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Coin Collecting

COIN PHOTOGRAPHY

I have a full setup for taking very detailed, hi-res photographs of coins. It's a Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR with a Tamron 90mm macro lens mounted on a copy stand.

The lighting is the tricky part, so I play around with the flash settings and various light diffusion until I get an accurate representation of each coin. I also try not to modify the image at all. For instance, the black background you see is an actual deep-black paper backing behind the coin, rather than image transparency; the camera is set to take square pictures so I did not even crop them, etc.

Click on a coin to open a viewer to zoom in to every detail.

LINCOLN CENT MINTAGE

Older coins are usually more rare than more recent ones, merely because time has passed so many have been collected, neglected, or rejected (removed from circulation because of poor condition). But to compound the rarity, it's usually the case that not as many were minted in the first place. Taking Lincoln cents as an example, here I show the mintage for each year, split by mint (including only those for circulation: no proofs).

The increase in mintage is so drastic that you really have to look at the data at two (or three) different scales. The highest mintage in modern years is thousands of times the mintage of the rarest early years, so comparatively, all the years prior to 1964 were "rare". But to get a sense of which years are rare even among the rare, the second graph shows those early years at a much larger scale.

All years with published data: 1909 - 2019
in millions
Philadelphia Denver San Francisco
0 m
2,000 m
4,000 m
6,000 m
8,000 m
10,000 m
12,000 m
14,000 m
16,000 m
18,000 m
First few decades: 1909 - 1939
in millions
Philadelphia Denver San Francisco
0 m
100 m
200 m
300 m
400 m
500 m
600 m

USEFUL LINKS

Coin Grading: PCGS Photograde Online has high-res photos of every grade of every US coin to help you compare visually.
Pricing: NumisMedia has tables with current "fair-market value" prices for all grades of all US coins.
Type Info, Examples, & Sales: USA Coin Book is a very organized site, listing great details about every type of US coin, along with an example picture of every specific type and variety. It also links to any that are currently listed for sale, either by type or specific date. I don't put too much weight in their price guide, though.
Best Online Marketplace: I have found that good ol' ebay is the best place to buy coins online. There are so many coins for sale that, if you're patient, you are eventually bound to win an auction at a great price. Don't trust the sellers' grading, though. The photos are hit-or-miss, but if you can see the coin clearly, you should be able to grade it yourself - to some degree. Also, watch out for listings that show a "sample" picture rather than the actual coin you'll get.