I've been hating on how I examine watermarks for a long time now. Holding a note up to a light source, trying to see the whole note and probably craning my neck to get a good look. Taking a good picture while trying to view a watermark in that way is on par with a center ring circus act. I knew I wanted something that sat flat on a table, with a large surface, good white lighting and didn't cost an arm and a leg. Now, I didn't search the web for "flat light table thingy for banknotes" but I knew, in my head, what it should look like and eventually I would stumble across something. A few weeks ago, while Christmas shopping on Amazon for one of my sisters, it happened. Finally! After a year the answer to my sore neck had arrived!
A lighted sketch pad! I know that this is only new to me and probably not to most experienced collectors, but hey, I'm still excited. For $17 I immediately picked it up and anxiously awaited its arrival. Once received, I immediately set to work testing it out, and here are a few examples.
Nice! This is a BIG improvement, it's flat, sits on a table, the light (brightness) is adjustable, it's hands free, I can easily use a loupe and take pictures..... Yeah, this is WAY better. The only thing that is a little weird is that you see more of the opposite side of the note, which is not a big deal. You see the opposite side of the note when back lighting a note regardless, I just see more of the other side than normal because the note is so much better back lit, but I also see the watermarks ten times better. It's just something I'll adjust to after a short while and be better off for it.
I like my banknote "gadgets", UV light, IR light and now this sketch pad. All things that I use often and because of them get a whole new level of appreciation for banknotes, enjoying them that much more. A notes design is something to behold, (not just the artistic aspect) the layout, the security features, the hidden little gems. A note really comes alive when you peel back the layers, especially moderns.