Volume 58, Number 3, March 2021
Trying to make sense of it I MUST confess I rarely buy coins “online”. Yes, I’ll visit a dealer’s website, or even bid via the internet at an auction that I cannot attend (which, of course, is all of them these days) but those things I view as simply another way of buying from people I would purchase from anyway, their online presence is just another way for me to see what they have on offer, exactly as a table at a show or their shop might be. When I say I don’t “buy online” what I really mean is that I’ll rarely purchase anything on eBay or similar sites, I just can’t see the attraction. Others, of course, are online auction devotees, and they regale me with stories of the rarities they’ve found, the bargains they’ve had, how they were outbid on something they desperately wanted one day then swooped in at the last minute to buy something even better with their “snipe” bid the next. People are always telling me I should give the online auction sites a go and, to be fair I have and some of them are very good but those that are tend to be the ones with acknowledged experts, where somebody has looked at the lots coming in, has catalogued them, estimated them and has some knowledge of what they are doing. These are fine, I have no issue with them at all and have purchased from them in the past; no, the auction sites I try to avoid at all costs are those where people upload, and describe and price, their own lots. Oh my goodness me, those sites I just cannot get on with no matter how I try. Of course, the biggest of these is eBay but there are others out there and every time I venture on to one I venture out again very quickly. It’s not the auction site’s fault of course, they aren’t responsible for what people put up there, nor how they describe it, so I’m really not blaming them, nor do I wish to put people off—I am sure there are bargains and rarities to be found aplenty but I find there’s so much dross around and so many people who obviously haven’t got a clue what they’re doing that I just don’t have the time, will or inclination to even try to wade through it all to find the diamond in the rough. Unfortunately just recently I found myself online doing exactly that, wading away, after someone on our Facebook page commented that he had noticed the 1971 2p piece was being offered online for silly money; he then went on to say that whilst he knew that it wasn’t worth what was being asked, he had also checked some US dealer’s sites and found that they too were selling the same coin for big money (or at least trying to) and was there something he didn’t know? Well the simple answer to that is no, but I thought I ought to check the story out myself and as I was doing so I was reminded once again why I don’t visit those kind of online auction sites regularly. Type in “1971 2p” into the eBay search bar for example and you’ll see exactly what I mean. As I write this in early February there are lots of 1971 2p pieces on offer but none are likely to tempt me. They are currently on sale for £9,000, £8,000, £6,750, £5,000, £1,083, £535, £100 and one seller is offering no fewer than three of these “extremely rare and valuable” 2p coins for £6! Now, quite apart from the fact that there were 1,454,856,250 (yes, that’s well over a billion, nearly one and half thousand million) of these coins minted (well it was the first decimal 2p) so it’s about as “not rare” as a thing could possibly be, despite the inevitable descriptions, you would have thought that those people listing these coins would have taken some time to see what similar things were on offer and put theirs on at roughly the same price level. This, however, has plainly not happened, the disparity in pricing is vast and I have to ask myself what on earth these people are thinking. Why on earth would somebody take the time and trouble to photograph a coin and write out a description, then up load that to an auction site when their asking price is thousands of times what someone else is asking for exactly the same item? What are they hoping to achieve? Surely they can see what others are selling exactly the same coin for, so why put theirs on for the ridiculous price they do? Do they honestly believe somebody is going to randomly spend £9,000 without even bothering to check if the coin is cheaper elsewhere, or indeed if it’s worth collecting at all? OK, so maybe if they’d put their listing on for a pound or two, with an enticing enough description (and one or two have done exactly that), then they might find someone willing to part with some cash, but £9,000? Nobody, nobody at all is going to buy that 2p at that price so why waste time listing it at that in the first place? It makes no sense and I am at a complete loss as to why they’d bother. Of course, I know there are many sensible people selling on eBay and similar sites, know that were you to be looking for a Puddleduck 50p or an alphabet 10p then that’s as good a place as any to find one. Yes, you’ll pay more than face value but that’s OK, it won’t be really stupid money and you’ll have got the coin you need, the one you’ve just not been able to pick up in your change, but that doesn’t explain those people listing coins worth 2p for thousands—but then, I fear, nothing will! If any readers can enlighten me as to why people list coins they have no chance of selling I’d love to know, I can’t make any sense of it. Do please keep expletives to a minimum! As to whether American dealers are also offering the 1971 2p for “big bucks” well I haven’t been able to verify that yet, I’ll keep looking. My guess is if they are it’s because they’ve seen the prices online and are trying their luck in this 50th anniversary of decimalisation year. I’m really hoping that’s not a trend that will catch on!
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