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New collector, I need some advise

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Hi, I am a new collector for US coins, focusing on commemorative coins. I have read some books and articles to know how and what do buy however there is one thing that i am not able to understand if someone can help me. I find many coins graded as MS63 from reputable grading companies however these coins have some rust on them in parallel i find the same coins with no rust graded less or not graded, looks better than MS65 and cost less. Should i be worried about the rust or it does not affect the grading level?

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I suspect you are referring to toning on silver coins. Rust would only be observed on steel coins which are not that prevalent. The other possibility would be rust contamination on a silver coin from being adjacent to a rusting piece of metal. However, since you have indicated that the "rust" is on graded coinage, I think its safe to say its probably toning you are observing. Toning is very subjective as to what is attractive and what is not. Toning in and of itself will not devalue the coin unless it progresses to become damaging to the coin. Normally that is not a concern with a graded coin by one of the major grading companies.


Are your interests in classic commemorative coins, modern commemorative coins, or both?


Welcome to the board by the way!

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Welcome to the boards.


Since silver doesn't rust it's a reasonable conclusion that what you're referring to is toning. Beautiful toning is in the eye of the beholder. REALLY BEAUTIFUL toning demands premiums often 2x,5x,10x the book value of the coin.


My suggestion would be to only focus on Uncirculated examples of the coins you want in NGC or PCGS holders. Once you have a clear understanding of the things you want to collect then expand your interests. This guideline will ensure the hobby stays fun.



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Bill Jones Commemorative Coin a Type Set


Here is link to my NGC commemorative type set. I am far from the top, but this set might give you some guidance as a collector. Some of these coins are toned ("rust"); others are original white; others have been dipped.


Feel free to ask questions.

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I clicked your link and didn't get to the set you indicated Bill. Better double check it.



I will have to make the link on my PC. I was trying to do it on an IPad, and does not seem to work.

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You will hear some call this "rust" tarnish, others toning. If it's ugly, tarnished is used. If pretty, it's attractive toning. I've never heard rust though. Ha. In some European coins made of iron in the early 20th century and late 19th century, they were made of iron and rusted. Zinc coins have some type of rust looking tarnish as well that occurs over a few decades.

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Again thank you all:


- Maybe it is toning, I will post a photo when i find one so you know what i mean

- Meanwhile i am interested in old and recent commemorative coins and i am thinking of buying only graded coins since I do not have enough experience in grading and since i live abroad all i can see is a picture of the coin.

- I find many times on ebay nice (non graded) coins (shiny) however I am reluctant to buy them since i am afraid they are cleaned which i guess might affect their grading

- I will be buying my first coin this week as a xmas gift from my wife but she still doesn't know that :)



Jean Claude

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Those microscopic spots of toning are insignificant. Suggest that you enjoy your coin as it is. Older coins will have minor imperfections including contact marks, spots, stray hairline scratches, etc. If you are having a problem enjoying coins that are less than perfect, I suggest that you consider collecting modern mint products which tend to be MS/PF 68 or better.

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What you are calling "rust" in actually "toning" or "tarnish." It is the natural result when silver is exposed to the air. Collectors are divided as to whether they like or not. Many purists don't want coins have been dipped to remove tarnish. Many other collectors don't like the look of tarnish and prefer their coins to be "white." Most coins that are "white" have been dipped.


My position is that I buy coins that please me. My biggest concern is that the coin needs to be stable. What I mean by "stable" is the coin is likely to change its appearance over a long period of time given proper storage.


Here are a couple samples of commemorative coins with original surfaces. This Columbian half dollar is richly toned. Many collectors will be a premium of this type of toning.




The toning on this Monroe commemorative is more typical.




These coins have been dipped to make them "white" again in my opinion.


Illinois - Lincoln








Finally this Antietam commemorative shows small patches of dark toning. This piece has never been dipped.



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Welcome to the forum, the following perhaps applies to what you maybe seeing:


The E-Sylum: Volume 7, Number 16, April 18, 2004, Article 16




Johnson writes: "Eric von Klinger's article in April 13th

Coin World, Qualifiers: A Guide to Lingo, perpetrates one

of the most erroneous terms in all of numismatics --



Carbon is not involved in these surface finish anomalies and the

process is not oxidation (so often described as the chemical

process). The culprit is sulfur and the process is sulphatization.


Carbon spots are found inside diamonds [inclusions from

imperfect pressure during formation millions of years ago]

not on the surface of coins and medals. The proper term in

numismatics should be SULFUR SPOTS.


These dark brown to black spots appear on both copper

(including bronze) and silver coins (including silver clad).

These are formed, not with contact with carbon, but contact

with sulfur from the environment. The sulfur comes from any

variety of sources. The curing of rubber, for example, includes

sulfur by vulcanization (thank you, Charles Goodyear!). Thus

rubber should never come in continuous contact with coins and



Sulfur is also used in some manufacturing processes of paper.

This is why coins tone in certain paper envelopes. Anti-tarnish

tissue is made without any sulfur at all.


Sulphatization is a greater problem for the field of frescos than

coins and medals. Here a sulfur atom replaces a carbon atom,

physically changing the plaster UNDER the pigments of the

paint. In numismatics at least our sulfur problem is on the

surface of the metal, where it can be treated.


More evidence is color. When carbon reacts with copper

as copper carbonate, the resulting substance is blue-green!

Not brown-black.


Here is an experiment you can do yourself to prove the villain

is sulfur, not carbon. Take any uncirculated coin, bronze or

silver. The commonest source of sulfur for most people in

daily life are elastic rubber bands where sulfur was used in its

manufacture. Place the coin on top of the rubber band so it

stays in physical contact undisturbed for weeks at a time.

After months you will see a black line where the continuous

contact was made, the sulfur reacted with the copper or silver

to form copper sulfate, or silver sulfate.


Do something similar with carbon. Place in contact with an

uncirculated coin any form of carbon, diamond, coal, pencil

lead and leave for the same time. Nothing will happen!

Try to speed up the chemical reaction by introducing oxygen,

water, heat, pressure or whatever. It will still yield the same

result, nothing.


In the finishing of high relief medals, as applying a French

finish, sulfur is the good guy. An active chemical containing

sulfur is used to purposefully apply a darkening to the surface

of bronze or silver medals. With the use of ammonium sulfide

this takes place in seconds! Medals totally immersed in this

chemical must be withdrawn within ten seconds and

immediately washed with water to stop the chemical action!

(Then the medals are relieved to produce a two-toned visual



I am not a chemist or physicist. And if we have any of these

scientists among our subscribers I would welcome your



Wayne Homren, Editor





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I think the more problematic kind of spots are those green/bluish ones. I always see them on Liberty Head nickels, and the other types that follow. Of course they're always on Lincolns as well. I don't see them really at all on silver coins, even though they have copper in them, usually at least 10% or so. So from what i just read, these blue spots and tarnishing is carbon spots, right? I've gotten rid of it with baking soda and a little water, only tried on buffalo nickels. It worked. Maybe because the tarnishing was superficial and not so deep. Other times i tried it, it didn't work. I mainly use now only acetone, and if that doesn't work, just leave it alone and usually get rid of it.

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