Choosing the right microscope for coin collectors

As a coin collector, you need to be able to spot the subtle markings that speak to the life of your coins – sometimes its very authenticity.

But the details – defects, damage and irregularities – are often too small to be seen by the naked eye or even through a magnifying glass.

That’s where a good microscope comes in.

With a range of magnifications, decent lighting and sometimes even a camera, a good-quality microscope will make coin inspection and cleaning a breeze. You’ll never miss a detail or be misled by a counterfeit again.

However, before you rush out and buy the first microscope you see, you should know what qualities and features make for a worthy coin collecting microscope.

What type of microscope do I need?

Stereo Microscope

While there are a great many varieties of microscope out there, coin collectors generally use a stereo microscope.

Optico ASZ-400T Trinocular Stereo Zoom Microscope

A stereo microscope has two eyepieces with separate optical pathways. This setup creates a sense of depth perception – a real advantage when you’re inspecting 3D objects like coins.

Digital USB Microscopes

There is a large range of digital microscopes available varying greatly in price and features, the Dino-Lite Digital Microscopes offer a large range of magnifications, specialized illumination systems, such as white, fluorescence, ultraviolet, , infrared and/or combinations. 

There are various models but they all share one characteristic – they send an image from your microscope to a screen or computer.

Dino-Lite AF4115ZT Digital USB Microscope

Digital microscopes do have advantages of their own – some come with software that can perform measurements, catalogue your photos, or even help you check for counterfeits. The Dino-Lite Digital Microscopes offer an accessory the N3C-R Ring Light Cap when using with the Dino-Lite EDGE Series the ring light may help to reveal more details by generating shadow-less illumination Working seamlessly with the Dino-Lite Edge series, the N3C-R front cap is a unique and the simplest solution designed to provide ring illumination for the digital USB microscope

Dino-Lite USB Digital Microscope with N3C-R (Ring Light Cap)

They range widely in price and performance. High-end models are often excellent but lower end models can have variable quality, so be sure to find a balance between your needs and your budget.

We stock over 100 different Dino-Lite models, best to contact us to discuss your requirements and budget.

What features do I look for?

Magnification

You might imagine that microscopes with a high magnification are always better, but that’s not the case for coins.

Higher magnifications (300–400x) provide a much smaller field of view, so they’re not very helpful for most appraisals. 

You’d do better with a microscope that offers a 5–30x magnification range. This range gives you a good overview of the whole coin at the lower end, while letting you see the fine details at the higher end.

Optico ASZ-200B Stereo Microscope 20x & 40x

If you like to change your magnification range, some microscopes allow you to attach a Barlow Lens.

This is a lens that fits over your microscope’s objective lens and either increases or decreases the magnification. It can be a handy way to extend your viewing range without having to buy a new microscope or eyepiece.

Photography

If you’re interested in taking pictures of your coins for fun or profit, you have a few options.

If you’re going to be using a stereo microscope, a trinocular headpiece is your best bet.

A trinocular microscope has the usual two eyepieces that you look down plus a third eyepiece designed specifically for attaching a camera. Some models have their own camera attached and ready to go. For others, you need to purchase your own camera separately.

Alternatively, many digital microscopes come with recording software that lets you take and share photos or video with ease.

Given the wide range of camera and screen quality out there, try to balance image quality with your budgetary needs.

Lighting and Polarizers

If you’re going to make out all the fine details of a specific coin, you’re going to need good lighting.

Most microscopes come with their own builtin illumination system, but you can purchase additional lighting if you need to. It’s a good idea to have lighting above and below your coin to provide adequate coverage and visibility.

LED lighting is a popular option because it lasts longer, provides even brightness and has a low running temperature.

Although a Microscope Ring Light with Polarizer can cost quite a bit extra, they can help with coin inspection and photography by reducing glare and excess light.

Diffused LED Dome illuminator

Using an LED Dome Illuminator with your stereo microscope will reduce glare and offer and shadow-free lighting for specimens that are difficult to illuminate with many corners, edges and recesses such as coins.

Using a dome illuminator creates a diffused soft light arena for viewing samples that have demanding surfaces with minimal reflections.

Diffused LED Dome illuminator

 

Comparison images using different lighting techniques

 

Hopefully, with one of the great microscopes out there, you’ll soon be seeing a whole new side to your coin collection.

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