Aug 17, 2014
Shake and Bake
Coin collectors naturally use price guides to lookup bid and ask prices. These guides work best when based on large sets of fresh reliable data. Error coins are thinly traded so error coin price guides tend to assign broad-brush values to coin types such as Lincoln Memorial cents. The collector must do his or her own research and analysis to fine tune year, mintmark and other differences. Opportunities abound because individual error coins do not necessarily trade at a single type price or at fixed multiples of their non-error cousins. A prime raw data source is eBay. Members are able to search and filter completed auctions, fixed price sales results, etc. There is no substitute for recent sales data when establishing comps. Even if you have no intention to buy or sell on their platform, the ability to shake and bake data is worth the price of registration, which happens to be free. Don’t forget the eBay mobile app which has many advanced search functions, so the smartphone in your pocket can help you make fast informed trading decisions in the field.
When shopping on eBay, there are many tips and tricks to search and refine data. Here’s one. Find hidden listings, in other words listings masked by keyword weakness. Most people understandably do not speak error coin lingo. When they find themselves in a position to sell unwanted oddball coins, critical keywords get omitted from titles and descriptions, making items hard to find. For example, “1944 Penny Error has cut out” is probably not the best way to use an 80 character title block to reach buyers searching some or all of the keywords “lincoln wheat cent clip clipped planchet error”. Visual photo browsing is one way to find poorly described items but this may or may not work for you depending on your eye hand skills and available time. In a similar vein, weak photos may present good buying opportunities. Most buyers run away at first glance of a bad photo but you should know that poor photo skills do not automatically signal a bad product. Leap of faith bidding can pay off in low competition when you find blurry photos listed by a seller who has solid feedback based on steady coin sales and a clear return policy.
When selling, don’t make the mistakes noted above. Maximize your audience. Write accurate keyword rich titles and descriptions. Use the full 80 character title allowance. Phrases like “look awesome great buy for you” need not apply because buyers don't search those keywords. Upload 12 well lit razor sharp photos that fully depict your item true to life. Fancy equipment isn’t needed, a cellphone camera and a little practice will do. Pixels are free so don’t even think about using less than all 12 photos allowed. Keep in mind your customer’s reaction and feedback if the item in hand looks worse than the photos or if the item has a condition that isn’t visible in the photos. Truth in advertising goes a long way towards making customers happy and building a strong reputation.