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Junk coins flood online auctions

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Each week for my Coin Update column I view 100+ online auctions on Proxibid,, and other venues, spending less and less time because of spurious auctioneer practices or junk auctions. On some sites, I may spend 10 seconds. Others I simply ignore.

Several sellers see maximum bids or shill bid, lying about lots being won “onsite,” only to feature them again in the next auction — a dead giveaway of shenanigans. Some set opening bids at retail prices, transforming an auction into an online coin shop. Many auctioneers peddle common coins flooding the market that have little collector or hobbyist values.

We’re talking about the latter today.

Here’s a list of the top 10 junk lots that you will see in almost every online coin auction.

#10: Junk Silver Dollars

People used to give these as Christmas or birthday presents 50-odd years ago. You could actually go to the bank and request them. You got about 10 of these before uncles, aunts, and parents stopped giving them to you. Now they’re all online, with common dates in worn, cleaned, or damaged condition. They are worth their weight in silver. Yes, you can bid for the silver, but when you add buyer’s and mailing fees, you’re apt to lose money.

#9: Junk Collections

These typically lack key dates, especially Lincoln cents. Most of these came from paper routes when people still read newspapers in the 1960s and 70s. We diligently filled up books. It was fun. But now that we’re in our 60s and older, there’s no need for these coins, typically worth only a few cents each for the copper.

#8: Junk Wheat Cents

Sometimes auctioneers were taking these cents out of folders and offering them, lot by lot. If you win a few, is it really worth paying $10-25 shipping?

#7: Junk Rolls

These are mostly Wheat cents in hand-filled paper rolls, not original bankrolls, that were saved in a jar. Do you really think you’ll find a 1914-D cent in these?

#6: Junk Proof and Mint Sets

These are worth little more than their cash value. When you add buyer’s and shipping fees, you’re just doubling or tripling what you would pay at a coin shop. And believe me, those dealers will be happy to sell you these over-minted non-silver sets in bulk. They have closets full.

#5: Junk State Quarter Sets

These were the rage when they first came out in 1999. And many of us had fun filling albums and collecting sets from each state. Then we got state parks and U.S. Mint hype and tried to get youths interested in coin collections. We failed. And these are just about everywhere now in online auctions. The worst buys are non-U.S. Mint and gold plated sets, like these.

#4: Junk World Coins and Paper

Go to your bank. Ask if they have separated these from their coin-counting machines. Go to the coin shop and buy world coins by the pound. Pay 25 to 50 cents each for world paper money. Tip: You’re not going to find silver.

#3: Junk Gold Flakes

These are either imitation gold or real micro gold that sell for about $1.50 on eBay and Amazon.

Here’s a sample from eBay.

Here are copper flakes that pass as gold for arts and crafts. (Unscrupulous sellers are known to fill vials with this junk and offer as gold — dangerous, as gold flakes can be used in cake decorating but copper should not be ingested.)

#2: Junk California Gold

Every word apart from “round” is wrong in this description. Not from California. Not from 1858. Not gold. These are usually plated or brass replicas, Chinese ripoffs, or 20th-century jeweler’s tokens, which you can buy for a buck each at a coin shop. Beware of a bear on the reverse! See my Coin Update column about how to tell real from fake fractional gold.

#1: Junk Trump Commemoratives

People bought these believing they were gold, only to learn they were plated and see them sold online for $13 or less.

I’ll end with some advice for auctioneers: Don’t accept these as consignments. You’ll get a reputation as a junk seller. I rarely view auction houses that consistently offer these with a few average or holdered coins that might be worth a bid. Not worth my time. Or yours.

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