Featured Photos that don't look like the coin

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Valentinian, Jul 25, 2018.

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    I want to write about photos. This post was inspired by a recent win in a Naville auction. Here is their photo:


    Roman Republican denarius of moneyer
    C. Coelius Caldus, 51 BC
    Portrait of an ancestor C. Coelius Caldus who was Consul in 94 BC and defeated the Salluvii in Gaul.
    C∙COEL∙CALDVS COS below neck. Spear and carnyx behind.

    The reverse is complicated:
    table with figure behind preparing epulum
    III VREP (VR ligate)
    on left, trophy with carynx and oval shield|
    on right, trophy with Macedonian shield
    IMPAX donw left, CCALD down right
    CALDVS IIIVIR below [He loved advertising his name. It is on this coin four times! Is that a record?]

    Crawford 437/4b. Sear I 406.

    The surface is bad--what I call "dry" and porous. They cited it as ex CNG in 2003 and I found an photo on-line at CNG:


    They only had this small image, but it confirms that the coin is dry and porous.

    It is rare enough that I wanted it anyway at the right price and I got it. When it arrived I was pleasantly surprised. I know my photos are not good, but I did my usual with a small camera on a copy stand and got this:


    This is much closer to the way the coin looks. This photo is more metallic and makes the coin look less dry. But, I still thought the coin was better, so I tried again at my desk. I propped my iPad on a 4" box and took this on a black background:


    This looks a lot like the coin. Sure, the coin is porous. I admit it could be a lot better. But, in hand it is not nearly as dry as the sale photos suggest. This post is about photos and compare this photo on black to the auction photos which were all I had to go on when I bought the coin. Quite a difference! (By the way, it sold for 57% of what it sold for in 2003, in nominal dollars, not inflation-adjusted dollars.)

    Show us another coin that turned out not to look like the sale photo!
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  3. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    sellers pic , described as beautifull toned.

    Larissa 2.jpg

    Yes it is :) my photo:

  4. Orfew

    Orfew Supporter! Supporter

    Great thread @Valentinian

    Here is the seller's photo

    Caligula RIC 16.jpg

    Here is my photo.
    Gaius RIC 16 new copy.jpg

    The coin in hand looks like my photo.
  5. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    The seller's photo does show toning as he said, but your photo makes it look even better.
  6. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Heritage pictures (online and print) seem to miss on color although their written descriptions correctly describe color. I attended their CICF Signature auction in 2016. Across the board, green patinas were brown in the catalog. The venue lighting was not great for photography but here's an example I saw during lot viewing:


    From that same auction, their online images of a different coin:

    Screen Shot 2018-07-25 at 6.29.32 PM.png

    To be fair, the written description did say "dark green patina with earthen edges".

    And my images:
    SICILY, Syracuse. Dionysius I (400-345 BC)
    Æ 20 mm, 8.23 gm
    Struck c. 390 BCE
    Obv: head of Athena left, wearing wreathed Corinthian helmet pushed back on head
    Rev: hippocamp left
    Ref: Calciati 35. SNG ANS 426
    As with most Heritage lots, this coin was slabbed and upon returning home it was freed within minutes. NGC graded it MS 5/5 strike, 4/5 surfaces, Fine Style. "Mint State"... I think we've discussed that nonsense many times before. I wanted it simply because of the exceptional hippocamp :)
  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    The seller's photo made this Gordian III provincial from Hadrianopolis look bluish-gray and rather lusterless:

    Gordian III Hadrianopolis Artemis.jpg

    But it's actually glossy black. I photographed it in natural sunlight and this is far closer to its real appearance:

    Gordian III Hadrianopolis Artemis new.jpg
  8. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Seller's photo of a Faustina II denarius:

    Faustina Jr VENVS FELIX denarius FSR.jpg

    What it really looks like:

    Faustina Jr VENVS FELIX denarius.jpg
  9. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    ...Any FSR coin...


    (His images are the pits but don't let that stop you from browsing and bidding. His auctions are popular with CoinTalkers and many people have bought wonderful coins from him. You can count on the coin looking much better in hand.)
  10. Jay GT4

    Jay GT4 Well-Known Member

    Many sellers desaturate the color in photoshop.
    TIF, Orfew and Roman Collector like this.
  11. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

  12. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Yes, the Faustina Jr denarius came from Frank. I always know the photo will UNDERESTIMATE the quality of the coin.
    Alegandron likes this.
  13. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  14. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    My favorite gamble that paid off on some bad photos from an eBay seller earlier this year:
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  15. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Interesting thread, sometimes it's best for the buyer if the vendor presents crappy pics. I could see some detail behind this MA Shops Trajan sestertius and noticed it was reasonably cheap for a coin you hardly ever see....so took a chance. 2015-01-07 01.07.48-9.jpg
    Above seller's pic...would you pay 180 Euro for this. Trajans Column Sestertius.jpg
    My pic above.... I am happy with the buy.
    galba68, randygeki, dlhill132 and 8 others like this.
  16. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    @Ancient Aussie showed that photos do not always accurately reproduce the color of an AE coin. I often find that photos are greener than the coins. I don't know why it is green that is most often wrong.

    Here is a case in point. The seller's photo is first.

    Macrinus, 217-218, struck at Nicopolis ad Istrum.
    26 mm. 11.79 grams.
    Hristova and Jekov

    I thought it might have a nice green patina. But this is what it really looks like:

    MacrinusProvNikopolisCitygate1837 copy.jpg

    This is the same photo with the color adjusted to be very close to the coin itself. The coin looks warm brown, not green.
  17. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    Here are six professional pictures of the same ancient gold coin.


    These pictures appeared on the auction catalog or web sites of numismatic auctioneers Harlan J Berk, Classical Numismatic Group (twice), Heritage, Stack's Bowers, and the coin grading company Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.

    These images were taken over the span of eighteen years. The version with the red background was scanned from a printed auction catalog. All of the other images are taken directly from auction sites or the slab company's slab verification image.

    This coin did not change color in the last 18 years. Something about the lighting situation and the camera's color profile was different enough that each of these pictures is different.

    In my memory the coin looks like the middle coin on the left-hand side. Yet when I held the coin over my computer monitor in a room lit by compact florescent lights it looked like the upper right image.
  18. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Many cameras default to too much contrast and artificial sharpening routines trying to make images look sharp. I believe the seller photo suffers from this.

    I have said too many times that I do not believe in the concept of photos that do not look like their coins. Coins give off no light but reflect the light that falls on them. If the light is harsh and yellow, the photo will be harsh and yellow. If the light is too bright, the photo will be washed out. Camera users have controls over some of these factors but many cameras come with default settings that were not intended for coin photography. Some coins seem to photograph acceptably no matter what you do but others resist everything I try to make the photo better than the one on my driver's license. My most recent coin purchase is fighting me. I should have let the underbidder have it. Perhaps he doesn't take pictures and would not find the coin frustrating.
    Augustus, Amphipolis AE22 Artemis on bull (ex. last FSR sale)

    I do have one photo that does not look like the coin under any light but it is not ancient. The left and center pairs of this Indian $5 were made by different light arrangements and look like the coin under those lights. The right image is the other two stacked on top of each other with the transparancy of the top layer reduced until it looked pleasing to me. There is no single light arrangement that gives this look but it shows the coin in the light I wish I had to use for the photo. All three are the same coin and there are two different lightings used separately or playing together. I would love to try this on a mint state aureus of Septimius Severus from an eastern mint but that is not likely to happen.
  19. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    I actually like poorly-photographed coins in eBay auctions - it keeps the bidding low. After years of looking at them, I feel I have a moderate ability to "read" a poor photo that will give me some idea of what it really looks like. To be sure, I've been burnt a few times (fakes look better blurry), but mostly it works out. Here is a seller photo of a Trajan Decius that is actually pretty nice in hand. My guess was it wasn't nearly as yellow as the images would indicate - it wasn't - it has a pretty normal gun-metal gray color:

    Trajan Decius - Ant. Abundantia rev. Jun 2017 (1).JPG

    My photo isn't great, but this is more what it looks like:

    Trajan Decius - Ant. Abundantia rev. Jun 2017 (1b).JPG
  20. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    I really like this Ed, I wish you had captured how each seller described the coin as well. It would be interesting to compare.
    benhur767 likes this.
  21. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    Here are the sellers' condition descriptions, not in order. I will skip telling you which seller gave which description.

    "AU, Strike: 5/5 Surface: 3/5"
    "Crisp strike details and well centered on a quality planchet."
    "Struck on a broad flan for issue."
    "Good VF, light marks on obverse."
    "EF" (twice)
    "Good VF."
    BenSi likes this.
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