.


When you bid at an on-line auction, you are entering into a binding contract to purchase the item on which you bid if you are the high bidder for that item. Read the seller’s terms very carefully before you bid. These terms can generally be found in the Description section of the auction. This is where the seller will tell you how much you must include for Shipping & Handling and Insurance.

Some sellers try to pad their profit by charging an exorbitant amount for shipping/handling/insurance and if you win the auction you must pay this inflated amount. Check it out first and if you think the amount is extreme then pass this seller by. Someone else will always be along to sell another of these coins at a reasonable price.


If the seller requests reimbursement for insurance or makes insurance optional, always request the insurance. While the law is on your side in cases where the package never arrives, it’s worth the small price of insurance to avoid the hassle of having to take the seller to court to get a replacement coin or to get your money back.


Always ask questions! There is a link provided in all auctions to ask the seller a question. Use it if you have any questions for the seller about the auction. After the bidding has ended, it is too late to ask questions. Be a wise bidder and you will almost always be a satisfied buyer!

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