Pacific Northwest Numismatic Association

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PNNA Home / Reference / Buy-Sell / Internet

Coin Buying and Selling - Sale in Internet Auction

You should carefully consider the available options and their advantages and disadvantages before proceeding.

This method of selling numismatic items has increased in popularity rapidly since the late 1990's. The leading Internet auction company for collectibles is eBay (www.ebay.com), although there are others that you may also want to consider. (See the PNNA links page.)

Advantages

  • Potential for good prices realized without paying large commissions.

  • Access to a large and growing audience of collectors that use the Internet.

  • Buyers can rapidly search for items of interest out of millions of items for sale.

  • Much easier to sell certain items, such as tokens and medals, that are not of interest to local buyers.

  • "Feedback" mechanism keeps most buyers and sellers honest. (Although eBay has stopped allowing sellers to leave negative feedback for buyers.)

  • Payment is generally secure and convenient thanks to services such as PayPal.

Disadvantages

  • You must handle arrangements for payment and shipment of items sold, and be on alert for possible fraud and dishonesty. Electronic forms of payment (now required on eBay) are vulnerable to buyer claims (e.g., item not received or not as described). For higher priced items, you are likely better off dealing with a major numismatic firm or auction house.

  • Your chances of success are greatly reduced if you don't have the experience and knowledge to properly describe and grade your numismatic items, or if you don't have much positive "feedback" from prior transactions. Good photographs or scans are essential!

  • You may need to obtain a business license, collect sales taxes, etc. Also, eBay is now requiring sellers to adopt certain professional business practices such as accepting electronic forms of payment and returns for items "significantly not as described."

  • The total fees, especially with electronic forms of payment, can easily be 10% or higher, especially on lower priced items. There are also significant fees for having reserve bids and/or high opening bids. Also, listing fees are usually not refunded for unsold items, or you only get a refund if the item sells on the second attempt.

  • The short duration of auctions (typically 7 days) can sometimes make selling "hit or miss." Longer listing durations may be available for fixed price items.

  • May not work well or may be too time consuming for large quantities of common items.

Advice

  • Consider building up some positive "feedback" from buying before you try selling.

  • Limit the number of items you sell online, concentrating mostly on interesting, unusual or rare items that may be difficult to sell locally for a good price.

  • Get help from experienced collectors in describing and grading your coins, or use a third-party grading service for valuable items. (Certified coins sell better than "raw" coins.) You may also want to seriously consider consigning your items to persons who sell online as a business.

  • Avoid high starting bids and reserves; also avoid high shipping charges.

  • Be aware of all the rules and policies of the online companies you're dealing with.

  • Be sure to ship items with delivery confirmation and/or insurance. If you sell internationally (almost a must for world coins), be aware of customs forms and regulations.

  • Unless you're an established dealer who does a lot of advertising, it's best not to sell numismatic items on your own web site, as you probably won't get much traffic.

  • Use a P.O. Box or Private Mail Box for your business activities. Even though eBay no longer allows you to state that you accept cash, checks or money orders, some customers will still want to use those payment methods, plus you'll need a return address in any case.