Ebay: Coin Buyer Beware!

Let me begin by saying that I love ebay and have used it many times in the past several years with only one or two hiccups. I even racked up a few hundred transactions as a seller of  ’60’s and ’70’s comic book titles. But unlike some sellers on ebay, customer service was my A-1 priority. In the field of coin collecting one has to be very careful when shopping online. And it’s not only unscrupulous sellers you have to watch out for. The hobby, by its very nature, can complicate things as well if you think about it.

Having been on both ends of the buyer/seller relationship on ebay I’ve come up with a list of things I look for when I’m thinking about making an online purchase. First of all I size up the seller. For me, a coin purchase is an important outlay of money. It’s money that will be tied up for years. I expect nothing less than 100% satisfaction with the coin when I get it in hand. That’s why a seller needs to have a money back guarantee. If a seller doesn’t explicitly state a return policy, that’s a strike against them in my book. They must also have stellar feedback. I know, I know, sellers can get blamed for things that are entirely not their fault. I’ve had it happen to me and I understand that Bob in California doesn’t care that it’s January and I’m shipping from Pennsylvania in a blizzard. He will still blame me if his item doesn’t arrive in 5 days or less. Read the feedback. You can tell when someone is taking it on the chin or the complaints are valid.

Pictures! I want big, clear, well lit pictures of the coin. If the picture sucks you may as well assume the coin does too. Move on.

Last, but not least, pay attention to the wording in the auction. Estate sale? Doubt it. Found in Grandma’s attic? Baloney. Selling a coin on ebay does not require a heart rending story about how much the seller hates to part with their family heirlooms but they have to pay for their mother’s operation and blah blah blah. And don’t buy in to the auctions with letters 3 inches high stating “RARE!”, “UNIQUE!”, “ONE OF A KIND!”.

Stick to sellers who are knowledgable about the coins they sell and don’t try to hype the item. Make sure the grammar is correct and doesn’t sound like someone for whom English is a second language. Unfortunately, a large volume of counterfeit cast coins made in China are sold on ebay. These are mostly Trade Dollars and Capped Bust half dollars. If you’re unsure, don’t buy.

The safest way to purchase on ebay for the novice is to stick to coins certified by a third party service. The most reputable are PCGS and NGC. Bargains can be had when you use a little caution. Just keep in mind that if it seems too good to be true, it is.

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