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Fingerprint Removal

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Can fingerprints be removed from a coin WITHOUT removing the coins natural toning? How long does it take for for fingerprints to "etch" into the coin where removal is impossible?




Andy laugh.gif

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Fingerprints present and interesting problem in the conservation of coins.


Oils, salts and acids are continuously secreted from our skin. When we hold our coins some of these substances as well as others that were picked up when through contact with other items are transferred to our coin's surfaces.


When a fingertip comes in contact with the fields of a coin, the transferred residues can produce a fingerprint on the coin. Fingerprints can be visible immediately after contact or may become apparent over time.


Eventually, the residues in the print will begin to discolor and even etch into the surface of the coin. The amount of time for a fingerprint to become a permenant part of the coin will vary depending on storage conditions and the amount of transferred residues.


Some fingerprints can be removed relatively easily. These prints have most likely only be on the coin for a short period of time. Fingerprints that have been on a coin long enough may, and often are, near impossible to remove without the use of invasive and surface altering methods. NCS does not use such techniques.


NCS carefully evalutes the surfaces of a coin before attempting to address a fingerprint. While many fingerprints can not be removed, the coin will still benefit from a rinse to attempt the removal of residues and neutralize contaminants to limit further and more severe deterioration and promote the coin's longer-term stability.


NCS Conservator Skip Fazzari wrote an article on fingerprints recently for the NCS newsletter. I recommend reading this article. It will be reprinted shortly on the NCS website in a reference section.



Brian Silliman

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