Prior to e-bay, coin buyers and sellers had to deal with local coin dealers, mail order dealers, coin auctions, and shows. I live in a small town so attending auctions usually requires significant travel and frequently there are only one or two coins in each auction that I am interested in.
If you are buying coins for their silver and gold content, you should consider bullion coins since you will pay a lower numismatic premium for bullion coins. However, the 90% silver coins dated from 1941 to 1964, frequently go for at or below silver content. Original U. S. Mint standard silver content for 90% silver half dollars is .36169 Oz pure silver, 90% silver quarters contain .18084 Oz pure silver, and 90% silver dimes contain .07234 Oz pure silver. Morgan and Peace Dollars have .77344 Oz of pure silver each. You can freguently find the common date Morgans and Peace in Vf to Xf condition for little more than $3 to $5 dollars above melt.
The buyers and seller on e-bay are a mix of both dealers and collectors. E-bay auctions can be an exciting experience and just like a live auction, it is important to set a price limit and stick to it. If you get caught up in the ACTION of the auction, you will almost certainly overpay. You should find a source for wholesale prices for coins, since that is the basis for many bids on e-bay. The greysheet is a popular source for dealers, copies can be obtained at greysheet.com. (I have no personal contact or financial interest in the greysheet other than subscribing on occasion).
THE FOLLOWING ARE MY PERSONAL OPINIONS. Many of my comments will be obvious and some may not.
1.) You should always review the COMPLETED LISTINGS for coins similar to the coin you are buying or selling. You can find completed listings under the ADVANCED SEARCH and represent the closed listings showing the final sale price for coins sold. Do not bid on any coin until you know the price similar coins are selling for on e-bay. Please remember an un-graded coin listed as MS-65 is not equal to a graded coin listed as MS 65 (see may guide on All Grading Services are not Equal also see my guide on Morgan versus Peace Dollars). Coin sellers estimates of grades are sometimes 2, 3, or more grades higher than a quality grading service would show. This is the reason that I recommend in my guide "Ungraded Coins on e-bay" that better quality coins in key dates should almost always (except for the lowest grades) be graded before selling on e-bay.
2.) ALWAYS READ THE LISTING CAREFULLY - Some sellers will use a variety of creative marketing tools to sell their coins.
I have seen several sellers of Morgan and Peace Dollars who claim there is 1 oz of silver in Morgans and/or Peace Dollars. There is not 1 ounce of silver in Morgan and Peace Dollars there is .77344 ounce of silver. This is important since below VF-20 grade the wholesale value of almost all Morgans and Peace Dollars approaches the melt value (silver content value) of the coins. My guide on Selling Ungraded Coins on e-bay gives several key dates for both the Morgan and Peace series that are always worth more than melt value.
There are several sellers who will show very high grades and pcgs price trends in their listing title even though the coin being sold is a substantially lower grade than the grade shown in the title. I have encountered several sellers who will show MULTIPLE coins in the listing photos but when you read the listing CAREFULLY they are actually selling ONE coin. Some seller will show PCGS in their title and have a coin that is graded by a third tier grading service.
Check the pictures of ungraded coins carefully particularly with key dates that appear to be in BU condition. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, BUY HIGH VALUE RARE DATE COINS IN AN UNGRADED CONDITION. THIS IS A GUARANTEED WAY TO LOSE MONEY.
Cleaned coins are just one of the reasons that ungraded coins can sell for well below their value since bidders on ungraded coins are always concerned about cleaned coins and even the best pictures do not always show if a coin has been cleaned (see my guide "Cleaned Coins on e-bay").
3.) You can not buy or sell coins on e-bay without understanding the mysteries of coin grading. The grading standards for U.S. coins has been established by the American Numismatic Association (founded October, 1891 - website numismatics.org). Accurate evaluation of the grade of the coin being purchased is CRITICAL. For example, the PCGS graded coin price guide for an MS 64 1921 Peace Dollar was recently $920.00 while the MS 65 price trend was $2,700.00. Even ONE grade difference for a coin can mean Thousands of dollars difference in the price.
Even with the standards established by the ANA, there is room for interpritation. Coin grading is not an exact science as of yet, so try to learn the variations in the quality of various grading services opinions. Also, dealers that are members of the American Numismatic Association subscribe to a code of ethics in the dealings of coins. Even with the most ethical coin dealers OVERGRADING IS A PROBLEM. I have found that an AU coin that I BOUGHT from a dealer becomes an XF coin when I try to SELL the same coin back to the same dealer. Purchase coins is an art and requires negotiation. HOWEVER, PLEASE REMEMBER, After and item has closed on e-bay the negotiation should end. It is AGAINST E-BAY rules to attempt to change the listing terms after the listing has closed.
PLEASE NOTE - ALL GRADING SERVICES ARE NOT EQUAL - An MS 65 coin graded by a service other than PCGS, NGC, ICG, and ANACS, will frequently sell for 2, 3, 4, or more grades less than an MS 65 graded by these four services. By looking at the completed listings for different grading services and comparing the final prices the coins sold for you can determine the discount the market assigns to each grading service. Some grading services like GEC (Grade Evaluation Co.) are discounted 6 or more grades. GEC seems to grade all coins as MS67 regardless of their grade.
If you go to pcgs.com (the website for the Professional Coin Grading Services) you can print out a price guide. The prices shown are estimated retail auction prices achieved in a well advertised major auction. Wholesale prices are usually from 30 to 40% below the retail price guides. The PCGS prices are for PCGS graded (slabbed) coins. These prices CAN NOT be applied to other grading services (with the possible exception of NGC, ICG, and ANACS) or the grades assigned by a seller of ungraded coins.
4.) AVOID BIDDING BATTLES FOR COINS - A bidding battle is a sellers dream because the bidders will almost always overpay. If you miss a particular date or mint mark another simialar coin will be along shortly. The nature of online auctions is that the more eye balls looking at your listing the more likely you will have two active bidders for the item. If you have an item with an estimated value over $50.00 (my abitrary number) or more you should consider the additional cost of a 10 day listing to allow time for more prospective buyers to find your item.
5.) SELLER SHIPPING TIPS -(a.) Cheapest shipping container - most Sam's Club's sell 25 count boxes of 9"X6" bubble mailers for about $5.00 or about $ .20 each. (b.) Ship usps "first class parcel" rates so delivery confirmation is only $ .75. your customers can check on their shipments at usps.com. (c.) DO YOUR OWN LABEL (Not a Paypal Label) and show the recipient's name and address in 14 point or higher font. (d.) There are to many crooks on e-bay for the seller to assume the responsibility for lost packages. Make insurance the option of the buyer and show in your terms and condition that the buyer is responsible for lost packages if optional insurance is not taken. I have never had a delivery confirmation envelope lost. (e.) For Cheap coin supplies google Wizard Coin Supply.
6.) Avoid all coins from China. ALL are fakes (that is the voice of experience speaking). Contrary to some e-bay guides, most of the fakes from China are cast brass (with a silver wash) not cast in silver. When the cast reproductions cool, they shrink by approximately 6%. So one test of a trade dollars authenticity is to measure the diameter and see if the coin is precisely 38.1 MillMeters in diameter. Many of the cast reproductions will weight almost precisely the 27.22 grams that an authentic trade dollar weights. Please remember Chinese sellers have sold MANY FAKES into the U.S. market. Beware of buying Rare Date coins of all types and mint marks that are not graded by reputable grading services (PCGS, NGC, ICG, and ANACS).
7.) Beware of bidding shills. A small number of e-bay sellers will bid on their own items through friends and family member accounts to drive up the price of their coins. If you feel this is occuring you can report the activity to e-bay. Watch for competing bidders in the same location as the seller and second chance offers when the bidders above you drop out after the auction closes. I have had as many as three bidders above me drop out before I was offered a "Second Chance Offer" AVOID ALL SECOND CHANCE OFFERS.
8.) FEEDBACK - While e-bay feedback scores are helpful in evaluating a buyer or seller, they are far from perfect since most e-bayers are very relutant to leave negative feedback. Always try to resolve a dispute with a buyer, but unfortunately there are many ripoff artists that prey on both buyers and sellers on e-bay. Some can be penny anti, but the real tech savy crooks will steal an e-bay account that has 100% feedback with little recent activity and sell in a very short time a number of high ticket coins and dissappear after the buyers payment clear their paypal accounts. Always look at the old feedback on the account and see if the same or similar merchandise was being sold as the high value coins currently being sold. ALWAYS PROTECT YOUR PASSWORD.
9.) READ EVERY E-BAY GUIDE and REVIEW YOU CAN FIND ON COINS- There are many good guides and reviews that can provide a wealth of information. Like many an e-bayer I wrote my first guide after several bad experiences. My quides are a summary of my good and bad experiences on e-bay.
10.) Always be courteous when communicating with members. I have encountered several buyers who I considered to be rude. If you have an unreasonable buyer or seller, be sure to make an effort to resolve the matter politely. If you are unsuccessful, use the e-bay Dispute Console to ask e-bay to arbitrate the dispute. However, only use the Dispute console if you feel all avenues for resolving the matter with the member have been exhausted.
11.) PHISHING AND SPOOF E-MAILS - Alway respond to member enquiries thru your My E-bay Message on you member console. DO NOT RESPOND TO MEMBER E-MAILS directly. If they are authentic they will also appear in the Messages section of your My E-bay console. Notify e-bay of any spoof e-mails (input spoof e-mails in the e-bay Help search). These can frequently be identified by questions the member is asking that do not show a particular item number (i.e. claiming they have paid for an item that has not been shipped). By pressing the Respond button on these e-mail, you will be asked to re-enter your e-bay password and then you have compomised the security of your password.
This has also happen on the paypal account where I received an e-mail indicating a hold had been placed on my paypal account. I DID NOT respond to the e-mail but checked my paypal account and found that the e-mail was a PHISHING e-mail attempting to obtain my password.
For your e-bay account close the e-mail immediately and right click and FORWARD the phishing e-mail to spoof at @ ebay.com and for your paypal account FORWARD to spoof at @ paypal.com.
12.) COLLECTIONS AND BULK LOTS - If you are interested in buying bullion coins, you should consider buying rolls of silver eagles or ungraded gold coins. Virtually no bullion coins have ever entered circulation and are therefore usually in very high grades of MS68 or better condition. Buying graded bullion coins appears to me to be marketing tool of the television shopping channels and the grading services. While some may argue that the MS70 of any date has some extra rarity, there are MANY more MS70 in the gold and silver eagles than in other coin types if you look at the MS70 bullion coins available for sale. Also, due to the variablity of the quality of coin grading services, the differences between an MS69 and MS70 gold or silver eagle are exceedingly slight and the MS70 for one service may not match the quality of an MS69 with another service. (see my guide on All Grading Services are not Equal).
When selling coins, I personally feel you can achieve a better price selling coins individually versus selling them in full collections or lots. I do sell 90% coins in lots. While dealers may sell collections, the individual seller should consider investing the additional time of listing each coin, if there are any key dates in the collections. If you are purchasing coins you may wish to purchase a complete collection, but generally the complete collections have BU or better coins for the common dates and very low grades for the key dates. I purchase bulk collections when the price approaches melt.
There are any number of sellers on e-bay who like to advertise very high quaranteed combined price trends for bulk lots where they quarantee total price trends for a graded lot of coins equal to $10,000.00 or more. Virtually all of these sellers use secondary grading services (not PCGS, NGC, ICG, or ANACS). You will find that the coins in these lots will grade from 2 to 4 grades lower than PCGS, NGC, ICG, or ANACS. But the dealers use the PCGS price trends in their advertisements even though they are not selling PCGS coins. Also, many of these graded lots are filled with MS70 modern coins of questionable grading quality. I have experimented several times with buying these bulk lots and reselling them on e-bay. I have usually achieved a resale value of from .5 to 1.0 % of the advertised price trends, which was virtually what I had paid for them.
At the same time, I have been pleased with certain bulk lots of BU coins being sold by individuals who were not aware of the significant discount the market places on ungraded coins. I have received several very nice coins in bulk lots sold by individuals, but I have also received more than my share of cleaned coins in such lots. In fact at least 25% to 30% or more of the ungraded coins I have purchased on e-bay have been cleaned, particularly in coins that claims to be high quality GEM BU.
While most e-bay coin sellers are honest reputable individuals, there are more than a few who are not. I personally use e-bay to look at coins that I might want to add to my collection and I sell coins the that are duplicates or do not improve the quality of my collection. As I gain experience on e-bay I hope to update this guide periodically, so check back.
Please see my guides on "All Grading Services are Not Equal", "Certified Coin Scams on e-bay", and "Cleaned Coins on E-bay".
If this guide was helpful please click "Yes" below. Thanks peacedollarguy