Pros and cons of buying coins online

Like many industries in the 21st century, coin buying has made a jump to the world wide web. Rather than relying on your local brick-and-mortar coin dealer, you can hop online and shop for coins across the country, and even from around the globe. Due to the increase in online coin buying, it is important to cover the pros and cons as well as some helpful tips.

The Pros

The internet has opened up all sorts of possibilities when it comes to buying coins online. Here are a few of the pros of coin buying online.

The possibilities are endless

In the past, coin collectors had to rely on the inventory of their local coin dealers or travel to coin shows. Now, you can shop from hundreds of different coin dealers without leaving the comfort of your home. This allows you to more easily find that one specific coin you need. If one site doesn’t have it, you can quickly find another two or three that do.

Find the best price

With the ability to search hundreds of sites for the right coin, you can also use the internet to look for the best price before committing to purchase the coin you want. You no longer have to pay whatever price your local dealer has placed on the coin. As you look at the condition and availability, you can price compare and snag the best deal.

The Cons

As with anything, there are definitely cons to buying coins online. Here are a few to be wary of when you're searching the web for your next coveted coin.

You may not get what you pay for

When you purchase anything online, you are trusting the vendor to send you what they have advertised and what you have ultimately paid for. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, even when buying coins online. It is possible to be sent an inferior coin to what you thought you bought.

Buying sight unseen

Some coin buying sites do not post photos of their coins. Instead, they provide descriptions of the coins. If you find something you think you want, you may have to buy it sight unseen. Even if photos are posted, photo editing software allows even the most novice of users to alter any photo. Again, you are placing your trust in the online coin dealer that you’ll receive the coin that they advertised.

Things to consider when buying coins online

Despite the potential cons, buying coins online is still a great way to search for and buy coins to add to your collection whether you’re just getting started or have been collecting for decades. As you look online, consider the following suggestions to help you in being successful in your online buying efforts.

Watch out for scams

It would be incredible if all vendors were honest and transparent. Unfortunately, there are people who are out to scam you out of your money. Here are a few things to watch out for to avoid potential scams:

  • Have flashy websites
  • Try to pressure you into buying by creating a sense of urgency
  • Encourage you to cash in on other investments (e.g., stocks or 401K) to buy their coins
  • Employ fear or intimidation tactics
  • Use technical jargon if they sense you are inexperienced

If you come across vendors that utilize one or all of these strategies, move on. Even if you’re not sure and feel something is off, trust your gut and look somewhere else. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to spending your money buying coins online.

Make sure the vendor is legit

It is recommended that you do some research into whether the online vendor is legit or not. Although it is not always possible to be 100% certain, here are some ways to identify if the online vendor you want to do business with is not out to bamboozle you:

  • Check online reviews for the vendor on and off their site when possible. Do they have high or low ratings? Are there complaints? Read the comments when available.
  • Check their rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in their town. Again, look for possible complaints that have been filed against them.
  • Ask local dealers and other coin collectors that you trust if they’ve done business with them. What was their experience like? Would they recommend them?
  • See if the coin dealer is registered with their state’s department of commerce. This requirement varies by state. If required, they must abide by specific regulations to remain in business.
  • Review their website to get a better sense of their experience. How long have they been buying and selling coins? How familiar are they with the current market conditions? Do they specialize in certain areas? Are they members of the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) or American Numismatic Association (ANA)? If you cannot find the answers you’re looking for on their site, contact them directly and ask.
  • Try a small sample order before committing to a large purchase. This will give you a chance to experience how they do business before spending more money with them.

Avoid these common mistakes

In addition to the tips listed above about avoiding scams and looking for legit vendors, here are several common mistakes to avoid when you buy coins:

  • Buying impulsively.
  • Doing minimal or no research.
  • Buying “certified” coins from non-professional certification services.

If you’re buying coins through an online auction site or are dealing with newer or less experienced dealers, it is possible that they may try to mask issues with their coins. They do this in the hopes of getting a buyer to spend more money. Here are a few condition issues to be on the lookout for as you search for coins:

  • Cleaned coins.
  • Rim issues.
  • Misgraded coins.

General tips for buying coins online

These last few tips may seem like common sense. However, it is easy to overlook them, especially when you’re excited about finding the coin for which you’ve been searching for months. Here are three general tips to remember:

  1. Check for the return policy. Don’t assume that you can return the coin you’ve bought if it does not meet your expectations. Review the buyer’s policy so you know exactly what is or isn’t possible.
  2. Look for online coin dealers from reputable sources. We’ve already discussed making sure the vendor is legit. But, it bears repeating again. Use reputable sources to find online dealers. Ask local dealers you’ve worked with or other coin collectors you know. When possible, compare multiple lists or sources.
  3. Do your research. Know what you’re buying and the value it holds. Look at different examples and grades. Compare it with other options before you commit to buying.

If you’re new to collecting, check out this article, “5 Tips for Coin Collecting and Buying,” for general tips to help get you started.

Infinity Coins is a locally owned and operated company out of Idaho Falls, Idaho. We have a combined experience of 40 years in the coin industry. We continually look for ways to meet our customers' needs and provide a superior level of customer service. If you’re interested in seeing what we have available or want to ask a question, contact us now for a consultation about proper coin purchasing standards.

Published online: Jan 05, 2022