Advice on uncleaned silver

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Finn235, Feb 27, 2020.

  1. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    I very rarely clean coins myself unless I think I have a real shot at improving them, and even more rarely do I buy a coin with the specific intent of cleaning it. But when I spotted this in a lot of garbage coins, I knew I had to try

    Elagabalus uncleaned.jpg

    I have never cleaned silver before, and online guides list many methods, ranging from distilled water and scrubbing to boiling it in lemon juice. I think this one might be a good VF or even EF under the dirt, so I really dont want to botch it, but I also don't necessarily want this one coming out looking like bronze either.

    If this were your coin, how would you go about cleaning it up?

    Also, from the same seller I got this Claudius II that shows similar promise
    ZomboDroid 11022020005658.jpg
    Even though it is certainly good enough to leave alone, some gentle rubbing revealed silver beneath the dirt - so this one will get a distilled water bath and gentle scrubbing to hopefully restore it to its shiny glory!
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  3. Pishpash

    Pishpash Supporter! Supporter

    Careful, it might be a silver wash. I would do nothing more than brush with a dry cutdown toothbrush, do it a few tims. See what you have before doing anything else.
  4. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    They both look like very nice coins. Like @Pishpash I would not do anything harsh on either coin.
    Orielensis and Finn235 like this.
  5. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    The Claudius is almost certainly silver wash, but I thought that distilled water was safe? Dry brushing is certainly an option though and i can see where that gets me
    Oldhoopster and Pishpash like this.
  6. NOS

    NOS Former Coin Hoarder

    Past poor experiences and results have taught me that less is more and that some coins are better left alone. These I would leave alone as they are very nicely preserved in their current state. Or if they must be cleaned then I'd have an expert do the work.
    lordmarcovan, Xodus and 7Calbrey like this.
  7. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark standing on the shoulders of giants Dealer

    the Elagabalus looks like a limes denarius...base metal, not silver
    dougsmit, Carausius and DonnaML like this.
  8. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    With bronze coins, I use distilled water or olive oil bath, let them dry, gently brush them with a small brush. I use the kinds of brushes you'd use for painting on a canvas. Some of them I have cut down to make them a bit hard, others are broad and soft. After having taken off the dirt that was loose enough to come off, the coins go back in the bath again, to repeat the procedure. It is a very tedious process that takes a lot of patience and perhaps years, but if the end result is good, it's really fun. I used to buy big lots of uncleaned coins, and still have 70-80 coins that are works in progress.
    Cleaning silver is different, I think. You will easily get hairlines, even with a soft brush. If you decide to clean them, let the water or oil do most of the work, and only brush where the layer of dirt is thick. There was recently a great thread here about using different chemicals when cleaning silver coins.
  9. I did a lot of cleaning of uncleans when I was getting back into the hobby. I'd buy lots of like 250 coins and clean them up. At best, I could resurrect maybe 50-75 of the coins through a laborious process. While it was fun for awhile, I realized I could get 5 good coins for the price I was paying for the uncleans, most of which ended up as worthless culls - sure, they were ancient, but that's about it.

    I have never tried cleaning a silver coin. As mentioned the Elagabalus looks like a limes piece as @Victor_Clark mentions hence it will not benefit from cleaning too much. If you can see the legends, devices, and portrait it's probably not worth it. I wouldn't feel comfortable trying to shine up a silver-washed AE antoninianus because the coating, if there is any left, is very fragile.
    oldfinecollector likes this.
  10. Bluntflame

    Bluntflame Active Member

    I just soak my coins in distilled water, and take a cotton swab to it after an hour or so.
    Roman Collector and 7Calbrey like this.
  11. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    You probably can't hurt them by soaking them in distilled water. You can even scrub them with a toothbrush and some dishwashing liquid without causing any damage. That will remove some of the surface crud. Just make sure you rinse them in distilled water again afterward.

    But I would not do anything more than this.
  12. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I do not believe that a soft brush will scratch silver BUT the dirt particles that brush moves around and gets stuck in the bristles most certainly will. We sometimes see warnings on car wash products warning of this same thing. The dirt on your coins can include some sharp little grit.

    I agree the coin may be Limes. If it were mine, I would try soaking and soft brushing BUT I might very well regret it. I might also try methods that assume the coin is silver including lemon juice on the theory that little is lost if it is Limes and much is gained if it is silver. We all make our decisions and pay the price of our errors. I do not recommend that you do what I would do. Opinions are just that and carry risk. I would want to know if Elagabalus is silver.
    Orielensis, Kentucky, PeteB and 2 others like this.
  13. Jay GT4

    Jay GT4 Well-Known Member

    A coin is only in "as found" condition once. I'd leave it alone.
  14. JulesUK

    JulesUK Well-Known Member

    FWIW i would leave them alone. They look good as is.
  15. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Thanks all!

    I weighed the Elagabalus and it came in at 3.05g - based on the figures I'm seeing online, limes denarii from the period tend to average at a little over 2g, so I am inclined to say this is the real deal. At a minimum, I want to get the crud off the top of the altar on the reverse. A distilled water soak and light scrubbing shouldn't hurt anything, so I'll proceed with that.

    For the Claudius, I will proceed more carefully, but the dirt on the obverse seems relatively loose, and I think I can get it off if I go slowly and carefully. I'll post any progress I make.
    Kentucky likes this.
  16. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Not much to report on with the Elagabalus, but a couple hours' soak in distilled water and some light brushing revealed that the Claudius has most of its silvering intact! Still a couple stubborn encrustations, which I'll work at carefully.

    ZomboDroid 02032020093939.jpg

    Orielensis, Jay GT4, PeteB and 5 others like this.
  17. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    Well done! Looks good.
  18. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Some progress on the Elagabalus...

    Elagabalus svmmvs sacerdos partially cleaned.jpg

    Silver coming through! Reading online a bit more, it seems that anything acidic is a no-go with these because it is safe for pure silver but will pickle these ~50% fine issues. I need to find some pure acetone for another project, so I guess that will be next.

    How do people normally get these things looking nice and shiny? There seems to be very little corrosion beneath the gunk and I think it would be a better addition in its fully restored state, rather than uncleaned and gunky.
    Bing and Johndakerftw like this.
  19. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the only method I've heard of for coins like these is with a stereo microscope, a scalpel, and lots and lots and lots and lots of care and patience.

    Has anyone ever tried electrolysis on a coin like this?

    Or setting up an electrolytic reaction by placing the coin between aluminum foil and adding hot water with sodium carbonate?
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