Suggestions for hard-to-see marks--what to buy? or do?

Thank you in advance for reading my post.
I posted a mark recently that was so small and unclear, it really is impossible to identify. I have tried everything including loupes, magnifiers, and even scanning the mark on 2400 dpi!!. .I have noticed my digital camera can not get real close–even in closeup mode. I have several other hard-to-see marks. Do you have any suggestions for something I could try or buy such as a special type of loupe, or magnifiers, or camera attachment, or maybe an app?
Thanks again,

My main tip is not to get too close - keep it in-focus as a small clear image is far better than a large blur.

Other points:

  • Try taking the picture through a magnifying lens; auto-focus cameras can focus through an extra layer of lensing.

  • Never use flash; natural daylight is much better but best of all is a light-box with diffusing capability.

  • Keep the camera rock-still to eliminate camera shake.

  • Clean the mark before photographing it.

If you feel really keen and have money to splash you could consider a USB microscope. I’ve never tried one but have seen some good results - and some, quite frankly, useless results.


1 Like


Thank you very much for taking the time to write out these excellent suggestions. They are very helpful for me.

Your main tip is “not to try to get too close” to the mark is very helpful. Because that is exactly what I was doing. I thought the picture would be better if I got as close as possible to the mark.

The suggestion of taking the picture through a magnifying lens is brilliant. And I am going to try that!

I was very confused over using flash, so your suggestion of not using flash is tremendously helpful. I will research what a “light-box with diffusing capabiility” is.

I did have a question regarding cleaning the mark: I wonder if it could wear away worn-away marks at all. In the mark I posted in this thread, it is so worn away I don’t want to do anything that would worsen this.

When I looked up usb microscopes, some were around $50 and some were quite expensive–over $1,000. If anyone could recommend an inexpensive one primarily to read marks, I would appreciate it.

I am going to add one tip I found: if you have a Mac and you open the “Preview app” and then go to “tools” there is a “magnifier” tool. And it works like a regular magnifier over the photo… There are also “magnifier” apps for google and Mac.

Finally, I hope you don’t mind my asking: what are your thoughts on scanning the mark with a flatbed scanner?

Again, thank you for your excellent suggestions and information, they are really helpful for me.

You can find instructions on the net for how to make your own light box or light tent. I haven’t tried to do so myself so can’t recommend any particular method.

You are of course right that cleaning silver tends to wear it down. However this is a process that happens over many years of frequent cleaning so just doing so every so often is not going to have any practical immediate effect.

My flatbed scanner is totally useless for scanning silver marks - I’ve tried it and it seems to have problems with focussing in 3-d and over-bright lighting. Other scanners may differ but I wouldn’t suggest using one.

1 Like

I’ve put a extra lens on my cell phone. Itattached with a clip construction. Then you can blow up the pic even more in the telephone. Quite cheap this thing and I think it works well, have helped me to reveal some tricky ones.

As mentioned before: rock still
I sometimes use a electric tooth brush with paste to clen the marks