US Coins

Readers Ask: Smartphone attachment works

An iPhone can work great as a microscope with the assistance of a clip that attaches a small magnifier to the phone at the camera lens, left. At right is a photograph of the Roosevelt dime that the iPhone captured using the device.

Images by Coin World.

I have used my smartphone in the past to take pictures of coins, but sometimes I just need a clearer close-up image.

One example I have is a Roosevelt dime that has something unusual extending from Roosevelt’s head to the rim.

Any suggestions?

Nate Ellis

via email

A fairly new product to the market for use with smartphones is a little magnifying glass that attaches at the camera area.

The small device is fairly inexpensive, considering what it can do.

Regarding your Roosevelt dime, the coin was struck by an obverse die having a rather thick die break. The die break extends from the rim to the back of Roosevelt’s head. A thinner die crack branches off from the thicker break, and extends like a jagged lightning bolt along the president’s hair to slightly above the top of his ear.

The image above shows an iPhone 4 with the magnifying glass attachment clipped onto it. The small magnifying glass can be slid into place.

The area of view through the glass is approximately half an inch.

The camera function of the phone is open in the above photo, where one can see the close-up of the coin without zooming in.

Holding the phone steady, one can zoom in further to get an even closer look, potentially up to 60x power magnification.

The image at right shows a more magnified photograph of the die break on the Roosevelt dime.

These photos were taken through plastic slabs and still show the details clearly.

Some more recent versions of the iPhone and other smartphones now have higher resolution cameras built in that help increase the potential detail of the photograph you can take.

Potential uses of such close-up photography include identifying varieties easily while at a coin show, creating better quality photos for auction listings, looking at microprinting on paper money, and many other uses.

The magnifying attachment shown, a Phonescope, is offered by some coin supply dealers.

For example, Coin World’s parent company, Amos Press Inc., offers the attachment through its website.

Find it there by searching for “Phonescope.”

A quick how-to video by Coin World on using the magnifying attachment is available at

Coin World’s Readers Ask department does not accept coins or other items for examination without prior permission from Coin World. Readers Ask also does not examine error or variety coins. Materials sent to Readers Ask without prior permission will be returned unexamined. Please address all Readers Ask inquiries to or call 800-673-8311, Ext. 172.

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