To Return or Not to Return... Bronze Disease Dilemma

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Oct 24, 2019.


What would you do?

  1. Return the coin for a refund

  2. Keep it and try to treat it

  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    This is a painful thread to have to make.:grumpy: This coin would have made my top 3 coins of 2019. See below for a timeline of my coin misery!

    I bought this coin at an auction that closed on July 2, 2019. The auction photo did not show signs of bronze disease that I could see.

    I took my own photos on July 23, 2019 soon after I received the coin. There were some signs of green that were not on the auction picture (note the green in the crack in from of Caracalla's forehead). I do not remember what my level of concern was at the time. I did not like the photos I took (partially because of a carpet fuzzy on the obverse) so I set the coin aside to try again when I had some time. :facepalm:

    I went to take some additional photos of it today and noted that the coin seems to be suffering from bronze disease that has spread.
    Based on what I see from the 3 photos (especially the July 23) it seems that the coin had bronze disease when I received it. This is the only logical answer because I am meticulous in my storage. See below for a comparison of the photos (none of which I am happy with, quality wise btw :().

    Auction house photo take before July 2, 2019
    My photo dated July 23, 2019
    My photo October 23, 2019

    I like the coin a lot and I have hours and hours worth of research into it but I am unsure if I should return it or try to treat it. One thing that worries me is that if I try to treat it and it doesn't work there might be more of an issue with me trying to return it later. The coin wasn't necessarily cheap so it would be a bummer to lose the coin to BD and lose the money that could be spent on further coin purchases.

    What do you think? What would you? Have you ever had to return a coin for BD?
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  3. CoinBlazer

    CoinBlazer Numismatic Enthusiast

    If I return this coin, what are the chances I can purchase a different example within a given time frame?
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  4. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    Contact the seller and ask whether they’ll accept a return if you treat it.

    Personally, I would treat it, because it’s a really nice coin that’s worth saving.
  5. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    It's a wonderful coin, and I'm sorry you have to be going through this, but I would return it. I'm no expert, but given the look of the coin, I'd be willing to bet that it's been zapped before in the (recentish?) past in an attempt to treat an earlier breakout of BD. If the breakout were isolated to a small area or spot, I might be tempted to treat it, but the green here has bloomed extensively through all the crack lines on both sides of the coin. Depending on how deep the problem is, it looks like the kind of BD that might just keep coming back and cause you no end of anxiety.
  6. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Very nice coin Curtis, I would put it back on the auction house and show them the three time frame pics and see what they have to say. Three months seems a bit odd for a 2000 year old coin to go from no visible BD to visible, maybe it was cleaned up for the auction.
    Paul M., Curtisimo and Stevearino like this.
  7. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    I guess the answer really boils down to another question which would be: How confident are you in your ability to cure bronze disease? Another factor would be how much did the coin cost and how important is the coin to your collection. I would agree with Paul Contact the seller before proceeding.
    Paul M. and Curtisimo like this.
  8. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Smiles, everyone! Supporter

    Yes, the coin may have been treated before you purchased it, @Curtisimo . The pitting on the dealer’s photo is precisely where the outbreak is occurring.


    I received a pair of Judaean coins in a yellowed paper envelope that were obviously corroded with BD. The fuzzy green powder was so thick that I could barely make out what kind of coin it was. I was careful to keep it away from my other coins so I took it into another room to photograph it. (I’m still looking for that image on my cellphone, I hope I haven’t deleted it) Anyway, I forwarded the image to my dealer and he sent me some substitute coins free of charge. I didn’t return the coin. I wrapped it up and threw it away.

    Also of note: I washed my hands and scrubbed down the area where I photographed the coin with Mr. Clean as though I had handled something contagious. :nurse:
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
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  9. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I'm sorry for your dilemma and disappointment :(.

    If might try to return it but wouldn't be that upset if I had to keep it. It's a very appealing coin. I'd soak it in distilled water, dry it in a low oven, and give it a soak or two in Verdicare. That might keep the BD at bay :). If not, then go for broke with sodium sesquicarbonate.

    I'd be surprised if they took it back since it has been more than three and a half months since the auction closed, but it doesn't hurt to ask if you don't want to keep it.

    Hindsight is always 20/20, but as Deacon Ray noted there are signs of prior corrosion and the auction listing noted that it had been cleaned since the Lanz sale in 2016. Here's the coin at that time:


    Looks like it had makeup or colored wax at that time. I'm always fearful of what that type of applied patina might do to the coin... or hide.

    I had a similar situation with several coins from CNG a few years back. By the time the coins arrived there was BD. They took the coins back and sent them for treatment, then returned them to me. So far there has been no recurrence but I remain anxious about them.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
  10. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    Bronze disease can show up after a coin has been zapped. Areas that were protected from moisture by a think patina are now suddenly exposed to air. The coin was probably zapped right before it went up for auction. I doubt the person selling it had any idea there was a problem.

    Bronze disease is so easy to treat that normally I wouldn't hesitate to just go ahead and plop it in distilled water, but on your coin the disease is so extensive that it gives me pause. How badly do you want this coin? If it is important to your collection and you think that you might not be able to find another one any time soon, then contact the dealer, explain the situation, and ask what they suggest. Explain, however, that if you go with the DW soak method--very simple and effective; I'd avoid Verdicare--it could be as long as 6 months before you are absolutely confident that the BD has been completely removed.

    Hopefully the dealer will be a jerk and refuse to take the coin back, forcing you to go ahead, treat the coin and thus, leaving you stuck with that stunning bronze beauty.
  11. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I also would be surprised if they took it back given the time elapsed and the way auction rules tend to work. It is a shame that the coin has to be made worse while the custody battle is worked out but I doubt it will ever be a coin you can be comfortable having and you would be better off with the refund. I doubt you will find another, better one easily so you can follow TIF's suggestion if you must keep it. If you do return it, I suspect most houses would just sell it to someone else rather than treating it. I don't know who the seller was but was but tend to agree the best thing for the coin (not you) was covered by gsimonel:
    In addition to the chance you can save the coin, that would tell you that the seller is or is not one you need.
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  12. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    That is a shame. The coin is really great looking. I am by far the least knowledgeable person commenting here, but it seems like the auction house cleaned it up before taking pictures and selling.
    I would contact them and provide the pictures and see what they are willing to do about it on their end. Perhaps too much time has passed and they won't take it back? If that's the case, I would do what I could to save the coin and make a point to not buy from them again.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
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  13. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    Curtisimo, feel free to PM me if you've never treated a coin for bronze disease before. It can take a while, but the process is actually quite simple.
    Deacon Ray, Curtisimo and Justin Lee like this.
  14. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    If it were my coin I would keep it and treat the BD. A little patience and following @TIF's advice I think will far outweigh the short term benefit of returning it.

    And you save a spectacular coin from imminent destruction!
  15. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I think @gsimonel probably has more experience in treating BD, so I'd take Glenn up on his offer if I were Curtis.
  16. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thanks everyone for the thoughts and advise. Many of you completely echo my own concerns.

    The heart of the matter is that, while I really like the coin, I am not at all confident in my ability to cure it of the disease. I don’t have a lot of experience in this area but to me the spread seems pretty extreme... not to mention I will always be nervous of this coin having another outbreak. Either way, I think someone (either me or the auction house) should try to save this coin. Thus my dilemma :(

    I think I will try to reach out to the auction house and see what they suggest. They are a well respected auction house that I have bought from many times so it will at least be instructive to me how they handle this. I realize it has been a few months since the auction but I’m not sure how I could be expected to immediately know about the issue with enough confidence to return it on a sooner timeline. I, like many others, store my coins away in a safe place and don’t have them on hand all the time.

    @gsimonel , if I put the coin immediately in distilled water do you think that will help keep the BD from spreading while I wait to hear back from the auction house? Depending on how that conversation goes I may very well take you up on your kind offer to speak via PM about next steps. Thank you.

    And thank you to everyone who has provided advise and thoughts above. I’ll keep you updated.
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  17. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    Yes. And you will probably need to buy an entire gallon of distilled water (DW), so if you put the coin in about 8 oz. of DW and then drain and replace the DW every day, then you will likely be well on your way to curing the cure by the time that you hear back from the auction house.

    Good luck
  18. Ken Dorney

    Ken Dorney Yea, I'm Cool That Way...

    Interesting topic, and based on the responses so far it brings a question to my mind. Should an auction house, dealer, collector or any other seller be held responsible for bronze disease? If so, to what degree? It’s a condition that cannot be realistically predicted (in most cases) and can often take decades or longer to develop. There isn’t any method to determine if a coin will develop the problem in transit, in days, weeks, etc. after its shipping or arrival.

    Since auction houses dont typically own the coins they sell, I can see where they would easily take a coin back in a short time frame, since they have no liability and can just return it to the consigner. I imagine however that after the consignor is finally paid (usually three to six months after a sale) that the house likely would not accept a return.

    A small dealer however does not have the same lack of liability that an auction house does. They usually own most or all of the coins they sell and a return would likely result in a 100% loss if they couldn’t treat it themselves.

    So another question is who is responsible for a situation in which nobody can anticipate or predict?

    Other thoughts?
  19. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..if you really love the coin, then i'd keep & treat it(i would bet someone overcleaned it)...verdicare works wonders...i'd apply it bronto and do it several times..i bought this Nero with BD and that's what did and it arrested it:smuggrin:..keep an eye on it till you're sure it's stopped...:) Nero AeAs SPQR shield victory flying 001.JPG Nero AeAs SPQR shield victory flying 003.JPG
  20. Theodosius

    Theodosius Unrepentant Fine Style Freak! Supporter

    At the very least put it in a small, sealed container with a charged dessicant package.

    BD is usually only active when the relative humidity is over 50%.

    If the BD is in the surface only, there are multiple treatment options that can work. This looks like it is coming up from the interior of the coin, which takes serious treatment for weeks or months.
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  21. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    Here's what Wikipedia has to say about treating BD internally:

    I don't think using filler or shellac is a good idea, but is this BTA treatment what you had in mind?
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