Ian Fenn's Blog

13 May 2015

Preparation for summer seminar

Summer Seminar | Ian Fenn

For those who aren't interested in coin photography be warned a large part of this blog is about taking photos for a presentation.

I am attending the second week of the summer seminar. This will be my third year and probably I won't be able attend again until 2016. This year the Euro took a pounding against the US dollar so it's a bit more expensive to travel to the USA. I really enjoy summer seminar. I'm a Kiwi, but I reside in Austria. My German language skills are basic as although I have lived in Vienna for 15 years I work with English speakers. I don't get to talk with English speaking coins collectors much so Summer seminar I really enjoy. For those attending I am the one with the very funny accent (and as many like to point out a very weird hat; it's Australian but let's not tell the Aussi's that).

Summer seminar is a great time I get to spend time with English speakers and talk coins without that glazed 1000 yard stare coming over people (you all know the one). I suppose the last two years attendances have seen some interest in USA coins rub off on me. So for me its grading one, and probably it will be a huge learning experience. I am hoping Mike Ellis will be one of my instructors for the simple reason I know him. If there is a pass fail test at the end I already know the result: fail! It's the learning I am there for not the test!!! To-date I have avoided the, to me bizarrely complicated, US grading system, It will be a steep learning curve and I suspect I will learn a lot about US coins as a result.

I suppose I cannot, not mention the lunar lounge, sorry YNs you'll be locked up safety in your hostel when we old fellas and woman make our way to the summer seminars unofficial socializing area. Like the previous times I will bring some local Austrian beverage with me. Unfortunately Although I will be bringing it I won't be partaking in much ( at least that's my wifes instructions to me). I recently had a nightmare attack of gout that laid me up for a month, and it was only cleared up after a three day stay in Hospital. The Austrian Beverage is a known Gout trigger for those who are gout sufferers. However reading all my doctors pamphlets on gout it seems Scottish "mineral water" has been omitted from the high risk list!!!

I suppose that's my greatest fear for summer seminar...the food. In 2013 I had people asking me if I was a vegetarian. In 2013 I just couldn't believe the size of the servings of meat. This year large servings of meat hold the threat of a gout attack, and the very recent memories of agony. So I suspect I will be eating like a lunatic fringe food nut. I will be avoiding any added sugar, and purine rich beef products while dreaming of prime rib.

If Coin photography isn't you thing, its time to look for another Blog to read:

I am instructing, If Susan and Amber have had enough registrations, a mini-seminar on my collecting Focus Maria theresa Thalers. I took the same one last year and had a number of interested dealers attending. Basically 95% of all Maria Theresa thalers found in coins shows etc are just modern restrikes and only worth the silver within the coin. It is that other 5 % that make the coins worthwhile and I will be sharing with participant's the basics of cherry picking the coin. I have, and I know others with my interest have done similarly, paid less than $300.00 for a coin with a market value in excess of US$1500.00. Simple because the seller (often a dealer) has not taken the time, or hasn't the knowledge to check what they have. There is the other side of that story; I have also seen seller ask phenomenal amounts for a coin that is worth US$200.00 at best.

So I will be sharing what I have learnt and to do so I will be showing pictures of coins. I started reviewing my presentations from last year. My photos then were adequate but I believe I can do much better. So I have been re-photographing coins using my new Beam splitter. The piece of glass that does all the work cost around US$180.00 so I suppose it should work well. To mount it at 45 degrees; to reflect the light onto the coin, I built a cheap housing. It's made of school stationery standard rulers and dividers (the things for measuring angles). Despite being taught that a spot light is necessary for proper axial lighting I have never found one that I can use well. So I use an Led panel light. Its dimmable, and projects a bank of light at the mirror (beam splitter). To ensure the light is properly diffuse I constructed the light end of the housing so that it includes some permanently fixed nylon diffusing cloth. That means the coin has to be placed under the mirror from the other side. Because I don't use a spot light the whole inside of the beam splitter housing is lined with light absorbing Camera Flock, this is the same stuff that is on the baseboard of my copy stand. The result is that it's mainly light from the coin that gets to the camera sensor. I suppose my set up is the exception that proves the rule in regards to spotlights and axial lighting. I won't explain in detail how I constructed the housing( patience and epoxy resin) insteadI have attached a series of photos showing the housing, with and without the mirror, and how it is set up in my macro rig. The housing materials cost less than US$30.00 and of that US$20.00 was for the camera flock. I didn't permanently fix the beam splitter to the housing. It makes it easier for cleaning just using packing tape (Duct tape or masking tape are too strong).

Now I was producing the new photos happily until I got to one of my problem coins. So I switched to a couple of homemade spot lights. The photos looked Ok until I zoomed in and light related diffraction was destroying the detail. So I tried a different trick, still using the spotlights I used some honey comb aluminum to diffuse the spot light. It really did the trick the diffraction was gone. I have attached some 100% crops the left hand one is from a picture (same coin in each case) taken with the beam splitter. The picture is nice but the crop shows the picture isn't as sharp as the other two. The middle shot is of this light created diffraction although it's sharper than the axial lite shot, the surface diffraction makes the picture useless. The right shot is with the honeycomb diffuser and the diffraction has gone and the resolution is brilliant. Funny thing is after all that it's the beam splitter photograph that looks best when projected.

My home made spots ( there are two)were each constructed by a <$5.00 55 mm F 1.8 manual focus lens mounted on a Minolta MD to Sony Nex adapter with tripod mount. Then I attached to Sony Nex Extension tubes (the cheap Chinese variety) that I had lined with foil. Finally I added an E 14 light socket and the Spots are each lit by a 12 watt Philip LED lamp. The lens iris acts as a very accurate dimmer. After the pictures of the Beam splitter housing I have posted pictures of the spots and the honey comb diffusers. The Coin photos are of the "problem" coin the first is with the beam splitter and it is the better looking photograph, the second is the shot taken with the spots and honeycomb.... At the pixel level that last shot is the best. BTW By problem I mean its a very difficult coin to photograph.

So now that I have found out my beam splitter rig is producing the best photos its back to taking photos and replacing the old ones.

Today I received a package from Susan and Amber with all the forms I have fill out for the seminar...so after posting this blog that's what I will be doing next. Next week I will go hunting for a coin for the YN auction. I know what I am looking for: It was issued this year by the Vienna mint and solid out very quickly.

Edit I missed out a full picture of the spot lights...so I have addedtwomore photos...so thats why the photos are not in alogical order.



Level 5

Hope all you hard work paid off at the seminar!!!

Juno Moneta

Level 4

Great luck with the registrations and presentation, Ian! If the presentation is anything like the May/June 2015 issue of Numismatics International's "Bulletin" article of MMT's of 1780 then it will be a great learning experience for those registered. There's probably a no more worthy candidate for an economically instrumental world trade coinage than the MMT. The ability to distinguish the original 1780's from all the restrikes and super rarities is essential for the world collector. Your knowledge of the MMT's is without equal - everyone who registers will not be disappointed.

We use cookies to provide users the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your cookie settings, we'll assume that you agree to receive all cookies on money.org. You may disable cookies at any time using your internet browser configuration. By continuing to use this website, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use. To learn more about how we use cookies and to review our privacy policy, click here.