What Is the Best Magnifier to Use?

Too often collectors will attempt to use a magnifier with too much magnification, or worse, a magnifier with poor quality lenses. This short article should give you a few tips as to what is best for your needs.

The first place to start is with quality. Without any doubt, the best magnifier to use is a Hastings triplet loupe. The Hastings triplet used 3 precision ground lenses that reduce distortion around the edge of the opening. Have you ever used a cheap glass and found only the very center of the opening is useable? The Hastings triplet will allow the entire diameter of the lens to be used in viewing the coin. There are several brands available, but the most common is the Bausch & Lomb. Although more costly than the cheaper products, the value is unquestionable.

Once you’ve decided to invest in a good loupe, what magnification do you need? Actually, you can use several for different needs. Generally speaking, the best glass for grading is a 7x triplet. No question. More magnification than 7x may cause one to see imperfections that should not be considered in grading, yet once seen, it’s difficult to get those point out of your mind. For varieties and attributions, I’ve always believed a 10x is preferable, and plenty. I feel if a variety can’t be seen with a 10x triplet lens, it’s not worth searching for. Most variety specialists feel the same. A 10x glass can also be used for counterfeit detection. Counterfeit detection may require even higher magnification at times. While a 10x can often show the details necessary, at times a 14x or 20x may be necessary. But if more than 10x is necessary, a good quality stereoscope may be best.

A stereoscope is simply a microscope with two eyepieces. Most allow for magnification from 10x to 30x, or even higher. But higher than 30x is really overkill for coins and is not necessary. A stereoscope in the 10x mode is great for closely examining varieties, and for taking photos of those varieties.

If your budget is limited, I always suggest a 7x Hastings triplet as a first purchase. This glass will be great for grading, and can also serve for 95% of all your variety attribution requirements. Additionally, a 7x loupe is quite adequate for many counterfeits as well. Those long-term graders at various services, including PCI, will often use only a 7x glass for several days at a time without having to use any of the stronger models. The 7s is simply the best first level purchase. But again, make sure it’s a Hastings triplet. Nothing else will do.

Yes, a Hastings triplet isn’t cheap. But, it isn’t expensive either, especially when one considers the importance of accurately viewing a coin for grade, a variety, or for authentication. This will be your best investment. A Hastings triplet can be located from almost any coin dealer, from a local supply dealer, and from numerous online supply dealers.


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