Saturday, December 29, 2012

Coin Photography - Part One, USB Microscope

USB Microscope
I've been experimenting with coin photography for the last few months. I bought the book, Numismatic Photography by Mark Goodman, which is very useful and highly recommended.  However, a book about photography without a camera tends to sit on the shelf.  Not wanting to invest too much money, I came across this USB microscope with LED lights. This scope lets me see the image on my PC, make adjustments to get the image right and save it to disk. It's even powered by the PC via the USB cable.

Copy Stand
While the scope does work well as advertised, I found it difficult to position the scope vertically over the coin. This was especially true for larger coins when I needed to put some distance between the coin and the scope. After setting the scope on a stack of books I knew there had to be a better way, and there was. A copy stand with adjustable height that will accommodate my scope! Now I was taking pictures of coins.

As you can see the next challenge was to get the color right. It turns out those eight LEDs on the scope that I bought were too bright and too white for my needs. On this scope they are all on or all off. While the details of the red Lincoln cent I was photographing were great, the color wasn't right.  There is an excellent discussion about USB microscopes for coin photography at and they have several suggestions for alternate lighting to correct the color.

I will definitely be using this scope for photographing details like repunched mintmarks. This setup also works great as a magnifier. It's much easier to view a coin on a full screen than to squint into a handheld loupe.

In Part Two of this series, Christmas brings an Olympus FE 3000 point and shoot digital camera - still on budget.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What is the Ideal Coin Collecting Storage System?

Intercept Shield
Intercept Shield?
Coin collections are stored in everything from cardboard boxes to elaborate, well-lit museum quality cabinets and everything in between. With few exceptions, albums and folders for US coins are designed to hold one denomination with one opening for each date and mint-mark. That works for most collectors but leaves out the myriad other way coins are collected. Where is the affordable, flexible, expandable, and attractive coin collection system?

Coin albums work great for date and mint-mark collections but make sure they are made of materials that won't damage your coins. Most albums are now acid-free. Some, like Intercept Shield and Dansco Supreme albums feature inserts or slipcovers to defend against the elements. Albums store well on bookshelves, display both sides of each coin, and feature attractive pages with pre-printed dates. Those dates and pre-cut openings however, are also inflexible constraints.

Coin trays for slabs and 2x2 mylar-lined cardboard fold-and-staple holders are often used at coin shops and coin shows. The trays are great for display but don't store well. The 2x2s and slabs go back into their boxes when the show is over.

My ideal would be a set of trays with openings flexible enough to hold raw coins, capsules, certified slabs and 2x2s. I'd give up the ability to see both sides of the coins if I could easily turn them over. While I'm asking I'd like to print my own labels for each opening and for each tray. Anybody know of such a coin collection storage and display system?