Reviewing Your 2023 Purchase History, Part II

In this series, Michael Bugeja takes inventory of his purchases in 2023 and shares his best and worst ones along with what he learned.

by Michael Bugeja | Published on February 21, 2024

Editor’s Note: Michael Bugeja’s columns are based on his online buying experiences. He mostly bids on raw (not holdered) coins. In his monthly columns here, he provides tips on how to grade, identify varieties, spot doctoring, decipher subpar photos, recognize authentic toning, and much more. Even with his expertise, in 2022 he regretted most of his buys after he saw the actual coins in hand. In this 2023 three-part series, he again takes inventory of his purchases and shares his best and worst ones for each platform, along with what he learned and how that will guide his bidding in the future.

As noted in part 1 of this series, I won 32 coins on Ebay out of 366 sniper bids for a 9% success rate. However, after receiving the coins, I was only happy with 8 coins, or 25% of my purchases. And several of these didn't grade at PCGS.

Here is a selection of my wins and losses, to give you a feeling about what works or can go wrong.

This 1871 1/4 dollar grades about MS63, worth $300. I won this recently and haven't submitted it for holdering yet. But I think this is a break-even or modest profit coin, after slabbing and the expenses of that. So we will call this a win.

This Peace dollar below also is a recent win, and I haven't submitted it yet to PCGS. But I think it is at least MS64, and with the toning, rare on Peace dollars.

I thought this nickel, won with a $40 bid, would grade MS65. But it ended up having environmental damage at PCGS, and I ended up selling it for about $40, with a loss of $40 after holdering.

I thought this 1884 Morgan below had great color, but when I received it, I saw that the condition was almost uncirculated. I decided not to holder it, and consigned it with my eBay seller, losing about $20.

I was extraordinarily happy with this 1902-O Morgan purchase below, as the coin had natural canvas bag toning. I also thought it was gem. As such, this would be a $300-$400 coin, if not higher.

No such luck. It came back Questionable Color. I disagree with this as PCGS increasingly is hesitant or inconsistent in awarding color. But I had to let this gem go at a loss, consigning it to GreatCollections.

I thought this 1883-O Morgan below also might grade, but it came back as questionable color. I sold this for a $30 loss after holdering and fees.

I was absolutely delighted with this 1898-O Morgan, which was gem with fantastic old green holder PCI toning. The slab stated 100% white, so I was sure it would grade.

It didn't. It also came back as questionable color. I sold it and broke even.

This 1904-O Morgan looked like a great coin, full of color and in great condition. But this came back as MS63 without as vibrant a patina. The seller's photo differed from the actual coin. Call this break even.

I also won a fantastic 1882-S Morgan dollar with target toning stored for years in an American Savings and Loan cardboard holder.

It graded MS64, retailing for $140, but worth hundreds more because of the lovely ringed toning.

This 1884-O Tidy House dollar below looked like a fantastic target-toned Morgan that developed the rich patina from the cardboard holder. I was lucky to get it at $166.

It graded MS63. With the toning, this is a coin worth at least $250 with the patina, another win.

I was also happy with this second 1884-O Morgan below, another Tidy House with authentic color.

This graded MS65, a wonderful buy, worth $235 retail. But with the patina, I put this at $400.

As you can see, bidders with expertise and sniper programs can lose as much money as win. I would say I broke even bidding on eBay in 2023. But I did get several wonderfully toned coins for my collection and would have had to pay hundreds more if purchased retail or via a major auction house. So as a hobbyist, I did all right.

Keep my wins, losses and disappointments in mind when bidding on raw coins, especially if you plan on sending them to a top holdering company to increase their value with numerical grades.

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Author: Michael Bugeja

Michael Bugeja image Michael Bugeja, a hobbyist since childhood and past president of his local coin club, has written about numismatics for Coin World and Coin Update News and was a member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee of the U.S. Treasury Department. He is an internationally known scholar on technology and social change and teaches media ethics as a distinguished professor at Iowa State University of Science and Technology.

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