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Found 6 results

  1. I wanted to share a bit of new vs old photo results. Both the coin images are of the obverse of the 1876. I set up my equipment the same way I usually do for macro photography of miniatures and other really small objects. I have a 105 mm f/2.8 VR Macro lens for my D600 and I added the 2x teleconverter so I could shoot really close in to the coin - having the coin fill most of the frame for really high resolution images - while still staying far enough back that I didn't get in the way of my light. I set up 2 speedlites. I initially was going to use both and have them behind the diffusion panels of the shadowbox but that was killing the luster in the images. I ended up just using one speedlite with a 1/128th full power setting undiffused. That gave me the results I liked the best. Using a small LED flash light to shine a little light on the coin made it much easier to autofocus with the lens. It's fairly dark in the shadowbox and the 2x teleconverter limits the effective aperture of the lens, making it hard to get enough light in for the autofocus to succeed without a little help. The circle of light projected by the flashlight also made it easier to keep the coins positioned consistently when swapping them out. Since the light from the small flashlight is so week it doesn't significantly impact the final image - the much more powerful speedlite dominates in the 1/100 of a second in which the image is taken. Hopefully writing all of this down here will give me something to reference and help me remember later when I want to do this again. I'm including a picture of the set-up on the floor of the room I use as a home-office for now. I suppose it might be easier to do these things if I just set all of this up on a table and didn't force myself to flatten myself out on my stomach on the ground but... hey, I'm still fairly young (31) and don't have trouble getting back up... yet. I was able to basically stand the slabs on their edge with them leaning ever so slightly back on the back of the shadowbox in some cases. I think the new shots have much better detail, especially in his hair, beard and the field of the coin. They also look a lot sharper overall. I'm not sure how this compares to how most others do it. Most of my camera equipment - except for the macro lens itself - was purchased for portrait and event photography and I generally find myself putting the same equipment to use here. I'd love to get a really nice lens-mounted ring-flash one of these days. I think that would provide the best and easiest lighting for something like this. But so far I just haven't been able to justify the cost.
  2. Over the last few weeks, I haven’t had much time to write blogs. This is because I’ve been working on my photography skills and, in particular, axial photography. I have learned a lot, and now I have several excellent examples of coins photographed using axial photography. The first thing I did was to craft a holder for my glass reflector. Then I reinforced the edges of the glass with electrical tape to prevent the glass from accidentally shattering. For the holder, I used a cardboard box top sliced at 45 degrees towards the light source to hold the glass pane. The holder cost me nothing to make. However, it did cost my wife a glass pane from one of her pictures. Next, I made a diffuser for my light source cut from the side of a plastic milk jug. To prevent side light from illuminating the coin, I used a single-use pair of sunglasses from my eye doctor when she opened my iris. Conveniently, the sunglasses roll up like a tube. Finally, I used a lens hood I already owned to prevent side lighting from interfering with the camera lens. Folks, this is an excellent example of professional photography on the cheap! My set-up picture shows a portion of the light shine through the glass onto the back of the holder. The images of the camera’s viewfinder show the reflected light from the glass illuminating the surface of the coins. Since there is less light to work with, the film speed is ISO 400. The aperture is f4, and the shutter speed is 1/125. If this is done correctly, the area of the picture around the coin will be mostly dark. All you want to see in the viewfinder is the coin! Since plastic holders have reflective properties of their own, they can be challenging to work with. Therefore, axial photography works best on raw coins. Notice the haze and a hot spot in the viewfinder picture showing a 2011 French proof coin mounted in an NGC holder. This is light reflected from the surface of the holder interfering with light reflected from the coin. The 2004 and 2017 raw quarters only show light reflected from the quarters. Incidentally, the quarters are from my change dish. I have spent a lot of time learning to edit the photographs of certified coins to remove the interference from unwanted light. To reduce the effect of unwanted light, I have found the milk jug diffuser to be helpful. However, the quarters needed very few edits because of limited or no interference from unwanted light. I am also posting a raw 1856 Belgian 5 centime coin commemorating the 25th-anniversary reign of Leopold I, King of the Belgians. The coin is struck in bronze to illustrate the use of axial photography on heavily toned bronze coins. I hope this blog sheds a little light on axial photography. I always say that the proof is in the pudding. For your viewing pleasure, I am posting several pictures using axial photography. The 2011 French 10 euro proof coin commemorates the author of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo. The reverse inscription is roughly translated, “Cossette looked up, she saw the man coming to her with this doll as she saw the sun coming.” The reverse of this coin was incredibly hard to photograph because of its surface characteristics. The obverse, however, makes for a pleasing picture. Notice the mirror fields on axial photographs resemble the in-the-hand look of proof coins. Photos of proof mirrors typically show black when taken by direct light. The reverse of this coin has a frosty flat field showing black contrasted by the mirror of Victor Hugo’s image etched into the design. Other pieces for your viewing pleasure are a 1937 Spanish peseta and a 2019 Great Britain five-pound coin featuring Una and the Lion. Enjoy, Gary.
  3. There are some things I don’t particularly care to do. When it comes to those things, I usually procrastinate getting them done. Preparing submission forms to send coins and medals to NGC for grading is something I always procrastinate. I just don’t like itemizing the submission form, looking up the market value, separating my medals from my coins, modern vs. classic, etc. Then packing them up and running to the post office is such a pain in the neck. Well, today I finally said, “This is the day” and I grabbed the first item to be submitted. The first item in my submission is a 55mm 1876 William Barber classic, Centennial Medal struck in white metal. Since I just recently finished experimenting with my lighting, I thought, “Why not try a few of those new techniques on this medal.” Well, that’s all it took to successfully kick the submission can down the road a little farther! The first set of pictures was so-so in that they did not significantly improve on the pictures I already had. Then I had the hair-brained idea to try something that I typically have a hard time getting just right to see if I might get lucky. Why not? After all, the alternative was to get back to work on that submission. Besides, the best time to take pictures of coins is in their raw state and this would be my last crack at it. This medal though not classified as a proof has mirrored fields. Why not try to see if I could get the full effect of those mirrors in my picture? The best possible placement for lighting is perpendicular to the object you are photographing. As you can see with my set-up, that is kind of hard to do given that the camera is in the way. There are two workarounds that are quite effective in redirecting the light to simulate a perpendicular lighting source. The first is axial lighting as described in Mark Goodman’s excellent book on coin photography entitled, “Numismatic Photography.” The second is to tilt the coin towards the lighting source. I chose the second as the easiest thing to do. The tricky part in this is to minimize the reflections and there WILL be reflections. Now I used a soft cloth to tilt this medal toward the lighting source about four degrees. Then I tried my best to position the reflections to a place on the medal where they are not distracting. On the obverse, the reflection was under the date 1876. On the reverse, it was in the middle of the 13 radiating stars! Perfect, I thought, because the reflection made the center of the stars look like the sun! Now when you tilt a coin relative to the camera you will run into issues with focusing the camera and distorting the shape of the medal. Because of the tilt, the camera will see the round medal as slightly oval. To improve the focus, I moved the camera farther away from the subject effectively making the image smaller relative to the frame. Then I corrected the oval camera distortion using Photoshop Elements 2019. Please notice the picture on the back cover of Mark Goodman’s book showing the coin tilted towards the light to see that his set-up is similar to mine. Now I use lights on both sides of the medal but since the medal is tilted towards the one, it is tilted away from the other. Thus, the lamp tilted away has little or no effect on the picture. I am posting two pictures of my medal. The one that has darker fields is a picture showing the medal perpendicular to the camera. The other one with the lit-up fields is a picture showing the medal perpendicular to the lighting source. I just had to post this! Now back to my submission? Nah, but I will get to it soon unless I run into more distractions! Gary
  4. Last month I received a notice that the bank I stored my coins at was closing and I had until February 4th to vacate my safe deposit boxes. Fortunately, I was able to rent another box close by and for cheaper than the boxes I had. Having secured a new and bigger box, the next step was to transport the coins to the new location. I was very uncomfortable transporting my coins from one location to the other and in particular standing at the teller window with my coins in a shoebox waiting to close out the old safe deposit boxes. You see, my bank had the misfortune of being held up last year and I did not want something like that to happen with thousands of dollars' worth of coins in my hand. Fortunately, both the clearing of the old boxes and the transfer to the new box went off without a hitch. That said, moving my collection did present a wonderful opportunity to reimage many of my coins. This meant that coins which haven't seen the light of day in years could now be easily reimaged to reflect the refining of my photography skills. Now, instead of driving from one bank to the next I made a detour home for pictures. To tell the truth, it sure felt good to hold these coins in my hands again after not looking at some of them for years. Now I like the security of a safe deposit box but if I want to easily view my coins, I will need to buy a home safe. After reimaging and editing my coins I thought to organize all my pictures into power-point presentations mirroring my NGC registry sets. For instance, I started with my 1834-1933 gold type set minus the 1907 high-relief St. Gaudens double-eagle. All the coins in the presentation are organized according to the definition and order of my NGC registry set. Thus, when I decide to sell my set and pull it down from the registry, I will always have my former coins to look at assembled as a set. To tell the truth, this is all I had with the online registry since all my gold coins are off-site and not all that easily accessed. So, if I have the pictures why do I need a home safe? All these are important questions we need to answer for ourselves as we assess what level of risk we are willing to live with. Oftentimes, when I get to thinking one thing leads to another and I began to think about eventually dissolving my entire collection before I pass away so as not to leave my wife and kids with that responsibility. Don't worry, reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated. What got me thinking this way is that my wife and kids have no interest in collecting coins. Thus, I think it is unfair to leave the liquidation of my collection to them when I am much more knowledgeable in the buying and selling of coins. Another point to consider is that who is more likely to get the most for the coins? I can't rationalize around that one, it's me. None of this is going to happen anytime soon as I am still actively collecting but at a much slower rate. Still, it is good and necessary to have a plan in place to make this happen before I am bedridden or worse. For my wife and kids, I'll offer them any coin from my collection they want for sentimental reasons. The other coins will be offered to certain collectors who might be eying my coins for their own collections. Otherwise, the low-cost coins will be handled through e-bay and the rest to a major auction house. In the meantime, I'll eventually have all my coins organized into power-point and word documents to enjoy for the rest of my life! Please enjoy this slide reimaged and made for my personal presentation! Gary.
  5. Recently I bought a new macro lens for my camera. The lens is a Laowa V-DX 60MM F2.8 Macro 2:1. Now I know I already have a macro lens but if I am ever going to take my coin photography on the road, I will need a much more versatile lens. For versatility this lens is it. I can focus in as close as 18.5cm and as far as infinity. At 18.5cm I have 2-1 magnification. The only drawbacks are that I have to focus manually and set the aperture manually. No big deal on those since I already do that. The big plus is that one lens will do a 15mm gold dollar and a 131mm medal from my camera stand. As with any new toy of this nature there is a learning curve to get the pictures just right. This gave me an opportunity to upgrade many of my poorer quality pictures. Looking through my collection I decided to re-image the first coin I ever bought, an 1881-S proof-like Morgan Dollar. I bought this coin as a teen and still own it today as a 60-something retiree. Oh the memories! I bought the Morgan for only $12 along with a gold-plated Ike dollar, A 1953c star crisp-uncirculated $2 bill, and a number of replica fractional California gold pieces. Of these I still own the $2 and probably the others but I can’t find them. What was really cool about this coin purchase was that I didn’t buy the coins from a dealer but from a camera store! I have always loved photography and in high school we had a fully equipped dark room that I could use. For me to be in one place that had both photography supplies and coins was tantamount to a kid in a candy store! That this Morgan Dollar only cost me 6 hours of “busting suds” for a restaurant at $2/hour was incredible. I just couldn’t believe it cost so little for a proof-like coin that was silver and nearly 100 years old. Oh the naivety of youth. Little did I know then that 81-S Morgan’s are quite common and inexpensive to obtain. However, at the time I thought I pulled off the coin purchasing coup of the century! I have never regretted buying that coin and I’ll probably die owning it. Some time back I sent it to PCGS for grading and they sent it back as cleaned without putting it in a holder. Back then they didn’t do details-grading. On the obverse of my coin you will notice cleaning hairlines under the “us” of Pluribus. Oddly, I didn’t notice the cleaning until PCGS pointed it out. This was only the beginning of my education identifying coin cleaning BEFORE sending them in for grading. Later I sent my 81-S Morgan to a company call NTC (Numistrust Corp.) for grading. They didn’t document the cleaning and sent it back as MS-63 DMPL. I agree with this grade and have never cracked it out and probably never will. Over the years my 1881-S has lightly toned. Incidentally, since then I only send coins to NGC for grading and will buy only PCGS and NGC certified coins. At any rate thanks for taking a walk with me down memory lane! For your viewing pleasure please enjoy a picture of the first coin I ever bought taken with my new toy! Also, for your viewing pleasure is a close-up of an 1880/79-CC VAM-7 Morgan dollar. As you can see my new toy will do nicely. Gary
  6. Whenever I get a new coin for a set, provided it’s a smaller set that doesn’t require pulling out 20+ coins, it’s always fun to pull out all the coins in the set and look at them together. It can be a lot of fun with the larger sets too but it can also be a lot of work to find them all amongst the other coins, get them out and, eventually, put them all back. When I get the new coin in for such a set I try to get new pictures done and this usually leads to new pictures being taken for the whole set. Even if the pictures themselves aren’t the best in the world I think it makes the presentation overall a little more appealing if the pictures are at least done consistently with each other. The quality of the photos is something I’m still working on in this regard. I’m not bad as a portrait photographer and have been paid to shoot tradeshow images for oil field services companies and symposia photos for universities. I have a really nice micro lens that I’ve used to take great shots of small figures in a light box. Coin photography is something I still struggle with. The reflective surface and the while holder with NGC just makes things hard. Looking at the group of coins together, it’s pretty easy to see that I’ve been favoring older holders – old “fatty” holders in particular - with this set. I had been doing it mostly to make the set a little more visually consistent across all the coins in it – not always easy given how much the NGC slab in particular has changed over the years. I've also at time really liked the idea of building the set mostly with coins with 9-digit serial numbers mostly starting with 195 or 196. I had to give up on that a little bit when this 1888 came up for sale. Beggars can't be choosers in such cases. I was just thrilled to see a high grade 1888 at all and there's no way for me to even know if there is an 1888 out there in an old fatty holder still (if there ever was). One of these years, when the set is complete, I’m hoping I can send them all in for re-holdering. It would be great to get them all into the same type/generation of slab, with the same label design, with the same invoice number and numbered chronologically from -001 to -010 (or -011 if I actually ever manage to find an 1877/9). I think that would be the ultimate way to show off the set visually. It might even be fun to have a custom label made for them at that point. Given a long background in art and photography, presentation is and probably always will be important to me I think and when getting the coins graded the slabs themselves inevitably become part of the discussion of presentation. Since I have tomorrow off for president's day I'm probably going to take some time and try for new pictures of these things. I guess we'll see how the pictures come out. Maybe it's me, and maybe it's just the visual effect of having less white and more space around the coin, but when I saw the 1888 in the new holder it almost made it look bigger than the others.