I buy about 90% of my coins on eBay. Of the large number of coins that I've purchased (mid 5 figures+ dollar-wise) I can truly state that I've only been burned on a very few occasions and that it was usually something where I knew I might get burned but gambled anyway, or where I let impulse overrule logic and rational thinking because OOH SHINY.
Some of my eBay philosophy:
- Know what you're buying before you buy it. eBay is not the best place to learn about highly-faked series such as early US coins
, early gold, 8 Reales, European crowns, Chinese fat man dollars, etc. If you are wanting to get into collecting those sorts of things, get familiar with the real thing up close and in person so that you learn what to look for and you will get a "feel" for when a coin is just not right.
- The right coin is more important than the right now coin. If your budget is $100 a month for coins, and you need a particular coin to fill a hole, and you can snag a holed, bent, gouged, or otherwise example for $90, you'll be better off to wait a few months and save up $300-$500 for a problem-free example than you will be if you "scratch the itch" and blow $90 on the garbage coin.
- Never bid more on a bad photo gamble than you're willing to lose if it's a bust. A $20 bid on a $200 coin with bad photos might work out, but a $175 bid on a $200 coin with bad photos is much more risky proposition
- Buy It Now listings from mega-dealers are often, but not always, priced near, at, or above full retail value. Some of the major sellers (e.g. David Lawrence, West Coast Coins) will take reasonable offers -- sometimes 20% or more below list price -- but you have to ask! If you are a member of a club (EAC, C4, Fly-In, LSCC, JRCS, a local or regional coin club, or whatever) it might be worth it to ask the seller if they'd be willing to give you a small discount if that seller is also part of the same club. Just don't be angry if they tell you no.
- To go with the above, if you see a coin from Big Dealer listed on eBay on a BIN, go to Big Dealer's online web store if they have one and see if the same coin can be purchased for less money if you order it directly from the website. I won't name any particular Big Dealer here but one I am thinking of will list his eBay store items consistently 10% or more above his web site pricing. As stated by srs77 above, if the seller is a dealer close to your location, you can also get better deals sometimes by just going to their physical store in person.
- There are no such things as unsearched rolls/lots/bags/jars/whatever, at least when it comes to eBay.
- An item stored in a safe in a 200 year old building is not more valuable than any other identical item.
- Learn to grade properly and learn how to detect cleaning, environmental damage, and tooling. Never, ever, ever trust a seller's grade opinion unless you've dealt with them before and found their grading to be reasonably accurate (and even then, double check!)
- I've won most of my best "home run" deals about 2-5 AM on Ending Soon auctions. Finding good deals on eBay is work, and will require you to put effort into it. So far this week I have looked at over 2,000 listings and not purchased a single coin. Other times I get lucky and find a "run" of coins from one seller or another and win most of the bids I put in.
- To go with the above, bid to win. If you are willing to spend $60 on a coin, and the auction is at $20 with 10 minutes left, don't bid $30 for your max bid trying to sneak in below your budget, because someone else will snag it for $35 and you'll be feeling pretty silly.
- When you find good sellers, Favorite them and visit them often. Sellers who you do business with on a regular basis are more likely to cut you deals and take your best offers.
- EAC - TNA - SSDC
Specializing in 1932-1964 Washington quarters
"Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done." -- Louis D. Brandeis