When my obsession with coin photography was more trouble than it was worth

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by dougsmit, Jul 17, 2019.

  1. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    Adventures in coin photography:
    Recently another thread caused me to discover I needed to improve the image I posted of one of my coins. On a decent monitor you can see I failed to even out the black background on this >5mm silver of Apollonia Pontica:

    There is a hazy gray ring around the reverse that looks a lot worse on my desktop monitor than on my laptop. I was proud of this little coin showing an A in the left obverse field. Trying to improve the image, I destroyed the A and almost lost the coin forever. How does one ruin a coin by photographing it? Simple, all you have to do is strip it of its toning by cleaning it using the tried and true vacuum method. Never heard of this method? Read on.

    This coin is almost exactly the size of my smallest (4mm) diameter support for raising the coin above the background so I cheated by placing a tiny speck of clay between the support and coin to hold it in exact center. In the process of doing this I dropped the coin. The room has a speckled gray loop carpet. I could not find the coin. After searching on hands and knees for half an hour I turned to the advise of Luke 15:8–10, The Parable of the Lost Coin.
    Or what woman, if she had ten drachma coins, if she lost one drachma coin, wouldn't light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she found it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma which I had lost.' Even so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner repenting."

    — Luke 15:8–10, World English Bible

    The woman had an advantage, she lost a drachma and probably had no carpet the color of the coin. I lost a tetartemorion 1/24th that size on a carpet that should never be placed in a coin room. I had an advantage, too, or so I thought, but my advantage ended up being my undoing. The devil was in the Dyson. Anyone still reading? Read on.

    I decided to sweep the room with my Dyson stick vacuum cleaner. I was amazed how much dirt and carpet fiber I picked up sweeping back and forth and crosswise hoping to hear a metallic rattle when it found the coin. Perhaps I should sweep the rug occasionally even when I was not inspired by a lost coin??? There was no rattle so I dumped the proceeds in a stoppered sink and lifted out bit by bit what seemed like 10% dirt and 90% carpet fiber feeling (in vain)each pinch for something hard. At the bottom of the sink was something round. I had found the coin. At that point you would think I should follow the lead of the widow and rejoice with my friends (that is you - my neighbors would not understand). Not so fast. The story is not there yet. Read on?

    The turbo action whirl of the Dyson coupled with the carpet fibers and dirt cleaned the toned coin leaving something that looks a bit smoother (would its slab read 'vacuumed'???) but not all that bad except it removed the last traces of the A of which I had been proud to have seen and photographed in the first place. Pride is a sin. I did not lose the coin but I did impair it to a point that it lost what I considered to be its best feature. I knew when I bought the coin that I would have a hard time ever recouping the price paid but the time before this one enters the black figures has been extended by more years than I have left. No matter, I have a hard enough time selling coins that have not been Dysoned. This one will stay with me as a reminder of why we should avoid cruel and unusual coin cleaning.

    I did learn one thing from this. I reshot the coin (below) not on my usual set up requiring the balancing of the subject on a precarious 4mm perch but flat on the bed of my microscope which barely allows all 5mm of the diameter to fit in the field. I had to do some trimming in software and was limited in light control compared to what works for larger coins.

    The trimming and lighting are not perfect but I am through tormenting this poor coin. This photo will be 'good enough' - a statement that hurts me to say but I hope some can forgive in this case. At least the background is even. I may have avoid buying any more coins this small and stick to full size obols (still six times smaller than the woman's drachm in the parable). I have three coins ordered but not received and the smallest is a drachm --- massive.

    Before you rejoice in my repentance from the sin of obsession with coin photography, I need to confess that I am thinking I might design a special holder for taking photos of tiny coins that would be more secure. I'm looking for things to do on the 3D printer. Will it happen? Will I lose another little coin in the process? I am incorrigible. I know it. I ask your forgiveness for what I did to the coin and a special pardon from anyone that actually read all this.

    Do feel free to show coins that were lost and later found or coins you sucked up in a vacuum cleaner. However, if you decide to load your vacuum with uncleaned coins, don't blame me for giving you the idea.

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  3. frankjg

    frankjg Well-Known Member

    Sounds like you need to build yourself a clean room Doug.

    Great story and sorry about the loss of your A? That doesn’t sound right.
  4. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing

    Wow, Doug! That is a real bummer... :( But I would've done the same thing you did with your Dyson to find the coin. No blame, just a bad situation.

    This last year, I ended up misplacing (losing) my planned SS gift after having received it (a really nice ex X6 Mylasa horse/trident coin) and still have no clue where it went and if it was lost at home or at the office (<stolen off my desk?). I wish I would've been able to send it to the SS designee instead of what I had to scramble to send.

    I feel for you, Doug!
  5. Pishpash

    Pishpash Well-Known Member

    For future reference. A pair of ladies tights or a stocking tied over the nozzle of the hose will pick up the coin and keep it safe for you to retrieve without giving it a tumble in the vacuum innards.
    Qsins, ominus1, Alegandron and 5 others like this.
  6. catadc

    catadc Well-Known Member

    Sorry for the little one.

    After trying the washing machine on the uncleaned, i have a major inconvenient to add the vacuum cleaner on the "cleaning methods tried" list: i do now have a carpet. This way, seems that cleaning the floors is way faster than cleaning a coin in the traditional way.
  7. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    My condolences. I do all of my coin collecting in the basement on a cement floor with some pads underneath the desk so I don't have to worry about losing them. Also, I have nothing as small as what you were working with so I'm not afraid :)
  8. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Well-Known Member

    I’m voting Damnatio Memoriae for DYSON !
  9. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Pish has the solution: put a piece of women's hosiery over the end of the vacuum to keep the (coin, earring, or other tiny object) from being sucked up :).

    Sorry about your coin but it was an entertaining story!

    I have a similar story, told many times on CT, and here is is again :D.

    Upon arrival of my smallest coin I promptly showed it off to someone in my office. As I was thinking how bad it would be if I dropped it, I dropped it. Five millimeter coin, Berber carpeting... bad. I locked the door and kept everyone out for the twenty or so minutes it took to find the thing. When found, I took a picture because otherwise no one would have believed how well it blended in.

    Here's the coin:

    MACEDONIA, uncertain
    c. 500 BCE
    AR trihemitetartemorion (trihemiobol), 5 mm, 0.26 gm
    Obv: monkey squatting left
    Rev: round shield or pellet within incuse square
    Ref: "Uncertain Thraco-Macedonian Coins, Part II", Nomismatika Khronika (1998, Tzamalis), 67

    Here's a picture of the coin pretending to be a loop of carpet. See if you can spot it:

  10. Nvb

    Nvb Well-Known Member

    I'm quite sure I'm ancient times dropping a handful of change was a real drag!
    Just imagine being outside on loose ground..
  11. JBGood

    JBGood Collector of coinage Supporter

    “the devil is in the Dyson” :joyful:
    TIF likes this.
  12. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Ouch! I'd feel worse for you, Doug, and honestly, I do feel bad for what happened to that neat little coin, but your story kept making me laugh. "(would its slab read 'vacuumed'???)":hilarious:
    ominus1, Archilochus and TIF like this.
  13. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus

  14. jb_depew

    jb_depew Well-Known Member

    Losing stuff in the carpet is the worst. A metal detector might be a retrieval option. The vacuum and pantyhose filtering trick seems good as well.
  15. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Some time ago, I purchased this sestertius of Herennia Etruscilla and opened up the envelope in which it was shipped in the mail. I got distracted doing some things and forgot about it for a few days. Then, when I went to look for it, I couldn't find it anywhere. I was heartbroken and assumed it must have come out of my pants pocket at some point in the day and fallen on the ground who-knows-where.
    A few years later, when I put on a jacket I hadn't worn in a while, I found the coin in the inside breast pocket. It felt like a gift!

    Etruscilla FECVNDITAS AVG sestertius.jpg Etruscilla FECVNDITAS AVG sestertius Banduri listing.JPG
  16. Nap

    Nap Well-Known Member

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