Toning examples... how, why....what?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Clavdivs, Sep 27, 2020.

  1. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    Just to clarify: I am not a "coin collector" in the normal sense. I have never had any interest in modern coins - I didn't start there and switch to ancients. I enjoy history and stumbled upon ancient coins... so my knowledge of some basic principles and language around coin collecting is lacking.

    My question is about toning. I have heard terms such as "cabinet toning" which seems to be a sort of darkening of the coin.. then some ancients have other types - such as this coin that I own - which I think is very attractive:


    My assumption is that this is a reaction of the silver wash on the coin with something in the environment.. cabinet wood, something in the earth where it was found? Correct me if I am wrong. So this coin is about 1800 years old or so..

    Then I see examples like this (NOT my coin): a coin 140 years old.


    Does the modern "metal" used react differently to the environment? I would not think so as Google tells me Morgan Dollars are 90% (or so) silver.
    How does this happen? is this even real?
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2020
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  3. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I know almost nothing about U.S. coins, but none of the Morgan silver dollars I used to get from the local bank when I was a little kid -- my parents even got one in change once in a diner in upstate New York circa 1960 -- ever looked like that! It's difficult to believe that that happened naturally.
  4. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    I think that alot of modern coins (Morgans) spent alot of time in places like books(albums) or canvass bags. Those places were/are a lot more conducive to "toning" than perhaps a tray that an ancient coin would sit in.

    I also think that the coin that you show as an example has been altered either before or after photographing to enhance the colors that are present.
  5. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark standing on the shoulders of giants Dealer

    on some ancients you can get a rainbow toning, though nothing as dramatic as that Morgan which had to be facilitated.


    a little toning, mostly in legends.


    toning mostly in the legends
  6. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Being a sheetmetal worker by trade, I used to have fun putting the oxy torch on nickel type metals including stainless and watching all the rainbow colours present themselves, does that answer your question.......:woot:
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  7. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    Ok .. Morgan dollars are 90% silver I believe. Is this practice being used on ancients?
  8. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    I doubt any ancient collectors would resort to this, but there is always exceptions, you can't beat a nice authentic aged tone.
  9. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    It is very easy to chemically patinate (ancient) silver coins. If you search on YouTube, you’ll find many examples. Some artificial patinas are easy to spot (I’m always a bit wary with the ‘rainbow patina’), others are more difficult. The cabinet toning for example is just the reaction between silver and sulphur over many years: it can be achieved in a minute chemically.
    It may sound strange, but smell your coin. It should be odourless.
  10. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    I'm not sure if the toning on my L. Cassius Longinus denarius was "facilitated", but I like it. How colourful it looks to some extent depends on the angle that the light hits it. I admit I photographed it to show off to best advantage the fiery gold, blue and purple toning.

    RR - L Cassius Longinus Voting 3482.jpg
    AR Denarius. 3.94g, 19.5mm. Rome mint, 63 BC. Crawford 413/1; Sydenham 935. O: Veiled and draped bust of Vesta left, C before, kylix behind. R: Togate voter standing left, dropping tablet inscribed V (for VTI ROGAS, "I approve") into cista, LONGIN.III.V downwards to right.
    Ex Rauch Auction 36, 1986, lot 114
  11. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    I'd like to add my 2 cents in regards to "Cabinet Toning" :). I've discussed this topic with other collectors many times. Long before collectors began storing their coins in paper envelopes & plastic flippies they stored their coins in wooden cabinets. Over many years their silver coins would darken (tarnish). These "old timers" would often look at these coins & pass them around for other collectors to examine. As might be expected, the high points on these coins that made contact with collector's hands would have the tarnish removed, creating a cameo effect. In some cases the coins would be gently rubbed with a cloth to remove the tarnish, creating the same effect. This is what is meant by "Cabinet Toning". The two coins pictured below exhibit classic "Cabinet Toning".

    2491170-003, AK Collection.jpg 4168020-001, AK Collection.jpg
  12. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Rainbow toning may result from contact with chemicals in the air or holder where they are stored. While I don't know for sure how this toning happened, I suspect that keeping it in a flip, with one end more exposed to the elements than the other, allowed chemicals to tone one edge of the coin but not the other.

    Faustina Sr CONCORDIA AVG no PP seated denarius.jpg
  13. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    It will be interesting to see what the currently popular 'toners' look like in another fifty years. Those of you who have 50 years left, let me know. I agree with DonnaML that the circulating dollars I saw as a kid were grey and never rainbow. My Grandfather gave each of his grandchildren a silver dollar each Christmas. I still have about a dozen of mine. My generation is about the youngest that have spent silver dollars and 1964 pretty much stopped circulation of dollars. I was graduated from college in 1968 which was the last year the government would exchange paper for real silver. Kids younger than teens would rarely have that much spending money at one time. The layers that would show rainbow colors are very thin so I would expect them to change. An ancient cleaned in 1880 and a dollar made that year could go through similar progressions. Change is natural. The question is whether putting a dollar in a drawer so it will be exposed to fumes from wood and other things is more natural than dipping it in a chemical of the same substances. I once found a beautifully toned nickel in a parking lot that had just been paved with hot asphalt. It sat in glaring sun in fumes for a week at most. Natural?
  14. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    This is my favourite, the photo doesn't quite catch the subtle blue colouring with a slate grey base and yellow/silvery highlights....
  15. gsimonel

    gsimonel Well-Known Member

    I remember putting a bunch of silver Mercury dimes in a Whitman coin folder as a kid and then pulling it out years later and seeing rainbow toning around the rim of the coins.

    Wish I knew what happened to those dimes. I'd sent a photo. It was pretty striking.
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  16. longshot

    longshot Enthusiast Supporter

    Morgans are especially noted for sometimes toning beautifully. This goes back to die preparation, and the type of luster. Even the next generation, (peace dollars) will almost never tone like a morgan. Then, as mentioned, storage methods have a big impact.
    The photo of the Morgan above does look "juiced".
  17. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    The description of "cabinet toning" is helpful - I've always been a bit confused about this. I recall reading somewhere that the contrast between darker fields and lighter devices came from the coins being rubbed as the drawers of a cabinet were opened and closed - this struck me as implausible, but I've never owned or handled a coin cabinet.

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but I wanted to be clear on this point:

    Toning: Usually referring to the darkening of a silver coin; easily removed, sometimes just by rubbing it with your thumb. AE coins tone as well - take a dark pre-1982 penny out of your change jar and rub it between your finger and thumb - it will shine up, not to original luster, but shinier.

    Patina: Chemical process on AE coins only where the surface is coated with essentially a new surface, a process which takes a long time (which is ancient coins are patinated, but not, say, 18th century British pennies). This patina-surface is very hard, and very difficult to remove as it has become part of the coin. Sand patinas are a variation of this, similar but not chemically bonded to the coin (soaking in water can remove a sand patina).

    I realize this isn't very scientific - there are threads that go into much greater detail. I'm just going by memory here (most of what I know about patina/toning I got from CT).

    As for rainbow toning (not patina), a few years back a seller on eBay was selling scads of silver crowns - Morgans as well as foreign stuff - Philippine pesos, Mexican 8 reales, etc. - with wild rainbow toning like that Morgan in the OP. He described them with a straight face as having magnificent tone, etc. Obviously he was producing these on an industrial scale.

    Curious, I poked around on the web looking to see how this was done. As I dimly recall, you can get this effect on a coin by baking them in the oven. There may have been more to it than that, but all I remember was applying heat. Ancient Aussie's description of using a torch sounds like pretty much the same result with a slightly different method. I pictured this eBay seller with cookie sheets full of silver crowns, freshly baked, sitting out to cool. Yum.

    The prices this guy was getting on eBay was impressive - by "rainbow toning" a "slider" Morgan or a slightly scruffy 1903 Philippine peso, he seemed to be getting about double what they were generally selling for. No, I did not buy any of them.
  18. TonkawaBill

    TonkawaBill Active Member

    I prefer my silver to be blast white. I do have 5-6 Morgans - Peace Dollars that I liked enough to win, have then encapsulated and rest on easels for show. 2 I bought from same seller. After 1st purchase, I asked him if he might be able to share history of koin.

    He shared that he had toned the koin. Did not matter to me, I collect Lincolns, silver I play with.. Later I purchased a 2nd toned dollar, from him...

    1887-P Morgan $ Toned $48.00 - $3.50  282999520806 gold-coins (3).jpg


    1898-P Morgan $ Toned $51.52 + $3.5 282999467478 gold-coins 25461.jpg

    1921-P Morgan Silver $1 Toned $76.00 + $3.50 142825679101 gold-coins 254611).jpg

    1922 Peace $ Toned # B-70-188 $38.00 + $3.75  323289367485  hihosilver99.jpg

    1922-P Peace Dollar Superb Toned $43.00 + $3.50 263743805312 gold-coins.jpg
  19. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    one can usaully tell the difference in facilitated(and i've seen some purdy ones) and natural toning of a silver coin..ancient or otherwise..but both on on their way to being black, devoid of all color, in the end.. Vespasians 001.JPG septimius severus denarius 005.JPG
  20. Caesar_Augustus

    Caesar_Augustus Well-Known Member

    I'm a fan of gold toned silvering on my LRBs:

    Constantine the Great
    AE Follis
    314 - 315 A.D., Rome Mint, 3rd Officina
    3.67g, 20.0mm, 12H

    Bust of Constantine I, laureate, draped, cuirassed, right

    Sol, radiate, chlamys draped across left shoulder, standing left, raising right hand and holding globe in left hand

    Exergue: (R on X)/F//RT

    Provenance: Ex. Aegean Numismatics 2017

    Reference: RIC VII Rome 27

    Licinius I
    AE Follis
    314 - 315 A.D., Rome Mint, 2nd Officina
    3.20g, 21.0mm, 6H

    Obverse: IMP LICINIVS P F AVG,
    Bust of Licinius, laureate, draped, cuirassed, right

    Sol, radiate, chlamys draped across left shoulder, standing left, raising right hand and holding globe in left hand

    Exergue: (R on X)/F//RS

    Provenance: Ex. C. Dattari Collection, Ex. Jesús Vico Online Auction 3, Lot 317

    Reference: RIC VII Rome 29

    Constantine the Great
    AE Follis
    319 A.D., Arelate Mint, 3rd Officina
    2.90g, 17.0mm, 12H

    Bust of Constantine I, wearing high-crested helmet, cuirassed, left, spear across right shoulder

    Two Victories, winged, draped, facing each other, holding a shield inscribed VOT/PR supported by a column

    Exergue: -/-//TARL

    Provenance: Ex. Victors Imperial Coins 2019

    Reference: RIC VII Arelate 192
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  21. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    It was the canvas bags that did it in some cases. When I was a kid collecting US coins in the 1970s, the US government released a hoard of Carson City mint Morgan Dollars that had been sitting in mint bags in the US Treasury for nearly 100 years. The coins were slabbed and sold as collectors items. As I recall, the dollars that had been on the outside of the hoard, resting against the canvas bag material, exhibited stunning, rainbow toning on the bag side only. Often, there would be an "eclipse" effect to the toning, where another coin was present, and the rainbow effect would be crescent shaped. These toned dollars appealed to many collector. Others preferred the untoned examples. I always liked the toned coins.

    US silver coins stored in manilla envelopes also develop rainbow toning over time because of the sulfur in the paper. It is possible to get similar toning to the above dollars after many years of envelope storage.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2020
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