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Seller ethics question


kirispupis

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Recently, I was perusing some new listings from one of my favorite sellers when I noticed an interesting coin. In the interest of protecting the seller, I won't provide the exact type, but the following are the important details

  • It's type I'm familiar with
  • The coin is listed for roughly $200
  • However, the attribution is incorrect (and I have a high degree of confidence in it)
  • Were the attribution correct, $200 would be a very nice price. At auction I would expect it to be in the $300-$400 range.
  • Given the correct attribution, the coin is worth roughly $50

Since I've bought many coins from this seller, I emailed him and mentioned the mistake in the attribution and provided several references to prove my case. He replied in a friendly way that he agreed with my assessment and that the attribution he received was incorrect.

However, it's been several weeks now and I noticed that the attribution has not changed.

On the one hand, this does me absolutely no harm. I have no interest in buying the coin myself. Based on the fact that the coin is still for sale, I assume others interested in this area have come to the same conclusions as I.

This does make me wonder whether I can trust the seller as much and whether I should give future purchases more examination.

What are your thoughts? Should this concern me?

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Yes, but this happens all the time with auction houses. I tell them about misattributions and they rarely even respond. I often wonder if bidders know, but in an auction, it seems you have no recourse if the attribution is wrong so it is unacceptable not to change it.

It could just be down to being busy and disorganised, and cutting the price of a coin isn't a priority if they have a lot for sale. But hopefully with a dealer, you could return a coin you later found was misattributed.

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There’s an eBay seller that has sold for years but evidently knows nothing about Roman coins. He listed a coin where he titled it “Tag says Constantine I”

I messaged him saying that the coin clearly said CONSTANTINVS IVN NOB C. 
 

he replied that he was busy and doesn’t have time to properly attribute coins and goes off the “collector tags.”

It’s an integrity violation is you knowingly misattribute coins. If it’s an honest mistake, correct it. If you don’t, you’re the entire problem.

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It's of some concern, certainly. However, I would try to give the dealer the benefit of the doubt, especially if they are a large firm with hundreds or thousands of listings. An email like yours could easily be overlooked and forgotten. It shouldn't be, but mistakes happen.

If it's a small dealer with limited stock then it's harder to be understanding about it.

A misattribution in itself isn't necessarily a red flag - dealers, auction houses do it with surprising regularity - but dishonesty always is, obviously. I'd maybe wait a week or two more, then email him again. A good dealer will appreciate the reminder.

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20 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

Recently, I was perusing some new listings from one of my favorite sellers when I noticed an interesting coin. In the interest of protecting the seller, I won't provide the exact type, but the following are the important details

  • It's type I'm familiar with
  • The coin is listed for roughly $200
  • However, the attribution is incorrect (and I have a high degree of confidence in it)
  • Were the attribution correct, $200 would be a very nice price. At auction I would expect it to be in the $300-$400 range.
  • Given the correct attribution, the coin is worth roughly $50

Since I've bought many coins from this seller, I emailed him and mentioned the mistake in the attribution and provided several references to prove my case. He replied in a friendly way that he agreed with my assessment and that the attribution he received was incorrect.

However, it's been several weeks now and I noticed that the attribution has not changed.

On the one hand, this does me absolutely no harm. I have no interest in buying the coin myself. Based on the fact that the coin is still for sale, I assume others interested in this area have come to the same conclusions as I.

This does make me wonder whether I can trust the seller as much and whether I should give future purchases more examination.

What are your thoughts? Should this concern me?

Would you correct attribution for a seller if he was selling a coin for $200 that you want, but correct attribution bumbs it to $1,000 ?

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I have informed several dealers that a coin they were selling or auctioning was false.   Naturally I phrase this as my opinion, am not accusatory, and provide references so the dealer can check for him or herself.  I do not do this unless the coin in question is a die match for a condemned coin.  The coin has not always been withdrawn from sale.  I no longer do business with such firms.  There are plenty of ethical dealers, and more coins out there than I will ever be able to buy.  

A misattribution which works in the dealer’s favor is fraud, if the dealer is fully aware of it, agrees it is a misattribution, and does not change it.  

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4 minutes ago, El Cazador said:

Would you correct attribution for a seller if he was selling a coin for $200 that you want, but correct attribution bumbs it to $1,000 ?

No I would buy it 😂

But the dealer is meant to be the person with knowledge and authority.

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1 minute ago, El Cazador said:

Not always

Only in the case of a casual eBay seller. And I do tell them the ‘better’ attributions, as often they have no meaningful attribution at all. Although I have yet to see one that should be a significant amount of money.

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14 minutes ago, El Cazador said:

Would you correct attribution for a seller if he was selling a coin for $200 that you want, but correct attribution bumbs it to $1,000 ?

FWIW, yesterday I purchased a coin where the seller correctly attributed it as an unpublished coin from a routine city. However, upon further research I believe it's an extremely rare issue from a tyrant of that city that hasn't been properly noticed. The coin was listed for $100, but if my re-attribution is correct then it would be worth significantly more. I did inform the seller of my thoughts and he still sold it to me at the original price (of course, he may not have believed me...)

Note that this was for a small seller. 

I'll write a post on this coin when I receive it, since I think it's remarkable.

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17 minutes ago, DLTcoins said:

That used to be the case but nowadays, unfortunately, anyone with a few coins and a smartphone can be an "auction house".

This is true, but we are talking about ethics. They are meant to know what they are selling. Imagine if they set up selling pharmaceuticals with the wrong descriptions of what they were meant to cure...

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@El Cazador you raise an interesting ethical question, whether it is right for a collector to purchase a coin from a dealer at a price which is substantially less than the market value of the coin, when the collector has recognized some hidden value in the coin which the dealer did not perceive or price for. As it happens, I was researching this very question today.

Thomas Aquinas grants that such a transaction is perfectly legal.   In other words, it is not illegal to underpay for a coin.  However, he maintains that it is immoral, that is, sinful. In maintaining this, he is not speaking about small variations in price, but rather gross disparities between purchase price and actual worth of the merchandise.  

Aquinas does agree people engaging in commerce can expect compensation for costs of engaging in business.  Certainly one of the costs of coin collecting is the time and expense of educating one’s self.  A case could be made for a knowledgeable collector profiting from his or her study by purchasing an otherwise unrecognized rarity and selling it at a profit.  But Aquinas would argue the profit should not exceed the effort, risk, and labor of the transaction.  Roughly speaking, buying a coin for a thousand dollars, turning around and selling it for a million dollars, would be impossible to morally justify, regardless of who was seller and who was purchaser.  

https://thejosias.com/2017/06/16/aquinas-on-buying-and-selling/

 

 

 

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35 minutes ago, John Conduitt said:

This is true, but we are talking about ethics. They are meant to know what they are selling. Imagine if they set up selling pharmaceuticals with the wrong descriptions of what they were meant to cure...

Apples and oranges 

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16 minutes ago, Hrefn said:

@El Cazador you raise an interesting ethical question, whether it is right for a collector to purchase a coin from a dealer at a price which is substantially less than the market value of the coin, when the collector has recognized some hidden value in the coin which the dealer did not perceive or price for. As it happens, I was researching this very question today.

Thomas Aquinas grants that such a transaction is perfectly legal.   In other words, it is not illegal to underpay for a coin.  However, he maintains that it is immoral, that is, sinful. In maintaining this, he is not speaking about small variations in price, but rather gross disparities between purchase price and actual worth of the merchandise.  

Aquinas does agree people engaging in commerce can expect compensation for costs of engaging in business.  Certainly one of the costs of coin collecting is the time and expense of educating one’s self.  A case could be made for a knowledgeable collector profiting from his or her study by purchasing an otherwise unrecognized rarity and selling it at a profit.  But Aquinas would argue the profit should not exceed the effort, risk, and labor of the transaction.  Roughly speaking, buying a coin for a thousand dollars, turning around and selling it for a million dollars, would be impossible to morally justify, regardless of who was seller and who was purchaser.  

https://thejosias.com/2017/06/16/aquinas-on-buying-and-selling/

 

 

 

It is a mad world out there - Homo homini lupus est 😉😉😉

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26 minutes ago, Hrefn said:

@El Cazador you raise an interesting ethical question, whether it is right for a collector to purchase a coin from a dealer at a price which is substantially less than the market value of the coin, when the collector has recognized some hidden value in the coin which the dealer did not perceive or price for. As it happens, I was researching this very question today.

Thomas Aquinas grants that such a transaction is perfectly legal.   In other words, it is not illegal to underpay for a coin.  However, he maintains that it is immoral, that is, sinful. In maintaining this, he is not speaking about small variations in price, but rather gross disparities between purchase price and actual worth of the merchandise.  

Aquinas does agree people engaging in commerce can expect compensation for costs of engaging in business.  Certainly one of the costs of coin collecting is the time and expense of educating one’s self.  A case could be made for a knowledgeable collector profiting from his or her study by purchasing an otherwise unrecognized rarity and selling it at a profit.  But Aquinas would argue the profit should not exceed the effort, risk, and labor of the transaction.  Roughly speaking, buying a coin for a thousand dollars, turning around and selling it for a million dollars, would be impossible to morally justify, regardless of who was seller and who was purchaser.  

https://thejosias.com/2017/06/16/aquinas-on-buying-and-selling/

I don't think you can apply the same rule to all sales. If the seller is a dealer, they are the expert (or, at least have the opportunity to be). The buyer is whoever finds them, which could be someone with or without knowledge. It's the imbalance of power that creates the moral issue, not the 'effort'.

Legally, of course, both are expected to conduct due diligence.

Edited by John Conduitt
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@John ConduittI agree that usually the dealer is the expert, but here we are discussing a situation where the customer is more expert than the dealer.  Now, I will freely admit I peruse auction catalogues hoping to find overlooked gems.  As I understand him, Aquinas would have no problem with that, so long as the benefit that accrues to me from a savvy purchase is proportional to the effort (labor), education, cost of my reference works, risk, etc.   in other words, the true cost of the coin to me is all of those things, plus the purchase price.   So if I resell the coin at its true cost to me, that’s perfectly moral, even if that is twice what my purchase price was.   

This approach to commerce is a long way from laissez-faire, caveat emptor, and charge what the market will bear.  It is a very different perspective on buying and selling, than what we are used to.  I am enjoying thinking about it.
 

 

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7 hours ago, kirispupis said:

This does make me wonder whether I can trust the seller as much and whether I should give future purchases more examination.

What are your thoughts? Should this concern me?

I had a similar situation a few months ago. But worse. 
There was an auction house I bought a few times from, without issues. I was checking their next auction and saw a coin I was interested in (an Imperial) 

On that auction they did not fully attribute coins (a very short description, size, weight) so I tried to attribute it myself, like I always do. The surprise was I could not find it anywhere. The coin was a sestertius and the only matching design was on denarii. 

I checked further and after a second look at the coin, it did not look right at all. I had major doubts so I contacted 2 specialists who confirmed that is just a modern fantasy and also provided different identical examples of the fantasy. 

I notified the auction house, politely, and they replied quickly (a day or two), confirming I am correct and they "deleted the lot" and "will list another coin". The mail was written in a hurry and the lot number was different from the one I mentioned. 

But in the end they did not delete anything. The fantasy remained online and the hammer price was 70 euros. This would be a deal for an unlisted 1st century sestertius but not exactly a deal for a trinket. 

My decision was to remove that house from my personal lists of favorite houses. I do not think it was intentional, but it's clear they do not care. 

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In the past, I felt obliged to inform auctions about well-known fakes on their listings. This was no good news for anyone, with variable auction house reactions. I have stopped doing this. An exception would be one very reputable auction house, which took fakes most seriously and was grateful for pointing them out (such occurrences with them are exceptionally rare anyway). Moreover, they made an effort to investigate a suspected (expensive) fake very popular at the type, which since seems to be ceased from the market.

At any point, I can see 4-5 fake Anastasian gold coins on Numisbids and Biddr auctions, plus MA-Shops and VCoins (I can see 4 now, more recently sold for good prices). If I stop buying from auctions/dealers who sell fakes, there would be hardly any to buy from. The only solution I found is to learn more about the coins. I still do have several coins in doubts - will be my loss if happen to be fakes.

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11 hours ago, El Cazador said:

Would you correct attribution for a seller if he was selling a coin for $200 that you want, but correct attribution bumbs it to $1,000 ?

I have had many experiences where things similar to this have happened. Sometimes I have bene interested in the coin other not so.

I had one such case recently where I noticed a coin in a dealer inventory that had been incorrectly identified but only to a minor design facet but taking it from a very common coin to a rare variety. The coin was priced correctly for the common variety and I would expect the variety to be about 3 to 4 times this price. The dealer didn't respond and the coin sold a few weeks later. I wondered if the purchaser even know what a bargain they were getting. 

In another example I was interested in buying a coin and noted that the dealer had completely mis-identified the bust type. I queried this with the dealer who informed me that I was incorrect with my assessment and that I was free to buy the coin at the price advertised. I bought the coin. I eventually sold it some years later for 10 times the price... having correctly identified the bust type.

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33 minutes ago, Rand said:

In the past, I felt obliged to inform auctions about well-known fakes on their listings. This was no good news for anyone, with variable auction house reactions.

I've stopped doing this. Very rarely got a positive reaction. Typical response might be withdraw coin but don't even bother to reply to e-mail.

As far as misattributed coins, to me that's part of the fun of ancients - the treasure hunt.

 

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4 hours ago, ambr0zie said:

I had a similar situation a few months ago. But worse. 
There was an auction house I bought a few times from, without issues. I was checking their next auction and saw a coin I was interested in (an Imperial) 

On that auction they did not fully attribute coins (a very short description, size, weight) so I tried to attribute it myself, like I always do. The surprise was I could not find it anywhere. The coin was a sestertius and the only matching design was on denarii. 

I checked further and after a second look at the coin, it did not look right at all. I had major doubts so I contacted 2 specialists who confirmed that is just a modern fantasy and also provided different identical examples of the fantasy. 

I notified the auction house, politely, and they replied quickly (a day or two), confirming I am correct and they "deleted the lot" and "will list another coin". The mail was written in a hurry and the lot number was different from the one I mentioned. 

But in the end they did not delete anything. The fantasy remained online and the hammer price was 70 euros. This would be a deal for an unlisted 1st century sestertius but not exactly a deal for a trinket. 

My decision was to remove that house from my personal lists of favorite houses. I do not think it was intentional, but it's clear they do not care. 

Ha! Might I inquire if the said sestertius featured Domitian and a dolphin/anchor reverse? I also tried to attribute it, couldn't find it anywhere, messaged David Atherton for his opinion and he said it was a modern fantasy.

What interested me was that whoever made it, they had the thought to add the "S C" found only on Imperial bronze coinage (not the denarius design they were copying.)

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