Uncleaned diary

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by catadc, May 16, 2019.

  1. catadc

    catadc Well-Known Member

    Hello, everybody

    As a fist post - happy to be here and hope that you will allow me to share my brief experience with uncleaned roman coins.

    The "why"

    Recent changes in life created some spare time and the possibility to purchase ancient coins without facing jail time. I've always been attracted to indoor activities involving patience and not involving any artistic talent. Already reading and drinking wine, so there was place for one more. Been collecting modern cheap coins before. Not willing to spend much on the hobby. Not looking to get rich. Not looking to create a valuable collection for my heirs or for selling when getting old. Maybe not very convincing reasons, but good enough for me to begin this journey.

    The "how"

    Learned with other activities that reading alone will not make you an expert, and neither practice alone. So started reading on how to clean coins, where to buy them from and how to store them.

    For cleaning, I rejected the olive oil. I do not see myself using that on coins, and more important, I do not see my wife seeing me doing that. So distilled water it was for soaking. For the actual cleaning process I ended up using two high precision cutters, out of which one with a super-sharp tip. These are cheap and come with spare blades, as the blade will become blunt quite fast. Needles before the cutter, but the cutter is just better. Then toothbrush and wooden toothpick for softer dirt. The cutter can easily ruin a coin. Yet, with proper patience, it proves to have a great precision, the sharp tip being sharper than the needle and great for letters and fine detail (if you are lucky to find one candidate). And to see what I am doing, I bought a National Geographic microscope with two set of lenses - 10x and 25x. I use the 25x just because some of the x will compensate the glasses, while the 10x would be sufficient for a normal healthy eye.
    Been purchasing some dirty old coins, some forumancient ones and some uncleaned lots on Ebay. Been to the local coin fair and purchased nothing (well, I do not live in England and metal detecting locally is complicated, and local dealers seem to not sell uncleaned). Checked some other sites selling uncleaned, but did not like the sellers' style. Maybe in the future will time a city-break with the family during a Numismata fair (one Numismata is on the whish list anyway, but never managed to get to one).

    For storage I had to chose between trays and flips. I stopped to adhesive flips, because I see trays fit for some more expensive coins; hate the staples; do not want to bother with multiple pockets; do not actually want to handle the coins every day; have a really bad experience with bronze disease and I live in a pretty humid country. So adhesive flips it was, to be stored in plastic boxes of 100 pcs. Overall pretty cheap solution - approx. 20 EUR for 100 coins. The bad part of this is that taking photos of the coins once flipped is a challenge, especially considering that taking any coin photo proves a challenge for some reason, in spite of detailed reading on the subject. To seal the coin and protect it further, I am using Renaissance Wax applied twice with the fingers, left to dry and buffed with a microfiber cloth. Seems that this is also enhancing the details of the coin, making it easier to identify.

    The "experience"

    The first thing to do was to drop the magnifying glass for the microscope for better visibility of the working area. The second one was to find a tool that will feel comfortable in hand, will offer good precision and will be able to remove the encrustations. Then it was the technique itself - how to support and move the hand&tool, wet&dry cleaning (wet kept). Then - attention, horror activities described next - I experimented the effect of various substances & techniques on coins showing low details after some precleaning - lemon juice, vinegar, Coke, bicarbonates, electrolysis and even the dishwasher. Let's say that I stick to mechanical cleaning for everything.

    In terms of quality, the Ebay lots are what I would describe as "leftovers". Bought 3, all coming from the central-eastern part of Europe. The coins fit into three big categories. First, the ones that have been pre-cleaned to know what they are, and they are nothing fancy - mostly soldiers with standard(s), victories and small fell temp. Second, the ones that are "dirtier" and allegedly were not checked. These will mostly prove without details, very low quality and of the same type as the first. Third category - the bait - a few good quality very common coins on top of the pile and/or bigger very low quality coins that will prove almost no detail left when "cleaned". All the coins are AE3, but mostly AE4, except for the bait. Cleaned a few before putting the rest aside for later. Some cleaned fin, but the coins are nothing to brag about. What noted, in addition to what was already mentioned above: unstable patina and unstable detail, easily taken off and "dirty" coins cleaning to show missing or patchy patina that make you wonder how they got dirty in the second place... For now, I will take my wondering for later, when I will go back to the other half of the lots and with some more experience on board. I had my cleaning fun with them, and fun they are indeed to clean, so I am not complaining. If you buy for other reasons, think twice.

    The uncleaned dirty old coins were all cleaned by now and it was an interesting batch. It included some clean metal pieces that once might have been recognized as coins, but mostly "normal" uncleaned coins ranging from really small to AE3, whose dirt I have no doubt it was the original one, which I was happy to take off and the coins were reluctant to let go. The content of the lot was quite diversified and I hope to be able to present it as a flash-back from the current cleaning project and to get some help for identification. Overall, a good experience and a purchase I do not regret.

    The uncleaned forumancient ones are the current cleaning project. Just received the coins and they look like this (pic below, hope will work).
    Preliminary screening: purchased 20, received 22. Lot includes
    - 9 homehow havier encrusted coins, out of which one is probably a vota and one has 50% of the edge trimmed, with the cuts being obviously recent ones (?!);
    - 10 lighter encrusted coins, out of which I can guess one Gloria Romanorum (emperor dragging captive); one Constantine quadriga commemorative where seems like somebody started the job before me, just enough to see what it is; another Constantine quadriga commemorative with a bad obverse and nice reverse, preliminary SMAN(Z?) mintmark; one fel temp with phoenix; one fell temp fallen horseman; and one Gloria exercitus with one standard;
    - 3 potential slugs, out of which one pretty clean and pretty worn, which might be a Gloria exercitus with one standard; one showing a portrait on obverse and a soldier on reverse and one encrusted, but with what appears to be high corrosion and legend loss on one side (chipped).

    If you still bear with me after the long and boring bed-time story above, I promise more (bad) pictures to come and the thrill to uncover the dirty … (let's call them) coins.

    Attached Files:

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  3. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    Fun post! This is one of the very best ways to start your journey into ancient coins, imo.
    I already see a couple reverses that I recognize. No spoilers from me though. Of course if you want hints or are just stumped identifying your coins we have some real aces around here (yes, I ment to type aces) and all you have to do is ask for help IDing and you'll get answers quick enough.
    So glad to have another lover of ancient coins around.
    Oh, and... D616DBB5-42C9-47C0-A55B-48EC9E55838A.gif
    Theodosius, Sasquatch and Stevearino like this.
  4. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    What a fun story! Looking forward to more posts :).

    Welcome to CoinTalk!
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  5. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Nice start. When I got back into active collecting a few years ago I started with uncleans. And like you said, there are some teasers thrown in that are readily attributable, then there is a vast middle ground covered with crud so you don't really know what you have. And then there are the slugs which are so worn and dirty that they are just that, slugs. Anyway, it's a fun way to start out!
    Stevearino likes this.
  6. CoinBlazer

    CoinBlazer Numismatic Enthusiast

    I've never really tried to clean uncleaned lots.
    Maybe I should give it a try!
  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    It's kind of fun. I still have a bunch soaking in olive oil after a couple of years, plus you instantly get a lot of coins.
  8. Bert Gedin

    Bert Gedin Well-Known Member

    catadc. Your "fist post"- should it say "first post"? As for the long and boring bed-time story, were you competing with "War and Peace" ? I prefer the latter - sorry !!!:writer: :yawn: :sorry:
  9. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper

    As long as you are prepared to accept that the bulk of your coins will be culls or low grade, and that most decent coins will probably never be any rare variety...coin cleaning can be a fun activity.
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  10. Suarez

    Suarez Well-Known Member

    Restoring ancient coins is really two hobbies in one. The restoration process itself - as long as it's not the Brillo pad method - can be quite involved and rewarding. And the feeling of being the first to see how the coin looked, more or less, as when it was last used is good for a little dopamine rush. There's always the chance, however remote, that you can find something unusual. Mark my words, the next Constantia will almost certainly come from an uncleaned lot!
  11. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    I always thought the “gold found” claims were bogus!

    Welcome aboard.
  12. Cheech9712

    Cheech9712 Every thing is a guess

    Wow. A couple of years you say. Clean your frig out before you clean your coins
  13. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Good point. I did get a Macrianus antoninianus from an uncleaned lot. Somebody screwed up when picking through the coins! :cat:
  14. catadc

    catadc Well-Known Member

    It is improbable that I will ever wonder if someone else would had done a better job cleaning a Constantia.

    Meanwhile, a good example of “leave it as it is” coin – the Constantive quadriga commemorative that was showing in the upper right corner of the first photo cleaned easily to show a zombie-looking-like emperor. The obverse covered in dirt was nice, as the dirt was covering all the holes and imperfections and created a very good contrast for the entire high relief of the coin. Cleaning this coin gives me the same feeling as watching an youtube video where a beautiful Asian takes off her extreme make-up to reveal an ugly old lady. Would you rather keep the nice-looking coin with the desert patina, without knowing what’s underneath or risk to confirm that an ugly uncleaned duckling turns in most cases into an ugly cleaned duck? Maybe one day I will apply a desert make-up on this ugliness.

    Second try was another failure – a DN CONSTA-NS PF AUG / FEL TEMP REPARATIO. The emperor had some white crystals getting out of his long neck and I cannot really picture the phoenix or its support.

    Third try was much better. CONSTANTI-VS PF AVG / GLOR-IA EXERC-ITVS / Gamma SIS. Some chipping of the patina on the emperor’s armor (wasn’t me). The other grey is dirt, which I did not insist cleaning – is good enough for me, and whoever will inherit it, can clean the rest.

    Next on the w.i.p. list – the coin with trimmed edge, which seems to be a Spes Reipublice, and another badly encrusted one, which seems to be a Vota – both very worn.

    20190517_151434.jpg 20190517_160749.jpg 20190517_092318.jpg 20190517_091841.jpg 20190517_160817.jpg 20190517_161447.jpg 20190517_151220.jpg
  15. catadc

    catadc Well-Known Member

    Took a few days, but the work in progress at the date of the previous post was finished. If anybody hoped for miracles - none happened. Coins are very worn. My initial guess seems to be confirmed - one Spes Reipublice and one Vot XX Mvlt XXX. The obverse for the Spes is really bad, with patina peeling. Cannot identify the emperor or the mint. Pictures taken a few hours apart with different lighting and, as previously mentioned, not the best.

    20190525_102229.jpg 20190525_102306.jpg 20190525_213620.jpg 20190525_213346.jpg
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  16. catadc

    catadc Well-Known Member

    Next on the list, a coin that hit the garbage bin after the photo session. I cleaned a bit to see what it is, so I can have peace that I do not throw away a Constantia – a Victory walking left. The patina was like thin ice on a lake, breaking at the smallest pressure and exposing the fuzzy green underneath. I suspect that the bronze disease ate the metal under the dirt layer.

    Next one was a bit better. Again a poor picture – the coin has a black patina with some corrosion spots, almost no legend and off-center strike, but, the mintmark can be read and helps a lot with the identification. Unless mistaken, is a RESTITV-TOR REIP of Valentinian I, struck at Antioch (ANTB). Not a common coin, but in very poor shape. 20190525_213913.jpg 20190525_214046.jpg 20190525_214109.jpg 20190525_102407.jpg 20190525_102500.jpg 20190525_120543.jpg
  17. catadc

    catadc Well-Known Member

    One more done. Not the best photo (again) of what I believe to be a Theodosius I / SALVS REI-PVBLICAE. Pretty worn and off-centered, very thin and light (0.70 g), but a nice uniform patina.

    I would really appreciate if someone could confirm the attribution and, maybe, confirm the mint (found Constantinopole or Antioch for the version with chi-rho).

    Got another small lot from Austria, which is being delivered from Bulgaria. Fingers crossed. :) And another small lot from UK. Seriously considering to move on to the next level - find an area of interest and read&collect that. Have time to think until October, when the next local fair will happen.

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  18. Pishpash

    Pishpash Well-Known Member

    Pretty poor slugs but invaluable for education when starting out. So long as you are happy shelling out for them.
  19. catadc

    catadc Well-Known Member

    The thread should have as motto "if you want a nice coin, buy one" (Doug Smith). Cleaning should not be done for the material outcome. If I take my hourly charge rate used by my employer and calculate the cost of cleaning, most of the slugs would worth the equivalent of a nice sestertius. Instead, is more on the intangible side, as Suarez pointed above.

    I have serious doubts that any super-rare coins of common emperors will ever recover the price paid for the lot. For approx. 75 coins that I decided to keep, I found 3 that are rated Rare in Helvetica's Excels (great work, that one) and have enough detail for full attribution, but those AE3/4 would be probably worth as much as a cup of coffee.

    I believe the education factor is arguable.
    Regarding the attribution experience, it happened that I surfed ebay, stopped at a lot and tried to attribute the coins, just for fun (do not need the coin in hand to practice attribution).
    It helps clearly on the cleaning side, if I ever get a nicer coin that would require cleaning. It helps with the experience of feeling the metal, patina, corrosion and how a coin is worn. There is low future use for this experience if I ever decide to go for anything else than bronze.

    I have a feeling that any LRB collector will be seen as the poor relative of the collectors' family and that all expect for an "upgrade" in the future. I can picture some of the experienced users surfing this thread with almost the same enthusiasm as picking through the tips jar in an L.A. bar (yes, I googled for the biggest port in USA...). Although, re-reading this, sound a bit frustrated, the truth is that I am a bit fond of my slugs and I will keep them irrespective what I will collect in the future, the same way I kept the modern slugs inherited from my father (and those are worth even less than the ones posted here). They will remind me of a few nice hours spent together. :) And although a sestertius might have a nicer voice, a LRB can still have one.

    I started this post with the intention to detail a bit why starting this thread, and not to write the 4 paragraphs above. Well, is a diary after all, so I wrote a few thoughts extra... Before starting this project, I looked for others' illustrated experience. I found an old site with review of lots cleaned, with pictures (misplaced the link meanwhile) and Doug's.
    Out of the 75 coins mentioned above, found only one camp gate (#8) and one city commemorative (#5), both very worn and not fully attributable, and no #6 (Jupiter or Sol) and no #12 (three emperors). It might be just the luck that my sample is different. It might be that a bigger newbie than me would hope for gold or silver and would like to hear a recent story. Wanted to show the poorer, uglier and real face of one tiny part the hobby.

    Update on the ongoing project: two really bad slugs liberated from their prison of encrustations. Probably not going to take photos, so to compensate for this and for the other slugs posted - the one below was part of a small lot that will probably be kept uncleaned. 20190420_173216.jpg 20190602_212839.jpg
  20. catadc

    catadc Well-Known Member

    Update: been really busy lately, so cleaned only a Constantius II - fallen horseman - Siscia - patchy patina and a (taking a wild guess due to the legend off flan and really worn reverse) - Claudius Gothicus - Ivno Regina, this one from an older lot. No pictures, but assume bad looking slugs.

    Got the Bulgarian lot of what appears to be harshly cleaned and repatinated with desert patina, although the seller claims that nobody will bother to repatinate cheap coins. He might be right, but intend to practice exactly that on those coins - cleaning and repatinating, so I will have the practical experience on how that looks.

    Got the English lot, and had few surprises:
    -there were 50% more coins than I expected (seller did not mention the number)
    -coins look like retrieved from a tar pit, or maybe oiled for "protection" by somebody long time ago, so the dirt became an oily concrete
    -seems that someone tried to clean a few (less than 5) and quit. Had a look at one under the microscope and he clearly took the right decision to quit. :)
    - many super small coins - I can see already 20 Arcadius max AE4, 20+ small votas, 20+ small Gloria exercitus plus others... Few AE2 (recognized a Probus and a Reparatio reipub). 120 coins in total

    I am really curious how the English lot will clean, given the tarry look. Maybe I need to replace the distilled water with some white spirit.
  21. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Good luck, I spent two years cleaning uncleans before I just started buying higher grade coins. But if you find something special it can be a real dopamine rush.
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