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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to clean your coins?

Disclaimer: The material posted below has to be considered as my opinion only and if anyone wants to benefit from it, then he or she is free to do so. All the same, I will not be held responsible for any damages incurred to your coins when you are following my advice. I am not liable for any sort of indemnities due to degrading of the coins or any abrasions that occur while cleaning.

The first thing to remember while cleaning your coins is that coin cleaning is not something that has to be done on a regular basis, or just to show that you are a clean person. What I mean is, it has to be kept in mind that cleaning may well cause decrease in the value of the coin. So, if the coin is one having high value or you are not sure on how to clean it then it is always preferable not to clean the coin. Anyone would not like to clean a UNC coin for one, even though it may have a coat of dust on it as cleaning it would result in loss of the original mint luster. Many collectors are interested in buying coins in their natural uncleaned state. Never clean any coin with tarnish remover or polish as removing the tarnish can cause small spots or abrasions which reduce the value. Remember that you cannot unclean an improperly cleaned coin.

Take your coins to a professional for cleaning and make it a habit to handle the coin from the edges as otherwise you are liable to leave your fingerprints on the coin. If your coins are so corroded that many details are not visible, then take them to some professional for advice.

If you absolutely must clean your coins then do so in a way which is least harmful to the condition of the coin. Experiment first on low value coins like foreign coins you can get from sellers on pavements before you go forward with cleaning your valuables. DO NOT use any harsh chemicals, metal brush etc which result in a smooth and shiny surface.

If you are selling any cleaned coins, then you must make this information prior knowledge to the buyer.

Silver coins:
Silver coins sometimes acquire a greenish or violet toning over time which can enhance the desirability of the coin. This should not be cleaned. If dirt has accumulated on the coin then you may clean the coin but remember that many collectors don't like to buy a coin that has been cleaned, or looks like it has been cleaned. You can clean silver coin with toothpaste foam and a soft toothbrush. The toothbrush has to be used carefully so that it does not cause any sort of abrasions.

Note: using toothpaste is advisable if there are black sulphide deposits on the surface of the coin, but it also takes away the shine of a UNC coin. For cleaning an XF coin it is ok, but to clean a silver coin having grade above XF, that is AUNC or UNC, it is better off cleaned with lemon so as not to lose the mint lustre.

Storage of silver coins is always an issue as they they react with sulfur present in the surroundings and turn black. If you keep the silver coins in plastic pouches or wrapped in paper, then they are bound to react with the sulfur and turn completely black, making them completely undesirable. Tarnished coins may be desirable but blackened coins are not. Silver coins should always be stored in coin holders available with the dealers which have a non-sulfur film.

Copper coins:
Copper is a metal which is probably the most reactive among all metals used to mint coins and it oxidizes very rapidly. Frequent or improper cleaning can very easily cause loss of metal and loss of value. Copper coins can be cleaned with dilute lemon juice and soft toothbrush and then rinsed. Remember that copper coins, though usually having low value and being easily available; are ruined very easily. I do not clean old copper coins which have a brown appearance as they should look that way only. They can be easily stored in plastic pouches. Copper coins start corroding the day after they are cleaned.

I have come to the conclusion that copper coins cannot be cleaned so easily. If stored improperly say in local coin albums, they soon become green because of reaction with the moisture, and cleaning with even lime would cause erosion of the metal and the resulting coin would be undesirable. Water would also react with copper so it cannot be cleaned with water. Copper coins are best left uncleaned or maybe given to some professional cleaner for cleaning.

Nickel coins:
Nickel coins can be cleaned with soap, water and toothbrush. Let the coin be dipped in the soap for 1-2 hours and then it can be scrubbed with the brush.

Rinsing can be done easily with a piece of cloth.

Expensive artificial cleaners available at shops should be avoided. DO NOT clean gold coins with jewelery cleaner . Neither should you dip silver coins in silver dip or polish them.

The methods and materials that I have listed here are definitely not professional ones, but they are the best possible solution in minimum cost. They are for the rational economic man. I DO NOT have any sort of experience in cleaning any valuable coins. The plus point of my methods is that just about anyone can clean their home very easily with little expertise or effort. I have focused more on providing the guidelines rather than the methods. This article is not copy pasted from somewhere, rather it comes from my own experience. Hope this will prove beneficial for beginners. I may edit this article in the future.

BIG Thanks!
Kulraj Singh


  1. I think brush should be never used to clean the coin as it may create lot of hairiness on the coin. to remove simple dusty dirt Tooth paste(not a Gel paste)is good as i think; because i tried it on nickel coin. it worked is better to use Turkish towel as a rubber rather than using harsh brush for soap water treated coin.(its my personal opinion based on experience with cleaning of less costly coins)

  2. soft brush is always recommended for scrubbing(old and used one). New brush is harsh and not recommended.

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