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Question about 'dipped' & 'cleaned' coins

7 posts in this topic

So, we use these terms a lot, but I am starting to think that maybe I am missing something. When folks refer to dipping a coin, I have come to understand this means dipping in a cleaner. Some have mentioned acetone. As an experiment, I took an average G-4 morgan dollar that I had which had some unatractive toning and some grime from circulation and I let it sit in 100% acentone. I swirled the container a bit, let it sit for a few hours, then rinsed the coin in a stream of water. It made no impact on the appearance whatsoever....none. I assume that people are dipping coins in something more harsh then just plain old acetone....acid perhaps...because this stuff did nothing.


Moving on to cleaned coins...exactly how are these coins being cleaned?

is it considered cleaning to take a soft cotton cloth and remove a finger print? Is it cleaned if someone sprayed degreaser on the coin to lift some grime? We all know that shiny, blurry look that silver takes on when its polished...that chrome look....just how hard must one clean a coin to do that? I have taken a cloth to some 2006 lincoln cents, some 2006 dimes, and also some state quarters. (pocket change that was in superior condition) I rubbed very hard on each type of coin with a rag for several minutes. Try as I might, I could not change the appearance much at all. With magnification one might see a faint hairline...but a few minutes of heavy rubbing with a rag did almost nothing to these coins....which leads me to ask, just what are people doing to get 'cleaned' coins so worn? Are they using a compound with a buffer wheel? A dremel with a cotton polishing bit?


Just what is "light cleaning"? I would offer that it is cleaning that only an expert can detect, and even then, the effects are slight.


The whole dipped, cleaned coim thing is interesting to me.

I really wish people would knock it off....I have seen so many otherwise nice morgans in EF-AU condition that would have been great if people left them alone. Instead, the look like someone went to town with a buffer. It hurts even more when its a key date that even in EF would fetch a nice amount....of course, that is if it didnt look like someone mirrror polished the surfaces. At least I have been lucky enough to learn what to look for BEFORE I buy...the only examples I have are ones that came in mixed rolls of G-4 coins which were bought at melt prices. So many harshly cleaned coins are on the market and many people have no idea that the market value is significantly decreased as a result.

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The term "dipping" refers to dipping the coin in a weak acid, which will strip away the outer metallic sulfides and metallic oxides. Acetone is not a dip, it is a specific treatment to dissolve away PVC, organic contaminants and also some forms of tape residue.


The trem "cleaning" runs an entire spectrum of coin alterations, but generally is used to describe a coin that either doesn't appear natural or that has telltale marks on it. It doesn't take much to damage the surface of a coin, so I am not certain how you left no visible marks on your coins.

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As Tom said, exposing a coin to acetone is not considered "dipping", because acetone will not affect the surface of the coin. Acetone is generally used to remove PVC "slime", tape residue, etc.


I believe that most people consider exposing a coin to EZ Est (Jeweluster) is "dipping". (I'm not sure about MS70 - ask a chemist [like Tom] what's in MS70.) Experts will sometimes dip uncirculated silver or copper-nickel coins to remove "haze" or unattractive toning. A circulated silver coin that has been dipped will have an unnatural "too white" look because the natural gray toned surface will have been removed.


"Cleaning" generally means exposing the coin to an abrasive (such as silver polish, brasso, toothpaste, even a soft cloth) or some sort of chemical. Wiping an uncirculated coin with a soft cloth will leave hairlines - if done lightly, this is usually referred to as "lightly cleaned". Frequently, it will take an experienced eye to see the hairlines left after a light cleaning - when the coin is rotated under a light. (I expect that if you take the coins you rubbed with a cloth and look at them through a 5x magnifying glass as you rotate them under a light, you'll see the hairlines.)


This page on the Brooklyn Gallery website shows the most common cleaning/dipping agents.


If you're interested in learning more about dipping and cleaning, Photograde has a couple of nice chapters on the subject, as does Coin Collectors Survival Manual (by Scott Travers). I'm sure there are other books that discuss the subject, too.

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Tom - Dave,


Thanks for your posts...this is good information and material that every new collector should be exposed to. It seems everytime I post a question here I come away learning even more than I had set out to...which says a lot about the members that post here. Thanks again.

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Macro, that is a good and important question for a new collector to ask. And you are absolutely correct about getting the proper answers here on these boards. I only wish I had been coming here sooner, I could have saved myself from a lot of mistakes and some were expensive.


A quick story about what changed my attitude toward purchasing and really not knowing what to look for. I was knocking along, with no direction and armed with very little knowledge. About all I knew was buy. If the item didn’t come in quick enough I would buy another. Not only was I lacking the knowledge to make sensible purchases, I was relying on sellers to tell me what a nice coin I was looking at and to hurry before the opportunity passed me by. (boy what a crock) I also was lacking discipline. I guess I was ripe for the picking.


One night on Ebay, maybe 3 ½ or 4 years back I purchased an 1890 CC Morgan Dollar. It was a beauty. The seller had good feedback and also some other real nice images of coins he was selling. I paid $525.00 for it raw, I was sure it would grade MS64 and at the least 63. I studied this coin real well, at least I thought I had. When I sent it in and it was returned in a body bag, I made up my mind, this would be my last sizable purchase until I was able to identify cleaned coins. I removed the 1890 from the BB and immediately began my inspection, and I remember having that sick feeling knowing of the mistake I had made. It took les than 1 minute to find why it was bagged. While the coin had a nice even layer of original mint luster virtually mark free, It had been lightly wiped in front of Liberty’s face area. I could have returned this coin for a refund had I discovered the hairlines when I first received it. Hopefully someone else can learn from this.

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I wish I had read this about four years ago also. I was obsessed with ebay and did not know what cleaned even meant. I would bid on raw IHC's that had the description


I did not bother reading about returns, I only looked for a 100% possitive feedback.

About $1000.00 later and 20 Body Bags from NGC I almost gave up the hobby.

I am not an expert, but know I make sure I understand the return policy before I buy

The internet is a wonderful place to find any coin I want, but it is hard to examine properly through photo's. If a dealer will not give sufficient time to examine coins in hand and then return I will not do business with them.

For a time I only bought graded coins, I found out I had purchased a 1972 DDO Lincoln Cent MS 63 RB ANACS , I sent to NGC to crossover and was surprised when it was returned as cleaned. The Dealer Stood behind his garrantee and gave me a Store Credit.

I am still very wary of raw coins at shows. I can't see as much with my 10x loope as my microscope and can't carry my microscope to shows.

I also read that cleaning was done with harsh chemicals, I had purchased a very nice 1957 Lincoln cent 50% offcenter, it had a little grease on it so I figured dawn dish soap is not a harsh chemical. I gently soaped the penny and wiped away the grease, imagine my surprise when it came back in a Body Bag.

Lesson Learned Cleaning or dipping are bad if you want your coins graded by NGC or PCGS. Unless NCS does the cleaning.

Buy a good Loope study the coin before you buy, make sure you can return if bought site unseen.

That's just my two cents makepoint.gif

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Macrocoin----- Wanted to just say a couple of things. One is something that I have said many times on these boards. But it is worth repeating again. It is the pictures that make it difficult to tell----especially on Ebay. A cleaned coin can most of the time NOT be differenciated from an uncleaned coin. The seller can put up really decent pictures----and folks, you can grade the coin. But, many times, you CANNOT tell whether the coin has been cleaned or whether it has many or no hairlines. The seller can put up honest pictures or dishonest pictures---you just CANNOT tell all cleaned coins from pictures IMHO. This is true---even if the coin is in a TPGS holder. And, yes, they do slab cleaned and dipped coins. The above statements are especially true of higher graded MS coins. And, if you have a seller who purposely alters his pictures----then you haven't got a chance in heXX of telling whether it has been dipped or cleaned. Now, once you have looked at a million pictures and developed certain skills in identifying certain looks on the series of coins that you are collecting----then you CAN cut your odds a little in your favor. But, even then, it can still be a [embarrassing lack of self control] shoot. The coin will most often look different than the picture showed it to be----once you have the coin in hand.


The other thing that I wanted to say was---please buy just one coin in your series of collecting----that you know for sure is an 'original skinned' coin. If you buy MS coins, get one that you can use as a model---as a guide. Then, assuming that you look at it enough, you will after a fashion---be able to start picking out coins that maybe come close to what your model coin looks like. Remember----not all blast white coins are 'original skinned'. In fact----MOST OF THEM HAVE BEEN DIPPED. Now, I am not kicking those of you who like bright and white coins. Just telling ALL of you that----after a 70--100+ year old silver coin sits anywhere for that period of time, if it has not been dipped----it will have an original skin on the coin that IS NOT PERFECTLY WHITE. And, usually, it will also have a little or a lot of some kind of colored toning. You can not look at a recently issued coin and expect one that is 70 years older than it is---to look the same. Unless you are willing to 'dip' the older coin. Then you start going down the road of making your coins lifeless by dipping them.


And, lastly, hairlines. Not all hairlines are bad. But, make sure that you tilt your coins----look at them well. In different kinds of lighting. In different directions. Then, you can use your loupe [ 5--7X]. You can see the way people wipe the coins with jewelry cloths---or polish them---or put them through any kind of situation that alters their surfaces. Much of the time leaving these nasty hairlines. When you get really good, you can determine for yourselves whether to buy certain coins with certain marks or hairlines. But, until you know, stay away from HAIRLINES. Buy only coins that are free of them---until such time that you are familiar with die striations and what they call 'pocket hairlines' gotten from older wool pants of earlier times. Remember---if a coin looks too good to be true--it might have been altered so that it looks that way. Read your books and look at thousands of coins. Knowledge is power in the coin business. The more that you know---the fewer times that you will be taken by those who know more than you. Be humble---Be patient with yourself and the coins. It takes a lot of time to get really good. Bob [supertooth]

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