It can be difficult to take pictures of DMPL or Proof Coins due to the reflective quality of the coin's fields. However, with a little information, some trial and error, one can take good pictures that honestly represent a mirror reflective coin or any coin for that matter. Also, a buyer can gain important information, using these example in this article, for buying DMPL coins.
In this guide I used a 1980-S DCAM Washington Quarter as an example of taking bad and good coin pictures. The 1980-S was found in circulation and obtained some contact marks. This aspect is important because coin pictures can be taken at certain angles, or under to much light reflection to hide these marks.
Buyers and sellers alike need to be aware of the techniques used that improperly hides marks on a coin. Buyers shouldn't try to mask any mark with light and reflections and angles, and sellers need to know what to look for before purchasing a proof coin. Now, let's get started with picture #1.
The above picture was taken using a desk lamp. My camera was atop the coin and the fields reflected too much of the camera's lens, masking the contact marks on the surface of the coin. As you can see the coin displays inappropriate colors and doesn't show the true details of the coin. In this example picture it's impossible to tell the true grade of the coin. If this were a rare Type or key date, it would encourage over-bidding. Now, let's move on to picture #2.
At first, the above picture, appears to display the great eye appeal of the coin, but don't be fooled. I took this picture using light from an open window, and allowed the sun's full reflection in the coin's mirrored fields to mask the contact marks. This is a common tactic used on ebay and other auction sites. Sellers know a bright-white coin sells for higher bids, especially when they appear marl free. Alright, let's see picture #3.
With this picture, although better than the first, I used the same desk top lamp for lighting, but used a different angle. It shows the details better, but the true color of the coin isn't correct either. However, you can gain a better idea of the coin's grade, and this would be an appropriate representation of this coin, but not there yet.
In this picture I used the desk lamp lighting and a black piece of cardboard. I cut a small, rectangular slot in the cardboard for the camera lens, so the coin's fields would appear dark. Most proof coins display this darkness of the fields, and this would suit most buyers and sellers as a proper picture to buy or list in auctions. However, this coin may show some details and a truer color scheme, but there remains some important details left out. So let's see the final result in picture #5.
The final picture was taken using the black cardboard with a slot cut out for the camera lens as I did with picture #4. The difference is that I used the sun light from an open window so the appropriate colors, reflections, and marks of the coin are revealed honestly.
The above picture (#5) is as close as I could get to the true color and nature of the coin. A buyer would be able to see the amount of contacts marks on the surface, the true colors of the cameo devices, and the darkness of the mirrors as if one was holding it in-hand.
Another aspect of taking these pictures was using the macro or micro mode of my digital camera, and a very steady hand (I use a small tripod that screws into the bottom of my camera). The use of a macro mode setting, and keeping the camera as motionless as possible are the keys to taking great coin photos other than what I outlined above.
One can see, from the above examples, how easily a seller can fool a buyer by using light reflections and camera angles to hide marks on a proof coin. I hope sellers will use this information to learn appropriate camera techniques, and honestly represent the coins they are selling.
Some photographs are posted under the Fair Use doctrine of Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107 for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.