Is cleaning a coin ever a good idea?
1 1

8 posts in this topic

Hello everybody,  I am back to pester everyone with more questions.   I have some American eagle silver coins dated between 2000 - 2017.  I have handled these coins without cotton gloves.  I would like to put them in a capsule to better protect them but I am concerned if any oil/dirt from my hands my tarnish or otherwise dull the luster of the coins if I do not remove the oil/dirt before encapsulating them (just the acrylic ones you can buy online like from unclepaul.com).   Can I just wipe the coins with a soft cloth like I use for my eyeglasses to remove anything on the surface?  I have also seen two products. One is called MS70 coin cleaner and the other one is e-Z-est coin cleaner.  Does anyone have any experience with using them?  In one youtube video a person was using the e-Z-est and after dipping the coins in the solution and then in distilled water he dipped it in ammonia to "neutralize" any remaining e-Z-est coin cleaner.  Since these are newer coins I am thinking that cleaning them will not harm the value.  Also, can I just handle the coins with an eyeglasses cleaning cloth instead of the white cotton gloves?  Thank you in advance to everyone that can offer advise on this subject. 

P.S. I know not to clean any older coins.

Edited by Newbie_7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do not wipe your coins at all with anything they will get scratched. Cleaning is not recommended. You can hold a coin by the edges if you have no gloves just try not to touch the fields 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you rub them, no matter with what, you will be making them worse. The basic problem here is that you know (and admit, to your credit), that you made mistakes. You are trying to correct/reverse the mistakes (problematic even for experienced collectors) when it would make more sense to simply buy new examples, handle them correctly, then put them in holders. Unless they're scarce varieties, they're just ASEs. It's not like they're great rare antiquities, as you recognized. If they have sentimental value, that's its own appeal of course, but it doesn't change the "damage is done" aspect. The fact is that mishandling is for keeps in most cases, but if it leads you to improve your handling going forward, it wasn't all downer.

Any oil or dirt on the surfaces has already been eating away at them. It is questionable whether further action counts as conservation (to stabilize the piece before holdering) or cleaning. Don't use those coin cleaners you mentioned. If you cannot refrain from doing something to them in spite of everything we say--and you will get nearly zero encouragement to clean your coins--try a quick ammonia dip on one single expendable coin, the very worst and most expendable. Rinse well with distilled water. See what happened to it. If it were me I'd use an uncirculated 1964 quarter (common as dirt). I'd thumb it, let it sit for a month, then dip it and see what occurred. Of course, the effect on a copper-alloyed silver piece is not quite the same as a solid silver piece, but pretty close. Or just buy a real badly thumbed ASE from the dealer's bullion bin and use that. If nothing happens to the expendables, you can dip them longer and see what you get.

To handle coins, the main thing is the cleanliness and lack of abrasion. If you abrade/rub the surface the way you hold the coins with any cloth or glove, you're damaging them; if the cloth has touched enough skin or coin crud already without being cleaned, the cloth itself will impart those. When I have something nice, like a proof or unc, I use these little blue plastic coin tongs that lock on the rim but don't sink into the metal or mar it that I have ever seen. If you want to be reassured, get a cheap proof dime and pinch it with the tongs, then use them to set it on the microscope and look for damage.

You see the trend. If you want to experiment, experiment with expendable things one at a time and examine the results closely. That way, when we turn out to be right and it screws them up, your loss is minimal and your knowledge advances.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not for the coins you are discussing, damage cannot be reversed through any cleaning process.   Wiping a coin with any type of cloth will only make things worse.   For a professional who has experience using proper chemicals conserving a coin can stop whatever damage is/has been done to a coin, but again it cannot ever be reversed.   It sounds like you have no experience with handling/conserving coins so you are more likely to do more damage than any possible good attempting to "improve" coins yourself, that is how many nice coins have been ruined over the years.

Get yourself some 100% acetone, give the ASE's you have mishandled in the past a quick bath in the acetone, once dry place into the holder of your choice.   That is the extent of any type of "cleaning" you should ever try yourself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/19/2022 at 12:04 PM, Coinbuf said:

Not for the coins you are discussing, damage cannot be reversed through any cleaning process.   Wiping a coin with any type of cloth will only make things worse.   For a professional who has experience using proper chemicals conserving a coin can stop whatever damage is/has been done to a coin, but again it cannot ever be reversed.   It sounds like you have no experience with handling/conserving coins so you are more likely to do more damage than any possible good attempting to "improve" coins yourself, that is how many nice coins have been ruined over the years.

Get yourself some 100% acetone, give the ASE's you have mishandled in the past a quick bath in the acetone, once dry place into the holder of your choice.   That is the extent of any type of "cleaning" you should ever try yourself.

The acetone will “kill” any active stuff on the coins that would damage them further. It may also improve the appearance. It can also clear up any RECENT fingerprints. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

      I generally agree with the previous responses but would like to point out that in my view confusion results from the use of the term "cleaning", which confuses the simple removal of surface dirt, glue or other foreign matter from the surface of a coin without chemically or physically altering that surface (such as the use of acetone or other neutral solvents) with the use of abrasive (such as wiping or scrubbing) or chemical (such as "dipping") processes that do.  It is the latter group of processes that numismatists generally refer to as unacceptable forms of "cleaning", while the former group is referred to as acceptable "conservation".  Any process that is intended to remove "tarnish" or "toning"--chemical compounds that include molecules from the original coin metal is likely to be regarded as improper "cleaning", although coins that may have been lightly dipped are sometimes third party graded.  For further discussion of this topic and descriptions and photos of examples of coins that have been improperly "cleaned", see my NGC custom registry set entitled Characteristics of "Cleaned" Coins at https://www.collectors-society.com/wcm/CoinCustomSetView.aspx?s=31632 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only thing Ive ever done is dip certain coins in my collection in acetone and let them air dry.  I never scrub or wipe them with anything. They are usually my lower grade album coins. I only do it if theres a foreign substance on them. If I ever have a high value coin that ever needs it Im gonna not bother with it. Ill send it to the professionals and let them do it. If your not careful you can really destroy your coins. And like others have said the damage can not be reversed. 

Edited by Hoghead515
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Regarding cleaning of coins, if you have to ask, don’t do it. Actual conservators know what they’re doing and they are NOT “transparent” about the chemicals and techniques they use. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
1 1