Buy Coins On eBay? Here Are My 4 Best Tips For Buying eBay Coins & Scoring The Best Deal

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I buy coins on eBay all the time, and I’m certainly not alone.

Buy Coins eBay

Millions of people use the popular online auction website each day to buy, sell, and peruse everything from antique furniture and clothing to sporting equipment and cars.

Many also enjoy using the site to trade coins. Coins and paper money represent some of the most frequently bought and sold items on eBay.

But how do you know if you’re really getting a good deal on eBay coins?

How can you tell genuine from fake when you buy coins on eBay?

Is there a strategy for winning coins on the auction site?

Having been an eBay buyer and seller over the past decade, I can provide a few tips that can help you score the best deals when you buy coins on eBay.

Here are 4 things you should know…


#1 – Know Who The Most Reputable Sellers Are

I think eBay sellers deserve a chance to prove the integrity of their business ethics. And, certainly, new eBay users need an opportunity to build their reputation.

Buy Coins eBay

But I tend to focus on buying coins from eBay retailers who have a pretty good track record of selling coins. These are your so-called “PowerSellers” and other eBay sellers who have rankings in the several thousand range — the number derived from the amount of transactions they’ve made.

That said, I have had successful transactions with individuals who are clearly just getting in on the eBay game too – those with rankings under 500. But when dealing with these folks, I only buy coins that I’m confident are genuine.

The best coins to buy from lower-ranking sellers are certified in slabs from major coin grading certification firms — such as the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).

I also don’t mind buying low-value raw coins from sellers with lower rankings. Low-ranking sellers might be more apt to accept lower bids — so they can sell their products and hopefully deserve to receive your highly valued, positive ranking and good feedback to help build their eBay reputation.

I think the bottom line when looking for a coin dealer’s reputation on eBay is to avoid buying from those who have negative feedback — especially lots of negative feedback from recent times. That’s never a good sign!


#2 – Know What Coins Are Worth Before You Buy

If you’re submitting bids that merely feel good to you – they aren’t really based on anything other than what you can afford or “think” a coin is worth, then you risk at least 2 things:

  1. You may severely underbid on the coin and not win the lot.
  2. You might overbid and pay far more than the coin is really worth in terms of market value.

This is where understanding coin values really comes in handy. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to have a thorough comprehension about coin values, period. That way, you’ll know if you’re getting a good deal and can avoid paying more than you really need to.

Buy Coins eBay

Having said that, I have paid a little more than average market value for a coin that I was desperately trying to find. Paying 10%, even 20%, over average market value for a particular coin isn’t necessarily crazy if you want the coin badly enough.

Of course, knowing how much to bid is often difficult.

Many eBay sellers use retail price guide books to determine what their reserves should be or what price to set on a Buy It Now lot.

Other price guides, such as the Greysheet and past auction records, may be more accurate in terms of reflecting the coin market really looks like at any given time. But few sellers ever consider such pricing data for guidance.

It’s either more inconvenient for them to refer to specialized coin pricing guides, or they simply don’t know there are other price books out there other than the popular ones seen at bookstores and on magazine racks.

At any rate, you will most likely have to use the common retail price guides in making a judgment call on how much to pay for a certain coin — because bidding less than that may mean coming under what it takes to place a winning bid.

As for Best Offers, I usually submit a bid 20% to 30% under asking (not necessarily expecting to buy the coin at the rate) and hope the seller provides me with a compromise 10% to 15% lower than the lot’s original price. This strategy works more often than not.


#3 – Know How To Tell Genuine Coins From Fake Coins

Even here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins, I’ve seen more than my share of photos from readers asking me about the rare coin they inherited from some family member – that, unfortunately, sometimes winds up being nothing more than a crude replica.

It’s against eBay policy to sell fake coins unless they are advertised as replicas, copies, or otherwise.

The Hobby Protection Act of 1973 prohibits the sale of imitation coins without the word “COPY” inscribed somewhere on the piece. Still, that doesn’t stop unscrupulous types from selling their fake coins, replicas, fantasy coins, or otherwise as real numismatic treasures.

Even eBay can’t catch every single dastardly deed in the making. It’s therefore incumbent on you, the buyer, to take extra precautions necessary when you buy coins and to make sure you’re not buying fakes. This, as you’d guess, isn’t always easy to do.

Many of the older fake coins out there are poor-looking electrotype replicas that have characteristic porous surfaces or seams around the edge of the coin where 2 halves from a mold were sealed together.

However, sometimes fake coins aren’t even fake per se — but rather altered. For example:

If I’m buying a rare coin on eBay (and I have), I buy only certified coins in 3rd-party coin grading slabs from reputable companies — such as PCGS, NGC, and the American Numismatic Association Certfication Service (ANACS). These coins have been carefully inspected by the very top numismatic professionals and should be safe for you to buy.

The best way to protect yourself against buying fake coins is to familiarize yourself with real rarities. In time, you’ll be able to tell a fake coin from a mile away.


#4 – Know What The Return Policy Is Ahead Of Time

Unless I’m pretty sure in what I’m buying – a low-cost uncirculated set or a certified coin – I avoid eBay sellers who don’t provide return policies with their coins.

Many coin dealers and eBay coin sellers will provide return periods of 3 to 30 days.

Buy Coins eBay

A return policy is a virtual necessity when buying coins — because even the best photos can’t really show what a coin looks like.

When buying coins from a brick and mortar coin dealer, you can pick the coin up, look at it from different angles, and even use a magnifying glass to look for sharpness of strike, hairline scratches, flow lines, and other details that don’t really show up in a 2-dimensional photo.

Upon receiving a coin in the mail from an eBay coin dealer, I can tell within moments whether or not I like it. And I notify eBay sellers by email or eBay messenger if I wish to return their coin. In most cases, it’s never an issue. I’ll just pay the cost of shipping.

Ultimately, you risk losing out big time if you order from an eBay seller who doesn’t offer a return policy. If you buy coins from such dealers, you may luck out and receive exactly what you were hoping for. Or you may be disappointed and have no recourse.


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5 thoughts on “Buy Coins On eBay? Here Are My 4 Best Tips For Buying eBay Coins & Scoring The Best Deal”

  1. Hi Josh, I had this coin from my dad, I was just wondering how much do u think it’s worth and what kind of coin is this?
    And also I have this penny from 1950 with a MASON stamp on it & are they worth of keeping it or not?
    I also have this one cent mexican coin that it looks like it has an error on it I’m not sure though but tell me your verdict to this lol.. I got this coin from one of my change coins while shopping in Downtown L.A. a few weeks ago I was thinking they must have mistaken it as a dime or something i dunno.
    Last but not the least I have a 1909 that has some kinda error i think and a 1919 coin that I saw something on the reverse side can u able to help me with these coins. Thanks

    • Hello, Dayan —

      Thank you for your questions and photos. I address each of the coins below with my best opinion of each:

      •1950-D Lincoln cent Mason stamp cent – these are collectible as exonumia and are worth $1 to $3.
      •I’m not an expert on Mexican coins and am not really keen on Mexican die breaks or what they would be worth. Perhaps this is a topic for die variety expert John Wexler:
      •1909 Lincoln cent – this appears to be post-mint damage/corrosion and is worth $1 to $2
      •1919 Lincoln cent – I see grooves near the “N” in “CENT” and believe this is post-mint damage
      •The last coin appears to be a 1936 Philippines One Centavo coin in Fair-2 to About Good-3 grade; it is worth about 50 cents


  2. I see I’m about three years late to the party here. But I’d still like to make a few observations. First, I should say that I have been collecting coins for over 55 years, so I do have some perspective on the hobby, and I stress hobby.

    To begin with, the value of anything, whether houses, cars, or muffins, is what someone will pay for it; not the ask price but the bid. Sellers and buyers get together to arrive at a mutually agreeable price. If you’ve ever haggled with a street vendor over a Mexican blanket you get the idea.

    The problem with coins, and what really doesn’t make them an investment, is that dealer mark-up is so high, a collector will never come close to making up the difference. One recent example is Mike on HSN offering 2019 Rocket Ship sets for $50. The same set the mint was selling a few months ago at $10. While this outrageous grasping for profit is an extreme example, it reflects the reality of the coin market. Anecdotes abound about beneficiaries taking coins grandpa had spent 10s of 1000s on to a dealer, to find their value was a small percentage of that.

    Numismatic coins as an investment only apply if you have the capital to buy truly rare examples, which are generally sold in big auction houses. A dealer is not going to offer anywhere near the listed price for that 1914 D penny you found in grandma’s drawer. This is not to knock dealers; they have to make a living. It just means that coins should be appreciated as works of art, not potential money-making instruments.

    • Hi, ec99 —

      Thank you so much for sharing your keen insights here with us… It’s true, the value of something is only what someone will pay. Part of the equation, too, is that collectors should buy from reputable coin dealers and avoid buying overpriced items. Then, if they have any hope of making a profit, they need to hang on to their purchase for many years. Flipping might work from time to time in real estate, but it has a murky track record in numismatics!

      Best wishes,


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