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How can you tell if a coin has been cleaned?

8 posts in this topic

Well, you're right, the terrible pictures make your coin look like it has been polished.


In general, when a coin collector refers to a coin as cleaned, that's shorthand for "abrasively cleaned", as in rubbed with an eraser, rubbed with toothpaste, rubbed with silver polish, etc.


If you look at a coin with a 5x magnifying glass and see lots of fine, parralel scratch marks, then the coin has probably been abrasively cleaned. Silver polish will make the coin look very, very bright. (If you've ever seen freshly polished sterling silver, then you know the look.)


In addition to abrasively cleaned, there are also coins that have been exposed to chemicals, such as baking soda, that will lighten the coin's surface without leaving scratchmarks behind.


About the only way to really learn what cleaned coins look like is to go to a shop or show and look at a lot of coins and/or have a dealer show you some cleaned coins and some original coins for comparison.

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For circulated coins, I would certainly get a copy of Photograde. In addition to the (smallish, black and white, 20-year old) pictures of coins in various grades, it has a nice chapter that discusses cleaning.


You might also want to get a copy of the PCGS grading book ("Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection"). There are two editions of this book. The first edition was 8 1/2" x 11" and had lots of high resolution pictures. The second edition is currently available, but I understand that it's in a smaller format (so of course the pictures are smaller). I haven't seen the second edition, but I would recommend you get a copy of the first edition - it's sometimes available on eBay.


Also, Coin World's Coin Values magazine has had some very nice chapters on grading specific series of coins over the past year or two. I understand that they've put these chapters together in a book. The chapters that have been in Coin Values have had high quality color photographs and good text, so I'd expect that their book is worth reading, too.


Finally, if you're a new (or relatively new) collector, who expects to put a "decent" amount of time and money into coin collecting, I highly, highly recommend that you get a copy of Scott Travers' "Coin Collector's Survival Manual". This is the book that I wish I had read first when I got back into collecting. It tells you how to go about being an intelligent collector. It's a MUST READ!

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Howdy, your images aren't the best, but they are good enough to tell that the Morgan in question is a low end AU piece that has been thoroughly polished. The best way for me to describe to you what to look for is that the surfaces will look oddly flat, although they will be abnormally mirror-like. Also, coins with this much wear on them will not be so white, nor will they have features that appear somewhat soft, as these features do. The best advice for you is to look at many coins in person, or through high quality images, and compare what a problem-free coin should look like versus what your coin looks like.


I hope you didn't pay much for it.

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