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Week 3

Common Cents: Introduction


common cents copyright James Sinks

1963 D Lincoln cent. Bronze. 1,774,020,000 minted.

A penny is a penny: three quarters of an inch wide, about a sixteenth of an inch thick, weighs two and a half grams, made from copper, with Lincoln on one side and his memorial on the other. Every one is the same, right?


common cents copyright James Sinks

1964 Lincoln cents. Bronze. 6,447,646,500 minted.

A penny may pass through a thousand hands before it stops in mine. Every coin takes its own journey, acquires its own experiences, its own scars, its own patina, and has lived a life all of its own. I have handled thousands—tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions—of pennies. Each one is different. Each one has its own story, its own secrets, its own spirit.

The common cent is anything but common.

James Sinks

common cents copyright James Sinks

Unknown post-1981, pre-2008 Lincoln cent. Copper plated zinc. Approximately 279,000,000,000 minted.

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Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark II (Buy from Amazon)
    • This model has been superceded by the 5D Mark III. The purchase links point to that model.
  • Canon 100mm f2.8L IS Macro (Buy from Amazon)
  • Canon ST-E2 Flash Controller (Buy from Amazon)
    • This has been superceded by the ST-E3-RT for Canon's new line of radio-triggered flashes (at the moment only the 600EX RT). The ST-E3-RT is not backwards compatible with Canon's optically triggered flashes (i.e. the 430EX II, 580EX II, etc.) and the ST-E2 is not forwards compatible with the new RT units.
  • Canon 430 EX II (Buy from Amazon)
    • This model is at the end of its life and will be replaced with a new radio-triggered model soon. Read the note for the ST-E2 for more information.
  • Westcott Apollo 5x8" Softbox (Buy from Amazon)
  • Beseler CS Copy Stand
  • Vello Shutterboss Wireless Release (Buy from B&H Photo)
    • This is the best wireless release I've used. Unfortunately, that's not saying much. All wireless releases are overpriced garbage, this one just happens to stink less than the competition. It's quirky, it's flimsy (I'm on my fifth one at this point), and it costs a hundred bucks. This is available under many brand names, but I strongly recommend buying the Vello-branded model from B&H because of B&H's no-hassle 1 year warranty. Dealing with B&H is always a snap and the same may not be true of Generic Hong Kong Camera Accessories Internet Company Incorporated on ebay.

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Edgar Degas: drawing of a woman with field glasses, British Museum 1968,0210.26

Degas lives like a little lawyer, and he doesn't like women, knowing that if he liked them and fucked them a lot he would become cerebrally ill and hopeless at painting. Degas's painting is virile and impersonal precisely because he has resigned himself to being personally no more than a little lawyer, with a horror of riotous living. He watches human animals stronger than himself getting a hard-on and fucking, and he paints them well, precisely because he doesn't make such great claims about getting a hard-on.

Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, August 5, 1888

James Sinks

More Feet Than a Spider


Vincent van Gogh: Shoes (F331, JH1235), Van Gogh Museum s0127V1962 Vincent van Gogh: Shoes (F461, JH 1569), Metropolitan Museum of Art 1992.374 Vincent van Gogh: A Pair of Boots (F333, JH1236), Baltimore Museum of Art 1950.302 Vincent van Gogh: Shoes (F255, JH1124), Van Gogh Museum s0011V1962 Vincent van Gogh: Three Pairs of Shoes (F332, JH1234), Fogg Museum 1951.66

Art does not expand, it repeats itself.

Edgar Degas, letter to Lorenz Frölich, November 27, 1872

James Sinks

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