Why Coin Auction Lots Should Always Be Viewed

December 11, 2010

Buying coins in room auctions is often the only way you can obtain certain items, such as key date coins and rare coin errors. However, buying coins at auction can often only be done in places where you don't happen to live, and getting to view the coins and attend the auction can be problematic at best. A recent experience of one of the authors with a well known auction house reinforces the idea that if you're going to buy at auction then you MUST view a lot yourself or have the lot viewed by someone you trust. The simple reason is that often problems with auction lots are either not described fully, or are not apparent in then (often) very poor images auction houses provide with their catalogues. The lot one of the authors purchased is a spectacular and rare error, not one we've ever seen before. Sadly the coin has also been cleaned and then polished. So an error that might be worth upwards of $1000 is now only worth $50 at best. So very sad. Here's five tips for viewing lots at coin auctions or buying if you can't attend the viewing:

  • If you can attend an auction viewing then do so. View all lots you are interested in. Often it is worth viewing your lots twice, the second time round often reveals things that the first look did not.
  • Take your loupe, make sure the light is good, make sure you eat and drink properly. You will likely be sitting still for a long time and need to maintain your concentration.
  • If you can't attend the viewing then get someone you know and trust to view the lots you are interested in for you.
  • If you can't attend the viewing and can't get someone to look at lots for you then make sure the auction house has a strong return policy. You will want to return a problem coin if you end up winning it.
  • Try to stick to buying reputable third party graded and slabbed coins if you can't attend the auction viewing. Sure they may have problems too but at least you will have a definite idea of what the coin is likely to be like given the numeric grade.

Posted by mnemtsas at December 11, 2010 9:39 AM
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