Featured Can you define artificial toning ?

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by GDJMSP, Nov 12, 2018.


    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    In the spirit of recent discussions I thought it might be interesting to ask this question - can you define artificial toning ? But not so much identifying it on given coins, but rather the methods used to artificially tone coins. Or, if you prefer, is this way or that way artificial or is it natural ?

    For example, I'll start with one method I've mentioned recently in another thread - using coin albums to intentionally tone coins. With that method there's basically 2 ways to do it. You can buy the albums, that are well known for producing coins with gorgeous toning, place coins in them and simply wait for it to happen, or not happen as the case may be. But, you do this quite intentionally and for no other reason than hopefully to cause the coins to tone. Is that artificial or natural toning ?

    Second way, buy the same albums, put the same coins in them, store the album in a location with high humidity and higher than normal temperatures. Is that artificial toning or is it natural ?

    Next you can do these same things and both ways, using normal storage or storage with increased humidity and temperature, only by using small manila coin envelopes, or by wrapping the coins in tissue paper, or by using the old original mint packaging, flat cardboard coin holders, used with mint sets in the 40's and 50's.

    Or, you can buy old original coin bags, place selected coins in them, and then just wait and see what happens. Or, again store those coins in the old original bags but in an area with increased humidity and temperature.

    Or, you can purchase some of the old tab holders, and use them, in the same 2 ways. Or, paper coin rolls, old or new, and use them in the same 2 ways.

    Are any of these things artificial toning or are they natural toning ? And can any of you tell any difference between the coins toned in any of the ways mentioned above ?

    Any and all of them are very, very well known for producing coins with gorgeous toning. Toning that is and always has been widely accepted as being completely natural, and highly desirable. Using the old mint bags you can even reproduce highly desirable textile toning if you want. But is it natural toning if you quite intentionally do any or all of these things ?

    Each and every one of you can and probably will answer that question, if for nobody else than yourself. But when ya do, please do so with this understanding. Any and all toning on coins occurs because of the gasses the coins are exposed to. Those gasses can be in the very air we breathe, or those gasses can be being put off by the items the coins stored in or near. Albums, coin envelopes, tissue paper, old cardboard mint set holders, old mint coin bags, paper coin rolls, any and all of these things put off gasses and it is those gasses that tone the coins. Not direct contact with the items. Yes, direct contact can alter the pattern of the toning sometimes, like textile toning and end roll toning, but it is not the direct contact that causes the toning itself - it is the gasses that do that.

    I suspect that a lot of you are going to say that this, all of this above, is all natural toning. Others will say it's artificial.

    So now, just imagine, you build yourself a sealed box, with say 3 valves installed, one to pump air out, one to pump gasses and humidity in, and one to release it. You place coins in that box, and introduce the very same gasses put off by any of the items listed above, and you control and temperature and humidity. You can even have the coins in one of those old coin bags so you can reproduce textile toning, inside the box. These coins are going to tone, and some of it, maybe much of it will be quite gorgeous. If you use the same gasses, the coins ARE going to tone the same way. And by using the different gasses, you can even be selective in the colors you produce. And if some of those coins are stacked partially on top of each other, you can easily produce crescent toning. Or if the coins are laid flat, monochromatic toning - double or single sided if you turn them over or not. But is it natural or artificial toning ?

    And can any of you, even 1, say with any degree of certainty, that this toning is any different than the toning you have always considered natural toning ?

    Bear in mind, your intention in all of the cases mentioned above was exactly the same - to cause and create toning on the coins. In every single case you are using the exact same things to cause the toning. The only differences are your intent and the speed at which the toning occurs. Also bear in mind that you now know many different ways that toning of virtually any kind can readily and quite easily be reproduced at will. And in a very short time - literally hours.

    So what's your answer ?
    imrich, TIF, mikenoodle and 2 others like this.
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  3. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    "I know it when I see it."

    No, wait, that was only for off-color material, right?
  4. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    I have created toning on coins placed in an album for almost fifty years. The toning I got was not desirable at all. Just a black ugly mess.

    Personally I have no desire to intentionally change the appearance of any of my coins. Doesn’t seem to be a responsible way to handle them knowing I am only a temporary caretaker.

    The only toning I believe I could positively say is intentional are these horrid purple pieces. Mostly, toning has little affect on me. However there is one proof 66 seated dime with a rainbow halo around the rim that I would love to own. I won’t pay the dealers premium though.

    In the end I don’t know that I could confirm if toning was artificial or not unless it was extreme.
  5. Double Die

    Double Die I know just enough to be dangerous

    I think what you're posing is more of an accelerated toning vs. natural toning scenario. Sure, we know now that those holders, bags, paper, and elements contribute(d) to toning of coins, but was that the case back when being the only methods of keeping your stuff nice? Nowadays anyone with a little science know how can turn a coin in no time.

    Is accelerated toning artificial toning??? I'm going to have to say yes, but some of the results are really nice if you like toned coins.
  6. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Derp, derp, derp!

    The question about toning should be whether it is Intentional or Un-intentional. You're asking the wrong question.

    A coin that circulates its entire life won't tone will it? It's only when it is held captive by collectors or in someone's piggy bank or some form of non-circulation that it ends up with some toning.
    Ima Dragon likes this.
  7. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    Until someone can show me a balanced chemical equation for the toning reaction that incorporates intent, I think that's a non-starter.

    I mean, if "unintentional" toning is great but "intentional" toning is bad, then what about "unintentional" cleaning? "I didn't mean to hairline the coin, I was just trying to get rid of germs!"
  8. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Derp, derp, derp!

    I guess my point was (and if I understand him correctly, @GDJMSP might agree):

    What's the difference and why do you care so damn much? None of you will ever agree on the definition of AT and NT, nor will you ever (or hardly ever) agree on whether a particular coin is AT or NT.
    The only difference I can see between the 2 is intent...so if you must ask a question (as if it even matters) then ask the right one.

    Actually the right question that everyone must ask themselves might just be "Do I give a damn?".

    I don't, that's for sure. It's toned or it isn't. All this other crap is all some hocus pocus blah blah blah in an attempt to generate premiums.

    Ima Dragon and mikenoodle like this.
  9. TheFinn

    TheFinn Well-Known Member

    I look at it that if someone brought the surface of a coin into contact with a solution or gas with the intent of causing oxidation, then that is artificial toning - whether a TPG can detect it or not. If it happened through a natural process - even if it is like putting a Dachshund bitch in heat in with a Golden Retriever sire - is still natural.
    Santinidollar and Heater like this.
  10. Jaelus

    Jaelus The Hungarian Antiquarian Supporter

    @GDJMSP I don't like the term artificial toning. Artificial toning is toning that isn't real, and that's not what we're seeing. Sometimes the TPGs will slab coins as AT that the submitter knows positively has naturally toned. Likewise if you submit a coin with artificial negative toning they would probably straight grade it.

    Really the correct terminology is market acceptable toning or not market acceptable toning. That's really what this comes down to, and it differs greatly by series. Market acceptable toning for an ASE would get marked as AT every single time if it was on classic coinage, for example, since many series have a distinctive look for how they tone.
    Saphire7, bsowa1029 and Lehigh96 like this.
  11. Heater

    Heater Well-Known Member

    Doug got me to bite. Have 3 2011 25th Anniversary Sets still sealed in the mint shipped box. Just by a turn here and there you can here that there are "loose" coins. There were many complaints about this back in the day, lol, I am getting old.
    So I know that there are coins loose in the OGP but I do not know if they are out of the capsule itself. Had two other sets that I sold to LCS and they opened in front of me and 4 coins were out of the capsule bouncing around in the OGP.
    So I guess I am going to admit to helping NT. I give the shipping box a 1/4 flip about every 6 months when I remember to do so.
  12. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    At/Nt? It all relates to the 'age' of the process. My feeling is that toning, regardless of the process, is most 'natural'........suffer on that dear friends..............
    Heater likes this.
  13. VDB

    VDB Member

    There are coins out there that look like they were created in a lab by a mad scientist. I've also seen examples with toning that gives them most amazing eye appeal. I don't own any monster rainbows, but have a couple pieces with some pleasant coloring. My stance is if you like it - get it. Ultimately a coin (any coin) is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.
    George McClellan likes this.
  14. baseball21

    baseball21 Well-Known Member

    For me intent doesn't really matter, there's no way to know looking at a coin whether or not the previous owner intended for it to tone.

    Things I would consider AT would be like using a blow torch, baking it in the over, using a chemistry set, applying actual chemicals

    The end product is all that really matters because trying to guess what happened is mostly a fools game. If a lab can do it nature can too and a lot of times we underestimate the differences in where someone lives.
  15. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    I understand every aspect of your point Doug, and agree. This is why I have always tried to educate about surfaces, not colors. I collected toned coins way before they were in, (some pursued them in the late 70's and 80's but not many), but not really because they were "pretty".

    Back then it was common practice to remove any toning to make "white" coins. Collectors preferred them, so most got dipped. I always preferred undipped, more lustrous, surfaces. So to me, toned coins were preferable. To many others who liked toned coins, surfaces were the real prize, not the colors. Somewhere along the line the colors came to be seen as the real prize, hence artificial toning.

    This is my problem. It is really dumb to destroy a perfectly good coin with color, since you will not be helping the surfaces. The luster is the real prize here people.
  16. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody who doesn’t know anything...

    My definition:

    Putting a coin into an environment WITH THE INTENTION of making it tone. Whether or not someone can tell is a totally different story
    LakeEffect likes this.
  17. Dave Waterstraat

    Dave Waterstraat dave700x -1883 O nut

    I believe it comes down to personal preference really, either you like a specific toned coin or you don't. Even saying market acceptable is subjective because there are people buying toned coins that I don't like and then there are TPG rejected coins for questionable color that I do like. Who is right and who is wrong?
    VDB likes this.
  18. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Agreed Baseball21

    When grading a coin, you know nothing about the intent of the previous owner, therefore, you can't use intent when determining AT vs NT.

    Secondly Doug, we have had this argument more times than I can count. You readily admit that there are AT coins that are easily identifiable as AT. But then you pretend that every form or NT is easily reproducible which is completely false. Toning can be most easily understood by using a left-right scale with AT on the far left and NT on the far right.


    As you move towards the middle, the line between what is AT and NT gets blurred and this is where you find the threshold of MA (Market Acceptability). Just like you can't know intent, you also can't know the history of the coin and its storage conditions. So what we do is rely on a system of indicators that help tell us if the coin is NT or AT. Examples of indicators would be color progressions (yellow-magenta-cyan), color patterns (eg textile toning, target toning), elevation chromatics (lack of creep over relief changes), pull away toning, depth of color (oil slick appearance) etc.

    Your assertion that artificial toning methods like intentionally placing a coin in an old album and then increasing temp & humidity for a few days/weeks will look exactly the same as a coin stored in an album is ridiculous. What typically happens is that those coins that experienced accelerated toning due to increased heat/humidity will show indicators of AT and will often take the look of the Questionably Toned coin in the scale above.

    Here is an example, let's say a collector has an album full of coins and stores it in his attic in the Southeastern US. A year later he retrieves it and finds that his coins have toned dramatically. He had no intention of toning his coins, yet they are toned and they display the indicators of artificially toned coins. If sent to the TPGs, those types of coins will be details graded for AT/QT despite the fact that the owner had no intention of artificially toning his coins. It does not matter, the AT is the result of IMPROPER STORAGE and the coins deserve to be considered problem coins.

    It would serve this forum very well if you would stop falsely claiming that accelerated toning methods look identical to coins that have toned over decades, THEY DON'T.
  19. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    How do you know? Seriously, I have seen, (and we have had this discussion many times as well), in person in a few months a very nicely toned coin develop IF it had good surfaces. Acceptable looking coins, if they had good surfaces, can be had in a few hours.

    Most AT looking coins look that way because they were forced onto non-lustrous surfaces. This has always been done as a way to fool amateurs that a coin was not defective or harshly cleaned in the past. If the collector was dumb enough to only rely on colors, then coin doctors AT coins to fool them. This was so prevelant as to create the demand for "white" coins to begin with, since you cannot easily hide defects on white coins like you can darkly toned coins.

    Again, which is why I simply look at luster. If its a richly lustrous surface I will give the coin the benefit of the doubt the colors happen by accident, or "natural". This is because I personally have witnessed original, untouched coins toned what slabbers would today label AT. I have also seen what slabber would label NT done on purpose over the course of a few month or so.

    @Lehigh96, you can react to what the market is today all you wish, (and I would say you indeed an expert in that area sir, I greatly respect your opinion in that area and Jeff nickels). I would simply say that long before the slabbers this was the world, and I have personally seen "accelerated" toning, as well as "AT" coming out of original rolls and books. Therefore, I agree with the premise of Doug's. It is a continuum and very much a slippery slope. I simply wish the hobby would "get over" pretty colors and again concentrate on surfaces, and value rich lustrous surfaces more and not worry what color they are.

    Another example of the slippery slope. You claim certain toning to be "natural", yet other toning, while not done on purpose, to be from "improper storage". So now we are judging storage practices of other collectors based upon YOUR desire for how the coin looks? If you like it, its NT, but if not then it is AT due to "improper storage"? See the slippery slope? BTW, I am not meaning "you" personally Lehigh, but "toned coin collectors" as a group.
  20. SlipperySocks

    SlipperySocks Well-Known Member

    I have to disagree with that scale, based upon this album I recently purchased. In it you will see every version of the scale with the exception of the coins represented above Artificial and Borderline.
    When discussing intentions consider this; Nowadays we know albums will tone coins and may use them for that purpose but, did collectors 30-50 years ago put their coins in albums to protect them or to tone them? Toning used to be considered a negative thing but today can bring a premium.
    So are these coins(in this album) NT or AT? In my opinion these are NT as I would consider any coin toned in an album, bag or roll that did not have a chemical or gas applied, or conditions like humidity and heat manipulated to accelerate changes.
    I purchased this from the grandchild of the assembler who said he was adding coins to it as far back as his childhood memory would go.

    20181113_151013-1.jpg 20181113_151359.jpg 20181113_151111.jpg 20181113_151452.jpg 20181113_151432.jpg 20181113_150650-1.jpg 20181113_150945.jpg 20181113_150642-1.jpg 20181113_151001-1.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018
  21. SlipperySocks

    SlipperySocks Well-Known Member

    I would say that the line I draw between natural toning and artificial toning is the time frame it took for the coins to change color. Coins that take years to change in an album, roll or bag are natural. Coins that are manipulated into changing within seconds, minutes, hours or in a couple weeks or months are artificial.
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