HomeCollecting StrategiesFive Tips for Selling Coins on eBay

Five Tips for Selling Coins on eBay

A CAC-graded American Silver Eagle is sold online. Image: Adobe Stock / CoinWeek.
A CAC-graded American Silver Eagle is sold online. Image: Adobe Stock / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan for CoinWeek …..
 

Whether you have a sock drawer full of old coins or sections of a coin collection that you’re no longer interested in pursuing, eBay is a great platform for getting a fair price and selling your coins quickly.

The collecting base actively buying coins on eBay is immense, far bigger than even the major rare coin auction houses, so you won’t have a problem finding a buyer. But veterans of the platform will tell you that selling on eBay isn’t as simple as creating a listing, posting a photo, and waiting for the coin to sell. In fact, sellers can lose quite a bit of money selling coins on eBay if they’re not careful and don’t follow best practices. As a longtime eBay user myself, I can tell you that I have avoided most of the pitfalls of buying and selling online by using common sense and being careful.

For those who would like to maximize your returns on sites like eBay, I’ve put together a list of tips that I believe will help make your listings stand out and get you the most value for the items that you’re trying to sell.

Tip 1: Before You List Your Coin, Find Out What It Is

A mistake many sellers make when they start out is to list items without knowing exactly what they are selling. This can lead to a number of potential bad outcomes. If the coin is misidentified, then buyers might not bid on the item. They might also report the listing to eBay, or be turned off so completely that they avoid every other item you have listed for sale.

Any takers for this mis-identified and overpriced Bicentennial quarter? Image eBay.
Any takers for this mis-identified and overpriced Bicentennial quarter? Image eBay.

Take a look at this listing. The seller titles the lot: “1776-1976 rare quarter it was minted in Denver very rare piece and would go grea”. The description isn’t much better:

This 1776-1976 quarter features a depiction of George Washington and was minted in Denver. It is a rare and unique piece that would make a great addition to any coin collection. The coin’s quality is not certified, but it is a proof strike type with a fineness of 0.83. The denomination is 25C and it was manufactured in the United States. This highly sought-after coin is perfect for collectors of Washington-themed coins or those interested in American history.

It should be obvious to CoinWeek’s readers that either the seller doesn’t understand the coin they are trying to sell or they are trying to take advantage of people who keep getting fed spam articles by Google that make sensational claims about Bicentennial Quarters.

In this instance, the seller could have checked the Red Book or any free-to-use online reference and come up with enough information to accurately list this coin. For better results, CoinWeek would recommend the title of this lot to read (at a minimum): “1776-1976 Bicentennial Quarter. Extra Fine.”

As for the description, it is better to describe your coin to the best of your ability and to not make claims that you don’t know to be factual. Your buyers can return coins if the descriptions are inaccurate, and eBay and PayPal usually back the buyer in this situations.

So a more accurate description might read:

The 1776-1976 quarter is one of the most popular U.S. coins of the 20th century. This coin was struck to mark the bicentennial of American independence and was released in 1975 and 1976. This coin is lightly circulated and is being sold as-is. A great hole-filler for those looking to build a complete set of circulated Washington Quarters.

Granted, our description is not as sexy as the one claiming that the coin is rare (it is not), is unique (it is one of only 809 million struck), was minted in Denver (it wasn’t), is a Proof strike (it is not), or that it has a fineness of .83 (?). But it is accurate.

The eBay Advanced Search feature will help you see recent eBay sales. For sellers, this is a useful tool.
The eBay Advanced Search feature will help you see recent eBay sales. For sellers, this is a useful tool.

Finally, the price. At $2,700, this coin is listed at about $2,699.75 more than this particular coin is worth. Given that eBay is the most active market for buying and selling collectibles, buyers and sellers should take full advantage of eBay’s Advanced Search feature. There you can search by keyword, item number, title, description, completed, and sold items.

Three recent sold item listings of the Bicentennial quarter on eBay.
Three recent sold item listings of the Bicentennial quarter on eBay.

Enter the keyword of the coin or other item you are selling (or buying) along with the eBay Sold items filter and you will get a good idea of the value of your item.

Tip #2: Purchase Proper Shipping Materials Before You List Your Items

Nothing makes buyers feel like they made the right decision when taking a chance on a seller than receiving a package in the mail that is professionally prepared and adequately protects their purchase. This protection goes far beyond making sure that the coins you sell don’t get dinged in transit as security should be the seller’s number one priority when shipping their items. Every week, CoinWeek’s friend Doug Davis and the Numismatic Crime Information center (NCIC) post the latest reports about crime that impacts the numismatic community and packages stolen in transit is one of the most frequently discussed subjects.

So how do you make sure that you protect yourself when mailing coins or other numismatic collectibles?

Cheshire Mailers Deluxe White Corrugated Safety Mailer. Image: Wizard Coin Supply.
Cheshire Mailers Deluxe White Corrugated Safety Mailer. Image: Wizard Coin Supply.

The first thing you need to do is package your orders correctly. Companies like Wizard Coin Supply specialize in products for collectors and dealers and offer the appropriate shipping supplies. For loose coins, I recommend that you use safety mailers made out of corrugated cardboard and enclose these in a tamper-evident cardboard mailer that has been sealed with reinforced security tape. Uline offers its own house brand Save a Buck Reinforced Kraft Tape for an affordable price.

When you have the materials, be sure to print your Ship To and Return Address information legibly and to avoid using terms that might give away the contents of the package. For added safety and security, you may want to use a P.O. Box as a return shipping location.

While you’re at it, include a personalized or semi-personalized letter thanking the customer for their purchase. Include a business card if you’d like to grow your eBay brand. It’s also never a bad idea to include a freebie along with your marketing materials if the customer made a purchase that warrants a little bit extra.

To name-drop and discuss an eBay experience I had recently, budding coin dealer and current ANA Governor Kenny Sammut included marketing collateral and personalized materials along with a booklet that I purchased from him. I appreciated the effort he made to not only promote the hobby but how he could serve me as a customer if I needed anything else. Follow Kenny’s example and you might also develop a loyal customer base.

Tip #3: Great Coin Photography is Key

When I first listed coins for sale on eBay in the early 2010s, I fretted over my images. I experimented with setups, I tried to learn from the experts online, and I spent thousands of dollars of cameras, lenses, and other equipment. It was an expensive tuition that thankfully you don’t have to pay since any recent generation smart phone can produce images of sufficient quality to rival the equipment I purchased a decade ago. Having said that, it’s also important to understand that while your cell phone can produce great photos, it can only do so if you take the time to learn how.

Two examples of bad images posted by eBay sellers. The photo on the left has been over-manipulated by imaging software, resulting in an image that does not accurately depict the coin. This seller also reuses the image for multiple listings, which means that the coin shown is not the coin the buyer ultimately receives. The photo on the right is not properly lit or centered - not to mention out of focus. Experienced buyers would pass on both lots. Image: eBay.
Two examples of bad images posted by eBay sellers. The photo on the left has been over-manipulated by imaging software, resulting in an image that does not accurately depict the coin. This seller also reuses the image for multiple listings, which means that the coin shown is not the coin the buyer ultimately receives. The photo on the right is not properly lit or centered – not to mention out of focus. Experienced buyers would pass on both lots. Image: eBay.

The basic elements of taking great coin photographs are lighting, proper positioning of the camera, the clarity of the shot, and post processing.

Well-lit coin photographs bring out both the coin’s positive and negative characteristics. It is important for the buyer to see an accurate representation of the coin that is being offered. Not adequately showing the coin’s great characteristics will reduce the amount bidders are willing to pay, while concealing the coin’s negative features may lead to disappointment and returns.

For lighting, I recommend LED lights (such as ring lights) for the beginner. Your phone’s built-in flash will likely produce a harsh reflection on the coin’s surface and should be avoided.

When shooting a small object, you want your camera close enough to show the entire object and as much detail as possible. Positioning the camera too close to the coin will result in a blurry photo that is also darkened by the camera’s shadow. A photograph taken too far away may also produce a blurry image or one where the details are insufficient for the viewer to determine much information related to the quality of the piece.

This image of a well-circulated 1919 Lincoln Wheat Cent provides a true representation of the coin. Image: Adobe Stock.
This image of a well-circulated 1919 Lincoln Wheat Cent provides a true representation of the coin. The background has been cropped out using photo editing software. Image: Adobe Stock.

If you’re taking a photograph of, say, a Wheat Cent that you plan to list on eBay, then it’s not sufficient that the image just show that it is, in fact, a Wheat Cent. Instead, the image has to accurately depict your particular coin so that bidders can evaluate its condition and eye appeal.

With practice, you will determine the proper position of your camera and suitable settings for your lighting rig.

In post processing, you will take your raw images and edit them into their final form. As a web publisher, I find Adobe Photoshop to be the best editing software for my needs and skill level. I’ve been a daily user of Photoshop since 2002. Adobe offers a monthly subscription to use the product, which I find reasonable only if you intend to use it regularly. Adobe usually offers a free trial, so you might want to check it out before making a decision. Other editing software exists, but I have no experience with it.

The important thing to do with your photo editor is to develop a consistent look and feel to your product shots. Decide on an image size and dimension. Some might find success in cropping the coin out of the background or using the software’s tools to make slight adjustments to the contrast and light level of the image (but it’s better to get it right when you’re taking the shot).

You can also use the photo editing software to create images that focus on key features of the coin – such as diagnostics of an error or variety. Only publish as many images in your listing as is necessary to tell the story of the coin. If the coin is certified and slabbed, then you may want to provide images of the front and back of the holder and close-up images of the obverse and reverse of the coin. Make sure the coin is centered, shot at a level plane, and clear enough to see.

If you need more help on this subject, there are scores of videos on YouTube that go into more detail about cellphone photography. But taking images of coins is much different than taking photos of larger subjects like hats, shoes, animals, and people. Keep that in mind when choosing which YouTube “expert” to take advice from.

Tip #4: Be Consistent With Your Descriptions

You don’t have to be a rare coin expert to have success selling coins on eBay – although it does help. So long as you’ve followed my advice on my very first tip, you will already be in a position to write an effective and accurate product description.

Be direct and economical with your words. Make sure that you’ve accurately described the coin in your header and in the body of your description, and that any commentary you’d like to add does not distract from the facts.

1991 PCGS MS69 American Silver Eagle

As an example, I describe this 1991 American Silver Eagle using information gleaned from CoinWeek’s article about the coin:

1991 American Silver Eagle Bullion Coin graded PCGS MS69 First Strike.

This nearly perfect 1991 American Silver Eagle Bullion coin has been graded MS69 by PCGS and was submitted to the service in an a sealed box that was originally shipped within the 30-day release window necessary to qualify for the service’s First Strike holder.

The United States Mint produced 7,191,066 bullion strike Silver Eagles in 1991. This date currently sells for over $1,000 in MS70. At MS69, this nearly perfect example offers a much more affordable alternative, with recent sales.

The present example is problem free and will be promptly shipped in a secure, professionally shipped package and insured for the complete purchase price.

If you’d like to see the other great coins I have for sale, click here.

In just three paragraphs, I presented both objective and subjective information in an honest and accurate way. Potential buyers were informed about the coin’s grade, who graded it, and what the First Strike label means. They learned about the mintage of 1991 American Silver Eagle bullion coins and how MS69 coins are more attractively priced than MS70s. Potential buyers are also given clear information about how their purchase will be shipped and insured and you provided a link to other coins that you currently have on offer.

At a bare minimum, a description like this helps your listing stand out in crowded marketplace. You can further dress up your descriptions with eBay Seller Templates, which the platform makes available to users on the backend of its platform. I recommend that you chose a minimalist template that clearly conveys essential information in a professional manner and does not come across as alienating to your target customer.

Beyond this, be consistent. In time, those familiar with your listings will ascertain your perspective and the care you put into your listings.

Tip #5: If You Plan to Sell a Lot of Coins, Set a Listing Schedule

One of my favorite eBay sellers usually doesn’t have things for sale when I look. But when he does post items, I’m sure I’m one of hundreds of customers that drop everything to check them out.

What makes this seller unique is that when he posts, he posts upwards of 200-300 coins at a time – each with a 99¢ list price, all professionally photographed, and all ending within close proximity of one another a week after the listing is posted. This eBay seller has sold more than 55,000 coins and I regret that I could not afford to buy 20,000 of them; his listings are that good.

With a regular schedule, a large audience, and professional listings, this seller can afford to offer all of his coins at a low starting price because he knows that very few coins are going to slip through the cracks.

I have purchased some of my favorite certified world coins from this seller, and given his approach, I usually find myself bidding on coins that I wouldn’t have considered had they been listed individually.

As someone just starting out, perhaps you won’t be selling 200-300 coins on eBay at a time, but you probably have more than one or two. My advice is to list a certain number of your items together with similar ending times (preferably during waking hours on the East Coast) and then list new (preferably non-competing) products on the same day as your last wave of listings ends. This way, you begin the process of building an expectation on the part of your customers that more goodies are on the way and that you are running your eBay store as a professional concern. It may not have been your intention to be a regular eBay seller when you started, but you if you approach the sale of your coins with professionalism, you might be surprised to find that you’ve created a little business for yourself… one that could change your life.

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Charles Morgan
Charles Morgan
Charles Morgan is an award-winning numismatic author and the editor and publisher of CoinWeek.com. Along with co-author Hubert Walker, he has written for CoinWeek since 2012, as well as the "Market Whimsy" column for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing. From 2021-2023, Charles served as Governor of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), where he was bestowed the Glenn Smedley Award. Charles is a member of numerous numismatic organizations, including the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG).

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1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for this great information that I will be taking advantage of.It certainly is information that everyone can use. So I certainly do want to say Thank You!!

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