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Coin imaging with a scanner


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Those who know me know that I photograph coins using a recent model of digital camera.  I got my first digital camera in 2000 - a Nikon Coolpix 990.  My coin website began in 1997 so the images on it for three years were made on a film camera and prints were scanned into files for web use.  I experimented (and even wrote a page) with scanning coins directly using that Canon scanner.  Windows was revised several times and support drivers for that scanner were dropped so it went into the trash.  My next scanner did a terrible job with direct from coin scans.  Recently my daughter bought a new scanner but retained her old Epson XP410 solely because it has an SD card slot which allows scanning documents to a JPG file saved on that SD card and neither her new printer/scanner nor mine had that feature.  Neither of us had ever been able to figure out how to link our scanner/printers to our computers to transfer files although bot claimed it was possible.  When I was using the old Epson XP410 for some other documents, I decided to try scanning a coin just to see how bad it was.  The results are below along with the same coin done with my camera.  I won't be using the scanner again for coins but thought there might be some here who have trouble with taking coin photos that might want to try their general purpose scanners to see if it worked better than whatever else they have been trying.  I was shocked at how it emphasized the dust on the coin or scanner glass but the image is such that it allows the coin to be identified.   The scanner file here is the size it was produced but the camera result is much reduced.  There is a small amount of lighting adjustment available on a flatbed scanner by rotating the coin so the highlights and shadows will be slightly different.  The camera image could be lighted in a hundred different ways probably simulating the scanner angle if you wanted.  This was the first try with my recent new addition (Julia Domna Sestertius).  As presented here there is a lot (!) of difference in lighting.  Notice the scanner placed a white line around the devices while the ringlight used with the camera made that line dark and added glare from the shiny surfaces of the coin.  I have been known to reshoot a coin many times to get what I want. Obviously this coin will be reshot again (and again???).  Is anyone using a scanner for coins now?





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Wow, that's quite a difference.  The scanned image has pretty go resolution, all things considered. Which image is most faithful to the coin?

I've never thought of using a scanner.  The scanner that I have is part of an Epson printer, so it is probably not suitable for this purpose.  It's been digital camera image, formatted through Photoshop for me.  Since I have never owned a smart phone this is the only method available to me.

Edited by robinjojo
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I know several sellers use scanners, which IMHO is a good idea, since it provides more input on the condition of the coin. I admit I would be disappointed to purchase the bottom coin and receive the top one.

In the above case, I prefer the scanner example vs the camera. The legend looks cleaner and I like seeing more details, even if those details include the red gunk or whatever it is. I do like how the obverse subject is more defined from the camera image, though. 

Personally, I have a complete readjustment of my setup on my schedule. The below coin has the opposite problem. Here's the seller's image, which I believe was taken with a scanner.


Here's my image. I've completely lost details that the seller's image has and my image is crap. The coin has tremendous sentimental value to me (it was minted by the Treveri, a tribe living in modern day Luxembourg and I am Luxembourgish), so this will be one of the first coins I experiment with. In my experience, the small bronzes are the toughest. A tet in great condition can look great with many different lighting setups, but many bronzes require something special to bring out the details while avoiding blandness.



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I originally used a Nikon to take images, but found the process too time consuming to take photos of hundreds of coins. Then I went to a scanner for many years to my regret. It was fast and easy but I found the resolution and images to be sub par. I eventually went back to my early 2000's Nikon and had to retake all those photos from years previous, but I and am happier with the results. 

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I give up.  People will never understand that any image looks like the coin when view in light like shown.  When you say which looks like the coin you are asking which looks like the coin in the light you use to look at coins.  Take the coin in bright sun and it looks different from a desk lamp.  Hold the coin in a ring light and it looks like the ringlight image; hold it in the diffuse light from slightly from the top and you will see less detail and more color contrast.  Hold it in a room with no light and it will look too dark.  We have to learn to read lighting styles.  

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Of course, a coin's appearance is relative based on the amount and nature of light.  I guess I was referring to a "typical" lighting situation in a room with diffuse light, either overhead or natural, whatever one encounters in a typical situation.  Sun light will have another impact on a coin's appearance, but that's not a factor when you, say, look at a coin at a show or at a dealer's store.

Perhaps I should have rephrased my question to this: Which image is closest to what you see when looking at your coin in a decently lit room?    Possibly neither comes close, but I would image it is the first image, having handled ancients with that green/red patina combination.

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For many years I only used a scanner to image coins.  I like it.  I stopped doing it because I study a lot of really worn coins and found that without being able to control the lighting angle easily it was difficult to bring out weak inscriptions.

If you use a scanner, here are three non-obvious things to know.

  • If you want a black background, leave the door open
  • The lighting angle is different in the center vs the edges.  Different coins look better at different positions on the bed, and at different rotations.
  • It helps to boost the contrast a bit, to make the coins look as good as they look under intense lights.

Here is a strange little coin.  I can't attribute it beyond "Pozzi 3359ter".  In 20 years I have never seen even the photograph of another one, just this and the one in the Pozzi catalog.

shieldx-both.jpg.fe48493a9bf2dd13b4fc89f6357bcb7d.jpg Door closedshieldx-both-brighter.jpg.adf0cbe97053884d345d0ce2133fd68b.jpgDoor closed and digitally color curvedunknown_lady_shield.jpg.8cb858e6552cf3570cb61269307b97c9.jpg Door openunknown_lady_shield-brighten.jpg.60bb2039339d386fb00e3cdd9036c338.jpg Door open and digitally color curved

Euboea, Chalkis (?), 1.28g, AE11
Obv: Female head wearing triangular earring right
Rev: Cross or Χ (Chi) upon circular shield
Pozzi 3359ter, otherwise perhaps unpublished
CNG, Triton VI, January 2003, lot 1563 (part of); David Freedman collection. Described as 'Uncertain, possibly Selge'.

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