How To Buy Coins Ebay…
You should know some important facts before buying coins at ebay. You just can’t pick just any auction and seller, because you will eventually get burned.
Buying Coins By Grade:
You must be careful buying raw coins that appear to be a high grade or gem because not all sellers know how to grade. As a matter of fact, the majority of sellers at ebay and other online auctions sites don’t have a clue on how to properly grade the “money” grade coins.
Watch for manipulated images with a bright light source that can mask contact marks or images with a rubs, burns or out of focus. If you know anything about photoshop then you know you can burn or rub out marks or even use spot healing to eliminate marks on a coin image. If a seller isn’t very good at it then they just select an image size that doesn’t allow for seeing the imperfections in their photoshop work.
Certain sellers will do anything they can think of to make the coin look higher in grade to get higher bids. Many coins have been cleaned or damaged in some minor way and the shady sellers will not reveal this important information.
Furthermore you should learn how to grade coins, at least learn all about grading the coins you collect. You can’t take a seller’s word for it, and can’t base it on images alone, but you can save yourself some grief when you teach yourself about the mint state grades. It’s a must!
Buying Graded Coins:
I will just get to the point on this one, DON’T BUY any coin graded in a holder unless it’s housed in a PCGS, NGC, ANACS or ICG holder. I can’t stress this anymore than that, don’t buy any other grading company holders. I see them all the time at ebay and all the other grading services are not consistent in their grading and many are just coins placed in a holder and graded by the seller for profit only.
You might think that the lesser grading companies “might get it right sometimes”, but that’s erroneous thinking because they were not trying to get it “right” in the first place. Furthermore companies like SEGS, PCI, NTC don’t grade a bunch of coins anymore and most of their holders have been cherry picked for accurately graded coins.
Buying Coin Varieties:
This one is tricky, so pick your coin type, buy the Cherry Pickers Guide Books Volume I & II, and use any reliable online resource to research about the varieties of the coin type you collect. If you don’t then you will end up buying coins that are not varieties or buy a minor variety that you thought was a rare variety. Learning about varieties takes a learning curve and some collectors have spent their lifetimes learning and cataloging varieties and you will need to spend a great amount of time learning them yourself.
So you can’t just jump in and start buying based on what the seller claims, plus, once you learn the details you can spot varieties listed as normal coins that the seller missed or lacked the knowledge to identify.
Buying Mint Error Coins:
Mint error coins are another problem area for most collectors because most don’t understand the minting process, so they don’t know how errors occur. This creates a lot of confusion that results in many ebay listings of coins that are PMD (Post Mint Damage), and these are not mint errors. Before you buy any mint error you should first buy The Official Price Guide to Mint Errors by Alan Herbert and read it from cover to cover.
It should be noted that well over half of the mint errors listed at ebay are not mint errors at all or they’re so minor that they’re not worth but a few cents over their face value.
Buying Rare Coins:
Even with ebay’s policy against copies and replicas you still have to be on the lookout for fake rare coins since some still manage to slip through the cracks. Recently I have seen some fake Flying Eagle Cents and some altered mint mark coins like the 1916-D Mercury Dime selling at ebay. You should know how to identify the key dates of the coin series you collect by their die markers. One book I recommend for this is Official Guide to Coin Grading And Counterfeit Detection by PCGS, in it you will find important information on all rare key dates.
Buying Coin Rolls:
I recommend that you don’t buy rolls at ebay, it’s just not worth it. As you gain experience in buying coins and learning the facts about actual bank rolls and unsearched rolls then you can slowly dip into the coin roll market, but until then, leave them be. I see to many salted end rolls with common dates in between and chance or lottery rolls or rolls that the sellers claims is unsearched but has obviously been messed with and opened.
You can find unsearched rolls but most I see are rolled up by the seller and are full of common date coins, but every once in a while they add a key date so someone does find a good coin, then they use that to promote their other junk rolls that have nothing special inside. Trust me on this, I have bought several rolls and from multiple sellers, and all of the coins were common and low grade coins.
Some can even have a fake coin in the roll and that’s another reason not to buy coins in a roll that you can’t see. I would just steer clear of sellers who are always selling unsearched rolls because the sheer amount they sell, compounded by the amount of sellers selling the same though out the year, defies logical math on just how many true unsearched rolls can exist.
Buying Coin Collections:
Most coin collections being sold at ebay are put together collections from a seller’s inventory and are not just collections being sold by a person who is selling a their personal collection or a collection they inherited.
You should learn to identify which collections are just put together, and one way to know is by looking at the sellers other items for sale or their feedback. Most of them will be selling multiple collections that are obviously just put together to make them look like a great find, and they might add some gems, vials of gold, and have some graded coins in holders that are not reputable grading services that I mentioned in the “Buying Graded Coins” section above; but they’re put together by the seller to make them look as if they’re from one estate.
I have watched certain ebay sellers for years, the same ones who offer these coin collections they claim are unsearched or from an estate or secret hiding place. It seems these sellers are so lucky because they keep finding all these mysterious collections to sell at ebay, but it’s a falsehood masked in hype.
Furthermore, some of these sellers also offer mysterious lots of coins and I don’t bid on any lot if I don’t know what coins I am going to get, and you shouldn’t either. No matter what, these sellers attempt an average grade, tack a retail value on the coins, cut by 50%, add mostly common coins or some special vial of gold that’s not worth but a few dollars, then makes the claim you’re getting a lot of coins 50% of their true value.
Sellers that do this to sell the coins for more and to get rid of copious amounts of common and low grade coins in their inventory. You can get them cheaper other ways, so don’t buy in to it.
Shill Bidding Auctions:
Shill bidding is another issue when buying coins at ebay. Shill bidding is when a seller has multiple accounts or has friends, family and employees up-bidding their coins so they sell for much more than they normally would. I see a lot of sellers that seem to get more for the same coins than other sellers and that should be a clue that something could be amiss.
Although that’s not to say all sellers are shill bidding, some have a larger customer base and mailing list, but with those auctions you will have to pay more to win coins from them anyway.
I didn’t cover every single detail on all the various buying and selling do’s and don’ts but all I listed is a good start for any coin collector. However as you gain experience you will start to see patterns from certain sellers and learn which ones you shouldn’t buy from.