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Trying to decide which coin magnifier is right for you?
Of all the ones you can choose from, you’re probably wondering which are the best coin collecting magnifiers that enable you to see all the details.
As an avid coin collector since 1992, I’ve been through my share of coin collecting magnifiers, and I want to share with you what the best magnifying glass for coins is — and why you really need one.
What Is The Best Magnifying Glass For Coins?
If you’re a typical coin collector who simply needs a good magnifying glass to look at coins for these purposes:
…then you will never need greater than 20X magnification!
If you’re looking for visually obscure coin errors and varieties, then a 20X powerful magnifying glass for coins can definitely come in handy.
However, it’s worth noting that these higher-power magnifiers begin showing a lot of distortion (fuzziness) toward the sides of the glass — leaving a relatively small clear focal point for viewing.
The truth is:
- Most coin collectors will find a 10X coin loupe magnifier offers essentially everything needed for viewing coins.
- Many coin collectors can get by with a 5X magnifying glass.
In fact, the most valuable coin errors and varieties are usually the ones that can be plainly seen with the naked eye anyway!
Of course, varieties and errors spotted with a 5X or 10X coin magnifier are numismatically important, too.
It’s just that when you’re using 20X magnification, it’s too easy for everything you see on a coin to begin looking like an error or variety. And that’s NOT good — it becomes way too confusing!
Many coin professionals will only use a 20X loupe magnifier to make sure the diagnostics of a coin check out — eliminating any chance that the coin is fake or not quite what it appeared to be to the naked eye.
What Is A Loupe Magnifier?
You’re probably wondering how a regular magnifying glass is different from a loupe magifier.
A loupe (usually referred to as either a coin loupe or a jeweler’s loupe) is a small magnification device that is used to see tiny details more closely — without squinting.
Unlike a magnifying glass, a loupe magnifier does not have an attached handle.
And… the focusing lens is contained within a cylinder or cone — or it folds into an attached housing that protects the lens when not in use.
Times When A 5X Magnifier Is Best
A 5X coin magnifier is perfect for coin collecting if:
- You want to get a better look at your coins.
- You enjoy viewing all the details on a coin without having to squint.
Sure, a 5X coin magnifying glass can help those who have vision problems see their coins better. But a 5X magnifier can actually be helpful to all collectors — even those whose vision is clinically 20/20 (perfect).
Consider small coins — such as half dimes, three cent silver coins, and $1 gold coins. These tiny coins (all smaller than a dime in diameter) have details that can be tough for even the youngest and sharpest eyes to view.
I’m talking about reading dates and mintmarks on these coins — essential elements that you have to see if you want to properly identify the coin.
I have clinically “perfect” vision with my naked eye, but even I have trouble viewing tiny details and inscriptions on these and other small coins. Thank goodness for my 5X coin magnifier!
Times When A 10X Or 20X Magnifier Is Best
A 20X coin loupe magnifier is best for coin collecting if:
- You want to try discovering a new, obscure variety.
- You want to make sure your coins are authentic.
I usually use my 10X coin loupe for those types of things — but sometimes I need a 20X coin magnifier.
Those are 2 of the most common times when you need to see much more than just the basics, like the inscription and mintmark, on a coin.
A 20X magnifying glass for viewing coins is going to show remarkable detail! This is important for the collector who wants (or needs!) to examine fine details like:
- The hairlines or facial features on the portraits of people on coins
- Feathers on the eagles that frequently appear on older United States coins
- Tiny variances in lettering or dates
Again, bear in mind the drawbacks of viewing coins with a 20X magnifying glass that I stated above. Not only is peripheral distortion a big problem, but viewing coins in such high detail can also be overwhelming to the eyes.
Therefore, a 20X coin magnifier is generally NOT the best tool for viewing coins for the sake of casual collecting and personal enjoyment.
What’s The Difference Between A Coin Loupe And A Jeweler’s Loupe?
I’ve thoroughly covered the topic of magnification above.
Now, let’s talk about the differences between the types of magnifiers that offer 5X, 10X, and 20X magnification — to help you decide on the right tool for the job.
If you’ve already begun searching for the best coin collecting magnifiers online, then you’ve probably come across both jeweler’s loupes and coin loupes.
In many ways, a coin loupe and jeweler’s loupe are very similar tools. In fact, some coin dealers and other hobby supply stores sell jeweler’s loupes for coin viewing — because both types of magnifiers offer nearly identical benefits.
Yep, most coin loupes and jeweler’s loupes can be used interchangeably for viewing coins — and as long as it has the magnification power you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong.
The most unique things about jeweler’s loupes are:
- Some come with multiple lenses.
- Some of the higher-power lenses provide extremely focal and in-depth viewing — like 40X, 60X, or even higher.
- Many jeweler’s loupes are designed in such a way that they can be coupled with other loupes and/or inserted onto a type of hands-free magnifier device.
- Many jeweler’s loupes are designed to be held in place over your eye through the use of your squinting muscles around the edge of the loupe. If you prefer to hold your coin magnifier in place this way, have at it!
What About A Coin Microscope?
It seems a lot of collectors insist on buying a coin microscope to view their coins — it’s the most powerful magnifying glass for coins that you can get.
It’s a fun tool for looking at coins. And, if you buy a coin microscope that plugs into a computer or smartphone, then it can also snap close-up photos of your coins!
Many coin professionals use coin microscopes to detect tiny elements — such as flow lines, edge reeding, and other minute details that can help determine whether a coin has been cleaned, altered after it left the mint, and even if it is counterfeit.
However, you don’t need to buy a coin microscope to view your coins unless:
- You’re a coin photographer
- You’re looking to authenticate coins on a quasi-professional level
- You’re simply a scientist at heart
For the most part, a coin collector doesn’t really need to view a coin with such high-power magnification. Besides… at that level, looking at a coin’s surface can be uncomfortable on the eyes.
Bottom line… the most powerful magnifying glass for coins you’ll ever need is a 20X coin loupe magnifier.
My Favorite Coin Loupe
So, what’s my favorite tool for coin magnification?
I’m a 10X coin loupe magnifier kind of collector!
I’ve used all of the coin magnifier tools listed in this article — and I’ve found each useful for different reasons:
- Coin microscopes are essentially the most powerful magnifying glass for coins. While unnecessary for most collectors who simply want to view their coins in better detail for the sake of recreational enjoyment, they are ideal for coin authentication and photography.
- A 20X to 60X loupe magnifier offers highly focal viewing of coin details and is best used for attributing coin varieties or for the purpose of coin authentication. Coin magnifiers of this power level are best suited for viewing specific spots on coins and are often uncomfortable for many collectors to use, especially when looking at many coins during any one time.
- A 10X loupe magnifier offers fantastic intermediate viewing capabilities and is ideally suited for looking at either an individual or many coins at a time. Many 10X coin loupes represent the best coin magnifier for most collectors, revealing ample magnification of coin details, little distortion, and excellent viewing comfort, even over long periods of time.
- A 5X magnifying glass is ideal for collectors who want to look at major details on a coin with ease, including dates, mintmarks, major errors and varieties, and other surface artifacts. This is an ideal magnification power for a novice coin collector.
At the end of the day, the best magnifier to look at coins is the one you’re comfortable using and has the type of viewing you want or need for your coin collection!
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I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I’m also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I’ve contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I’ve authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!