Secrets for Getting the Best Deals Online

eBay Coin Buyer Confidential

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By Barry Stuppler

No matter where you live or what time it is, eBay® enables you to bid on or buy precious metals and rare coins. It has never been easier for millions of precious metal investors and rare coin collectors to add to their collection or make an investment. The process is convenient and enjoyable, and using these safeguards, you can get excellent quality at affordable prices. 

eBay has created an extraordinary platform that is very efficient for both buyers and sellers, but you can also get burned. A few sellers hide behind an eBay ID and misrepresent coins to extract quick bucks from gullible new buyers. These sharks are not always easy to identify, but with a little knowledge, you can avoid serious and costly problems. Simply follow the information below to ensure a positive and rewarding eBay coin buying experience.

Check Out the Seller

1. Feedback

The very first thing to do before bidding or buying is to take advantage of a remarkable evaluation tool provided by eBay: feedback. Winning bidders or outright buyers can leave positive, negative and neutral comments about their transactions. eBay posts these comments and compiles a “feedback rating” based on them. eBay publishes the number of feedbacks in the parentheses after the user ID. Click on the feedback number to see the detailed feedback postings the seller has received. A positive posting adds one point to a seller’s feedback rating; a negative comment subtracts a point; a neutral statement doesn’t affect the rating. eBay publishes the feedback posts in the parentheses after the user ID. To avoid being deceived by a high feedback rating created mainly by the seller’s friends and relatives, be sure that a significant percentage of the positive posts are from unique users. I recommend buying only from those who have been selling on eBay for six months or more and have 100 or more feedbacks, with at least 99% of them positive. New sellers may offer good products and service, but sending them your money before they meet the feedback criteria isn’t worth the risk.

2. Location

The location of the seller is listed on each offer. eBay attracts sellers from all over the world. Many fraudulent sellers are from third-world countries. They steal a photo from a legitimate offering, display it with a low reserve to attract buyers, often insist on payment by cashier’s check, money order, or wire, and never deliver the product. I recommend purchasing only from sellers located in the United States. This avoids problems with customs and long waits for delivery. Within the United States, if everything else is equal, consider the tax implications. If the seller is in the same state as you are, you may have to pay sales tax.

3. Credibility

Check for a credible Industry association. The Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) is the world’s premier coin dealer association. eBay has an excellent relationship with the PNG. eBay offers a special PNG page showing the benefits of buying from PNG Dealers. There are fewer than 400 worldwide members of the PNG, and they must pass financial and character screening by an outside firm. These members must also have a minimum of five years of full-time professional numismatic experience and adhere to a strict code of ethics. PNG members also agree to binding arbitration for unresolved disputes. PNG members are in business for the long haul and have strict standards for coin and precious metal certification and authenticity. 

4. Return and refund policies

While you are in the shipping and handling tab, read the policy on returning an item. Legitimate dealers have a return policy (with the exception of bullion items). If you are dissatisfied with a coin, you should be able to get your money back. Time frames differ from dealer to dealer. Check to see how many days you have to return a coin for a refund. See if the seller charges a restocking fee or gives only an exchange privilege or store credit rather than a money-back guarantee. If you don’t find the return policy satisfactory, or if there is no posted return policy, and the seller will not respond to your email, don’t bid or buy.

5. Print out the photos

There should be a photograph of the obverse (front) and reverse (back) of the coin (if not, email the seller). If you’re the successful bidder or if you use the “Buy It Now” option, print out the photo or save it to a file on your computer. Then carefully compare the overall look and the details to the actual coin when it arrives. If the coin you are bidding on or buying is certified by a third-party grading service, you should see or ask the seller for a photo showing the capsule. The capsule should show a certification number so that you can compare the numbers to make sure the coin you get is the coin you bought. Many dealers use stock photographs on common coins when they have multiples. Focus on the quality in that case. When you have the unique certification number, you can visit the grading service website (i.e. PCGS or NGC) and verify that the coin is authentic. 

6. Shipping terms, costs, and payment options

Click the shipping and payments tab (located on the left, below the main product photos) and read the details regarding shipping. You want to know the cost, speed and security of the shipping process. Methods of shipping vary from seller to seller. They include Parcel Post, Registered Mail, Express Mail, UPS and FedEx, each with or without insurance. When expensive items are involved, you want to be sure that they will be sent as quickly as possible by Registered Mail insured, FedEx or UPS. I strongly recommend that your method of payment is PayPal because of the safeguards provided. Most credible sellers accept PayPal and abide by its policies. PayPal’s Buyer Complaint Policy includes some additional protection for eBay buyers. Some sellers offer delayed payment or layaway plans. If you intend to use them, read the details carefully, request clarification, and be completely sure they are credible.

7. Contact your seller

If, after looking at the offering, you have questions about the picture, the description, the terms, the coin’s certification, or anything else, do not hesitate to email the seller with any questions. Use the eBay communication method to ensure you have a record. Give the seller a few days to answer, but always protect yourself by printing out the terms and conditions and the coin photograph. Save all documentation until you receive and are satisfied with your coin.

8. Post fair and precise feedback

 When your transaction has been completed and you’re happy with the service, delivery, and quality of the coin, post the positive feedback the seller has earned and request that he or she do the same for you as the buyer, which will help you in future purchases. If you’re not happy with the transaction, let the seller know and give him or her an opportunity to make it right before posting feedback. If you have been fair and the seller will not resolve the problem, don’t be afraid to post negative feedback. It’s the responsible thing to do, and it helps protect everyone in the eBay community. Be certain that you are correct, and be factual. If you have been the victim of fraud or deception, the facts will show that. What if the transaction was “kind of OK”? Maybe the coin was as described, but the seller was slow to ship, and the packaging was inferior. These gray areas are suitable for giving neutral feedback. Save the heavy hit of negative feedback for a seller who has proven to be purposely deceptive or fraudulent.

Benefits offered to buyers by eBay

1. Money-back guarantee 

Whether your purchase hasn’t arrived or isn’t as described, eBay allows 30 days for you to return it and get a full refund. The only exceptions are bullion coins or a seller’s terms and conditions of sale. Most of the time, the sellers offer a refund if the buyer is unhappy because sellers are concerned about negative feedback. 

2. eBay buck reward program

Buyers are able to earn eBay Bucks on qualifying purchases at no cost to themselves. Once enrolled, you automatically earn a percentage of the items purchased in the form of eBay Bucks. When you earn eBay Bucks in a calendar quarter, eBay sends you an eBay Bucks Certificate after the end of each quarter. Once eBay issues your eBay Bucks Certificate, you have 30 days to use it. You can earn up to $500 in eBay Bucks per three-month earning period.

3. A new buyer help page

Getting started by registering, searching the eBay site, and bidding can be confusing. eBay provides expert guidance here.

4. Protection against buying replicas and counterfeit items

eBay is very active in protecting buyers from replicas and counterfeit coins and precious metal products. Read here to understand eBay’s policies.

ebay knows there are thousands of coin collectors who monitor eBay listings looking for counterfeit, fraudulent and questionable coin listings. These collectors are provided a “Report Item” link on the lower right corner of listings. The Report Item link goes right to the professional eBay team that is responsible for protecting the collector from problem listings. 

Barry Stuppler was elected president of the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) in 2017, after 35 years of membership. In 2015, Stuppler helped to form the Accredited Precious Metal Dealers (APMD), a sub-set of PNG members that are active in buying and selling precious metals to the public. He is a past president of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and a founder of the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA). In 2010, Stuppler founded the Gold & Silver Political Action Committee (GSPAC) to support federal legislators and candidates. Stuppler has been a consultant to U.S. Postal Inspectors, the Federal Trade Commission, and the FBI. You can reach him at barry@stuppler.com.

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