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Find Coins: Tips on Using the eBay Search, Sort Functions
By Mike Thorne, Coins Magazine
June 10, 2013

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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In my last column, I talked about the process of getting started on eBay, of registering on the site and also of opening a PayPal account. Let’s assume you’ve done those things and are now ready to see if eBay actually has anything you want.

On the opening page, you’ll find at least four ways to search for what you want. The most straightforward way is to type in key words in the slot after the words “I’m looking for….”

For example, if you want to see all the current listings of 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln cents, then simply start typing that sequence of numbers and letters. When you input 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent, up will pop the information that there are 212 (or whatever the number is when you try it) active auctions selling that coin. If you want to narrow it down further, you can do it by certification service (e.g., 83 listings of PCGS-certified coins when I looked). [Note: For key coins, I would strongly advise you to purchase only coins certified by one of the major services.]

There are several other ways to narrow your search. You can select a format (auction, Buy It Now), a grade (e.g., Very Fine-20, Mint State-65), whether the coin is circulated or uncirculated, free shipping only sales, and so on.

In sales with an auction format, the seller picks a starting price, which may either be ridiculously low or a price near the amount the seller would like to get for his coin. Some auction sales have a starting bid amount and a Buy It Now price. Once someone bids the starting amount, the BIN price disappears, and the sale becomes an auction.

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Incidentally, if you encounter a sale with an opening bid and a BIN price and the BIN price is close to what you would like to pay, I would urge you to take the BIN option. If you don’t, and someone places an opening bid, the coin is liable to sell for more than the BIN price.

I’m saying this on the basis of personal experience, by the way, as I missed out on a really nice 1931-S MS-64 Red cent because the BIN price was maybe $10 more than I wanted to pay. I placed an opening bid, and the resulting auction, which I didn’t win, went well beyond the original BIN price.

Back to my search of PCGS-graded 1909-S V.D.B.s: It’s also possible to sort the auctions in various ways. For example, you can sort by the time the auction will end or when the auction was placed on eBay.You can also sort by price, either by lowest price or highest price first.

When I sorted the PCGS-graded 1909-S V.D.B.s by lowest price first, the coin with the lowest price was graded VF-35, and it had been bid up to $107.50. Of course, this was an auction, and the auction had just started, with more than six days left to run, so this was by no means the final price.

The actual 1909-S V.D.B. you could buy with the lowest price was a coin graded “Genuine, Surface Damage.” The BIN price was $525, with $7.95 shipping, although the seller had also included “or Best Offer.” If the seller is inviting lower offers, then you should make an offer on the coin if you’re interested in it, as the dealer is willing to sell it for less than his BIN price.

My son, who often sells things on eBay, has told me that he’s amazed when people pay his full BIN price when he’s indicated that he’ll entertain lower offers. In other words, you should take OBO as a mandate for an offer below the BIN price.

Incidentally, when you’re looking at coins on eBay, you can almost always discount such statements as “EXTREMELY RARE!!!!” and “VERY RARE KEY DATE LINCOLN!!!” If the coin were really “extremely rare,” there wouldn’t be more than 200 of them listed on the site.

When I sorted the PCGS 1909-S V.D.B.s by highest price first, the top coin was an absolutely gorgeous PCGS Secure graded MS-66 Red. The price: $13,000 OBO. I have a feeling that the seller will not entertain offers much below his BIN price for this fantastic coin. There were also some MS-65 Red examples priced around $6,000.

As I indicated above, there were 83 active listings (ongoing sales) of PCGS-certified 1909-S V.D.B.s when I looked. If you want to find out what comparable coins have sold for in the recent past, you can click on the words “sold listings” or “completed listings” next to “active listings” near the top of the page. If you choose “completed listings,” you get all the past sales, whether they actually sold or not. Thus, if you want to know what the coins actually sold for, click on “sold listings.”

When I did this, I got 117 sold listings of 1909-S V.D.B.s sorted from the highest price to the lowest price. The top price of $7,600 went for a PCGS Secure, with Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, MS-65+ Red specimen, which had been listed as BIN, with free postage.

When I resorted the list according to the lowest price first, the first several examples were all graded PCGS Genuine, meaning they had problems (e.g., corrosion, surface damage, scratches, etc.). Prices ranged from about $375 to $600 for these problem coins.

In this column, I’ve given you some tips about looking for coins on eBay and how to find out what comparable items have sold for in the recent past. The purpose of this, of course, is to give you an idea of what you’ll have to pay to buy such a thing now.

Next month I’ll talk about the bidding process, how much you should bid, when you should place your bid(s), and so forth.

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On June 11, 2013 joe blow said
One reason a buyer might buy it now instead of making an offer is because a bid may be placed before the seller makes up his mind whether to accept the offer. This would force the offerer into a bidding war which he perhaps wanted to avoid.

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