You Do What?

By Forest Balderson July 1, 2011

Pocket Change

Sarasota photographer Terry Schank started his career in 1979 and has photographed art, collectibles, architecture and yachts all over the world. But he’s cashed in on his talent in photographing coins.

Over the past three years, Schank, 54, has specialized in shooting rare and valuable coins, such as a group of six Chinese gold dollar coins that were valued at more than $10 million each. “They were fantasy coins,” he says. “They were made by the Chinese mint and never meant for circulation. Approximately six were made as mementos for dignitaries, so there is a very high demand.”

Traditionally coiners (coin collectors) have photographed their own collections. But Schank’s detailed photo-illustrations of coins became known throughout the coin collecting world as a better way to represent coins to dealers and auction catalogues.

“I use a natural, single source of light. I can make the coins look like they are as deep as mountain ranges,” he says. “It’s like shooting a mirror. [The coins] are going to reflect whatever is over them. I make the coin reflect something that brings out the texture, the metal, the flaws. Then I’m able to make the coin look like gold or silver with a reflective brilliance to it. An image has to have a sparkle.”

Even the hardcover books that contain his photos have become collectors’ items. “Coin books can sell immediately on eBay for $150,” says Schank.

Recently, a Chinese auction house contracted with Schank to fly him to Hong Kong (all expenses paid), where he will photograph between two to 300 coins a day, and he plans to spend much of his time in Asia this coming year.

It’s a good job. “Part of the joy is to see unique things with such an immense amount of history,” he says.

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