To Clean or Not to, hey look!! A squirrel!!

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Sam Stone, Feb 14, 2020.

  1. Sam Stone

    Sam Stone Old, fat, bald, gray, ugly, lazy, and married

    ADD means my brane never wants to slow down and is directly proportional to my advanced talent for confusing myself. I'm pretty sure I've read posts and mentally processed it so poorly I confused the op before he or she ever thought about writing whatever it is they're writing about.

    My most recent challenge: why is it good to clean coins but not good to clean coins? I struggle with overdoing research, so I've seen dozens of answers. I have some coins I don't know what to do with because I think they may be worth a few cents more than face value, but they're so grimy and filthy I have to do something. Is it at least appropriate to "clean" a coin by only releasing all that dirt back into the wild? If so, how? I do know that anything abrasive, acidic, and most chemicals are no-nos but I don't see coin photos anywhere that don't look at least a little dressed up. There really shouldn't be a double standard related to whether I want to keep a coin or try to sell it. I watch supposedly respectable dealers online who say it's OK to clean coins but only on alternating Tuesdays that begin with a T and if the moon is in a certain phase plus you have to taste it first so you'll know what you need to use.

    Last part of the question is this: with so much at stake grading coins, valuable or otherwise, are the grading services as consistent as you would hope? Do the guys grading have bad days or slightly differing opinions on the ultimate results? What happens with extremely valuable coins probably won't ever affect me, but I feel badly when I read about someone who lost a huge percent of value by cleaning/not cleaning appropriately then getting a much lower grade than they needed as much as they wanted.

    As always, I appreciate everyone willing to tolerate my ignorance.
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  3. longshot

    longshot Enthusiast Supporter

    Cleaning has its place, you just have a problem when the coin looks cleaned. We tell newbies not to clean coins because it's easy to mess up. "Original" looking surfaces are important.

    Some coins will benefit from a correctly done cleaning, and some might look like they need a cleaning but they can't handle it, they will look worse if an attempt is made.

    An acetone soak won't hurt anything, but beyond that, if you are going to give in to temptation, stick with real low value stuff.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020
  4. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Some things ya gotta leave be. Hopeless, over toned coins in terminal state, can not be cleaned. The results will lead to more damage. One must pick the example to be cleaned and make the decision to do so. The results could be less than expected, and unacceptable to the coin community at large.

    Short answer......don't even attempt to clean a coin (especially a valuable on) unless you bloody know well what you're doing. That's why I leave my stuff the way the good Lord intended.....
  5. Kevin Mader

    Kevin Mader Fellow Coin Enthusiast

    Suggestion: read up on Conserving Coins and compare it to Cleaning Coins. Conservation is important, but you can cross an already murky line.
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  6. Collecting Nut

    Collecting Nut Borderline Hoarder

    Cleaning has it's place. The problem is, 99.9% of us can't clean a coin properly and that's the real issue.
  7. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter

    Three things to consider 1) the metal of the coin 2) the wear in the coin and 3) what is the "dirt" on the coin. Actually I want to start with 2) first. If the coin is XF, AU or uncirculated or proof, careful clea... conservation can both enhance the value and protect it. If the coin shows more wear, actually you really have to be careful or you will make it look unnatural. As far as 1) metal, I don't have, or clean any gold coins...silver coins have several options...nickel, copper (and it's alloys) and aluminum are REALLY difficult to deal with. Finally if it is just generalized crud, a water bath won't hurt can start with tap water, but would probably want to do a final rinse with distilled or deionized water. If the crud appears to be sticky and organic in nature, the cure-all is acetone and/or xylene.

    One of the most important things in cleaning is not to rub/wipe/scrub the coins (unless they are ancients...and that's a different world). No matter what you wipe with, wiping grit over the surface will scratch the coin. After soaking of rinsing coins, you can just let them dry or blot with a clean, soft cloth.

    In-a-nutshell, that's about it. Each case has to be approached individually.

    In the case of pocket finds, fog (found on ground) finds and metal detecting finds, the rules may be bent to allow cleaning with a soap solution and a thorough rinse with possible acetone/xylene soaking. Now I'm gonna shut up.
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  8. Sam Stone

    Sam Stone Old, fat, bald, gray, ugly, lazy, and married

    Thanks for all the input. I am curious why acetone isn't completely off limits. The closest thing I have to any value is some Eisenhower dollars, so I'll read up and listen to suggestions for that. I could put up a few photos, but if you think I babble too much, I envision taking plaster tire tracks, foot prints, dog smelling prints, and twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what I think each one is.
    I would take pictures of the approach, the getaway, the northwest corner the southwest corner and that's not to
    Mention the aerial photography.

    I suggested in another thread using hydrochloric acid with a military grade flame thrower for that "natural" tone look.

    For some reason no one took me seriously.

    Thanks again everyone, I'm severiously want to learn and you are great.
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  9. geekpryde

    geekpryde Husband and Father Moderator

    The distinction is between cleaning and harshly cleaning. Some might call the first one conservation. There are some good posts in this thread, and there are many other excellent threads discussing this topic extensively.

    There are also paid services that can review and conserve coins, such as NGC's service called NCS. If I ever did find a coin that I thought could benefit from a cleaning I would most likely pay them to do the work, because I have no prior experience, and probably wouldn't want to learn the hard way.
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  10. MK Ultra

    MK Ultra Active Member

    I bought, at melt, some Philippine coins from the mid 1940s that were dark and illegible without a loupe. I rinsed them in acetone for 30 seconds or so and no difference. Soaked for 20 minutes and mixed results. While still toned/discolored, some are more easily legible. While others didn't change. Maybe it's paint on them?

    I also put in an old zinc French 20 centimes and while it's disintegrating, did seem to clean up some so it's more legible.
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  11. Steve7975

    Steve7975 New Member

    If, by chance, you are willing to take on the delicate task of cleaning a coin, the only thing you should be trying to remove is any organic residue or paint spots. Acetone is perfectly safe for this job. By the way, for those of you who are unaware, acetone is in fact, nail polish remover. Actually, a small bottle of nail polish remover would be the correct thing to use because the small applicator brush is the ideal tool to use for application of the acetone upon the coin. The applicator brush is a small delicate brush. The main thing to remember is to not rub the coin with any hard force. Now, here is what to do. Hold the coin by the edge. Apply acetone on both sides of the coin. Wait 15 to 30 seconds and then apply more acetone (acetone evaporates very quickly). Wait another 15 to 30 seconds and then apply some more acetone to both sides of the coin. After 10 seconds rest the coin on a sheet of paper towel. Fold the paper towel upon the top of the coin and hold in place for 30 seconds. Remember, do not rub the coin with the paper towel. Being a retired electrical engineer, my entire career always involved the cleaning of various metals. Acetone has always been the cleaning solvent of chose.
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  12. Kevin Mader

    Kevin Mader Fellow Coin Enthusiast

  13. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter


    First SOME fingernail polish remover is acetone, some is ethyl acetate, which would also be fine to use as an organic solvent if it were pure...BUT second, most fingernail polish removers contain other "stuff" (one often found is lanolin to make your skin feel soft) which can decidedly harm your coins. Whatever you use, stick to PURE!
  14. Collecting Nut

    Collecting Nut Borderline Hoarder

    Never use bail polish remover on a coin. It's too harsh and it destroys the surface of the coin. You might not see it but an expert will. It removes all of the luster a coin has. Industrial strength acetone is by far the best as it only removes surface dirt without hurting the coin.
    Sam Stone likes this.
  15. ja59

    ja59 Missing the Beach, Almost as Much as .....

    Not much to add other than You would make Alice (Arlo) Proud!

    Oh yeah, and remember:

    You can get anything you want at .........
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  16. Sam Stone

    Sam Stone Old, fat, bald, gray, ugly, lazy, and married

    I believe you and I'm going to give it a try. Tomorrow. Thanks.
  17. Sam Stone

    Sam Stone Old, fat, bald, gray, ugly, lazy, and married

  18. Sam Stone

    Sam Stone Old, fat, bald, gray, ugly, lazy, and married

    I wonder how many recognized that. So far, the overt answer is........ 1.
    ja59 likes this.
  19. Kevin Mader

    Kevin Mader Fellow Coin Enthusiast

    @Sam Stone I was going to post. You should be able to get through all the articles in around 10 minutes.
    Sam Stone likes this.
  20. wxcoin

    wxcoin Getting no respect for 64 years

    As mentioned in many CT threads, there are things that can be done to remove foreign materials from certain coins without affecting the coins surface. Once you alter the coins surface it's a details coin forever. I personally haven't experimented with the methods described by the most knowledgeable members yet but hope to give it a try before too long; especially the acetone (non copper) and xylene (copper) rinses.

    On a side note, my profile fits most of the description below your avatar. Replace married with drunk and you have a winner.
    Sam Stone likes this.
  21. trussell

    trussell Active Member

    "Kid, have you rehabilitated yourself?"
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