E-Bay can be good resource for purchasing coins, but there is one caveat to be aware of, Buyer Beware!
I find the electronic store a fascinating phenomenon. Consider this; if dealers were overcharging their customers in brick-and-mortar coin shops, it would not be long before they went out of business. For a brick-and-mortar business to survive it has to have robust sales. A dealer running a coin shop with high overhead costs in a community with a limited amount of potential customers cannot charge outrageous prices for their coins. Whereas, an electronic store with a potentially unlimited worldwide customer base and low overhead costs can almost charge whatever they want. It only takes a few overpriced sales to make their year.
Also consider this, an E-Bay seller can run his business part-time. Consequently, you will find a good quantity of E-Bay sellers, who are not professional numismatists. A brick-and-mortar coin shop owner earns their living by selling coins and has to be knowledgeable. Additionally, they must have good people skills because of face-to-face interaction with their customers. I wonder if an E-bay seller who is rude and unknowledgeable would lose my business because they were forced to sell to me face-to-face.
Furthermore, the electronic shopper is generally less educated than collectors buying coins at their local coin shop. This is by virtue of the vast quantity of shoppers and limited interaction with their sellers. Oddly, this is true regardless of the fact that via the electronic media, there is so much more information available to make informed purchases. A coin shop owner will often work with a collector to educate them at the point of sale. An informed happy collector will bring more business to the coin shop. Whereas the electronic store operator will lose no sleep at the loss of one customer, because there are thousands more out there to take their place.
Another of my fears is that these predatory sellers will drive good people away from our hobby. This is why I feel a vibrant community of collectors is important so that we can share our experiences and thereby make the hobby much more enjoyable for everyone. Become involved in Collector's Society and your local coin club, if you have one.
PCGS and NGC have done a great service to protect the collecting community by certifying millions of coins for authenticity and grade. This has also allowed the unknowledgeable and the unscrupulous to sell an authentic MS-62 Philippine 10 centavo coin for many times its fair market value. Simply put, with certified coins, a seller does not have to know anything about the coin they are selling because all the information they need is on the label. Unfortunately, the buyer who trusts the label finds out later he or she should not have trusted the seller. Individual collectors cannot only protect themselves, but also thrive in the electronic marketplace IF that collector has done their homework on the coin they want to buy. Going back to the electronic media, NGC and PCGS for their part has put practically all the information you need to make an informed decision on their websites.
With all this, E-Bay is here to stay because like all marketplaces, the consumer drives it. We have demanded choice and ease, and E-Bay has given it to us. In the old days, we gave our want lists to our local dealer who then searches his or hers network for the coins we want. Now there is no need to wait, we can find most anything on our want list immediately.
I am finding that Brick-and-mortar dealers are adapting quite well to the new marketplace, as E-Bay is a source for them also to replenish their stock and make sales. For example, I sold a gold dollar to a dealer on E-Bay with whom I have purchased coins from in the past. In another case, I purchased a Morgan Dollar from a dealer only to find when I checked the pedigree, that he had purchased the coin at auction from Heritage only months earlier. In this case, I do not begrudge a person who makes their living selling coins to sell them at a profit; I was happy with my educated purchase, and that is enough said.
In the end, I miss interacting with my local dealer. Perhaps I should visit him soon. In a face-to-face purchase, I bought my current Coin of the Month, an 1853 arrows-and-rays Seated Liberty Half Dollar at a Central States Numismatic Society coin show. I told the dealer what I was looking for, and he had two examples of which I choose the coin I currently own. After the sale, the dealer pointed out to me the double die reverse on my new coin that I had not noticed before. This naturally increased the cool factor of my coin, and I walked away a delighted customer. Now every time I go to a major coin show I look for that dealer. I cannot say that about any electronic dealer because on line its only about the coin and not the purchasing experience. For now, enjoy this picture of my double die reverse taken with my coin microscope that I got for Christmas. I think you will agree with me that its really cool. Until next time, happy collecting!
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