Virtually all photos of coins for sale online use a high angle lighting setup of some kind – and this site is no exception – because that arrangement works well and gives a good representation of how the coin appears in real life.
Still there are times, usually with high quality examples, when a low angle setup helps to better understand the level of wear – the critical factor in determining if the grade is ‘almost uncirculated’ or the coveted ‘Unc’ (MS60/61 or better)!
This post takes you through the process used on stuff that deserves the extra attention…
In this sequence of photographs, all of the same coin, there is a single spot light source (cool daylight, 6500K) which was directed either at a high or low angle to the coin’s surface :
- ‘High Angle’ – almost normal to the coin’s surface, ie ‘front on’ (roughly 70-85 degrees)
- ‘Low Angle’ – at a slant (roughly 15-30 degrees)
High angle shots bring out the lustre – in the above photos you can clearly see the cartwheel effect present all the way from the rim to the centre.
Lustre, also known as ‘mint bloom’, is pretty much the first thing to be lost as a coin begins to circulate, so the fact that this coin has retained a lot is a good sign that it has not been used regularly and often.
Having close to the maximum amount of light directly reflecting off the coin up into the camera lens also helps to clearly define raised details – for example the emu’s feathers or the diamonds and pearls in the band of the crown.
In addition, any variations in colour are going to be well represented, so that we can easily see that this coin’s reverse is lightly toned pretty much all over – with some slightly darker patches here and there, such as around the emu’s head and below the scroll near the date.
On the obverse, the high angle lighting setup shows the absence of toning this side which is consistent with the idea that the coin was taken out of circulation and stored, probably in a drawer or similar, face down for an extended period.
As a result, it received little to no wear and developed the sepia colouration on one side.
Importantly, the presence of a solid cartwheel effect tells us that the original mint bloom remains intact under the patina.
The flat bits…
The low angle shots provide more information, significantly things that ordinarily are overlooked or downplayed by the higher angle images.
The slanted light rays allow clarification of the state of the flat surfaces of the design and the fields at the expense of muting the lustre and overall brightness (probably a bit less light reaches the camera because of the reflection angles involved..?).
For this florin, the low angle shots show that the obverse has received some slight overall wear, or ‘rub’, just a bit more than the reverse, and that the fields both sides are very clear – at this point – almost nothing in the way of gouges or scratches of any kind.
So far, so good but realistically it’s vital to consider magnified images and not just by zooming in on these photos.
You could magnify these photos but that is not going to increase the visible detail of the coin – for that you have to have proper close up shots… so here they are!
Issues and flaws
Interestingly, in the magnified sequence, the patina is really brought out by the low angle images.
Also the main detracting features of this example are now much better defined, specifically
- On the reverse, the star is ever so slightly blunted in the middle
- On the obverse, a nick in the band of the crown below the central diamond and a slanted scratch in the left field (most obvious when viewed under magnification at a low light angle)
You’d be very suspicious if a coin like this were absolutely perfect at this level of examination and this one displays the expected ‘bag marks’, tiny rim nicks and abrasions – enough to say the piece went through the usual 1920s production process of rolling and sliding down metal chutes into big bags before being shifted around and transported; and, really, not enough to take it out of the uncirculated grade.
Grade & Value
Note that the ‘wear on the star’ and the ‘nick in the band’ just mentioned are included in this opinion – certainly they negatively affect the grade and value, most likely the appeal and desirability as well – but the coin, whilst not in ‘choice uncirculated’, seeems to me to be a solid example of an ‘uncirculated’ grade KGV Australian florin, say somewhere in the range MS61-63.
You can find other flaws if you go looking – the quality of the photographs enables that.
In other words, there is enough pictorial evidence to make a decent assessment of the coin’s condition.
As to its value, well, if you’re interested it is listed for sale here… and I’d even go so far as to say it won’t disappoint when you see it ‘in hand’…but then I’m the one selling it! (anyway, it’s covered by the refund policy so you could always send it back if it was not what you were really after).