Macro Photography, Double Eagle.  bangkok images

1900 Double Eagle $20 Gold Piece


Now that's an odd feature photograph!  I know.. but this is an example of my latest photography and I wanted to explain to you how this came about and what I learned.  Discussion among some friends on a forum centered on what a certain Double Eagle was worth.  This particular Double Eagle was one of a few dozen or so in a bag.. that I traded for over a decade before.  At the time I figured their worth about $30 or so each and traded accordingly.  Already you can sense I was profoundly ignorant on such matters and it doesn't stop there!

During this period of my life I was hand crafting custom 1911 .45 caliber handguns, which were presented in a nice birdseye maple presentation case.  I'd shine up one of these gold coins on one of the shops buffers, tape it on a target, shoot a hole through it at 25 yards, and then enclose it in the case with a certificate of accuracy.  It went over well.

The last time I visited my storage site I opened the safe and grabbed one of these coins from the bag.  It was in an inconvenient plastic case which I cracked open, and then put the coin in my pocket.  My thought was that when I returned to Bangkok I'd have it valued or weighed for gold content.  Then I'd know what the others were worth.  During this trip and for about a month later I carried this coin in my pocket.  It thought it was cool, how many people can say they've carried a gold coin in their 501's?  I stopped doing this when one day I forgot to take it out of my pocket and I heard it going "thunk thunk thunk" in the washing machine.  Folks, you can't make this stuff up.  My friends on the forum were aghast and told me with the current value of gold being over $1000 USD's that the minimum value of these coins is $900 each!  Maybe more, depending on the condition.

So.. I set out to EBay and other on-line coin dealers looking for these coins to compare their value.  Immediately I notice I can't really 'see' the coin because the pictures are a very low resolution and poor quality.  I can do better than that!  I also notice some of these coins are valued in excess of $5000.  I gather my Canon DSLR, a 1ds Mark II, a Canon 90mm Tilt shift manual focus lens, a light source, and in no time at all I have a beautifully detailed image of my coin.  Zooming in on the computer I'm shocked to see a ton of scratches and marks I couldn't see with the naked eye.  Look at the crop below.  Notice all the scratches and marks?  Do you also notice all the detail?  At one time, probably before I took it from the plastic case, this was a coin in extremely good condition.  It 'was' probably worth a lot.


flaws in gold double eager, wear marks

100% Crop


I suppose this makes a great case for not carrying around a gold coin in your pocket in 2009.  It makes a better case when you learn you actually have to pay someone to grade the coin and put it in that case with their seal.  This would be a good time to check out for the definition of "profoundly ignorant."  The washing machine probably wasn't good either.

Now that we've established that I'm an idiot, lets go back to those low resolution images I saw on eBay and coin sites.  I'm thinking if I was in the business of selling such coins on the internet I could at least manage to buy a $200 point and shoot with a macro mode and post some detailed pictures for potential customers to check out.  Unless..  yes, you guessed it.  There is a very good reason there's a dearth of high resolution well focused and lit images of these coins.  They don't benefit the sellers, only the buyers.  Most of them are graded, but grading varies and without being able to see it, how can you compare two like graded coins?  Fishy business, but the internet is full of people selling these coins and people buying.

As a seller, the trick seems to be to find a way to mess up taking a quality image and make it seem innocent.  Okay, but what if you wanted to be more directly involved in being dishonest and actually alter a coin, is it possible?  With Photoshop most anything is possible.  Check this out.


A Photoshopped Product image, be careful what you purchase.

Digitally Altered


Same coin.  Different look.  Even at high resolution this coin would appear to have much less damage than the 'un-doctored' coin.  Do you think there are people out there doing this?  I wouldn't be surprised.  And I wouldn't be surprised if there are buyers more ignorant than myself out there buying them.  You've been warned...