Why upgrade when you can just clean

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by hotwheelsearl, May 31, 2020.

  1. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I've had an Elagabalus Cista Mystica and a Maximian for a while which were kinda encrusted and warranted an upgrade.

    But with my recent experience in cleaning, I thought I'd see if I could save some money by cleaning instead of upgrading.

    I'd say things worked out reasonably well.
    Elagabalus Moushmov 636.JPG
    Elagabalus Mouch 636.JPG
    I'm very pleased that I both unveiled the cute snake and also the mint mark!

    Maximian a.JPG
    Finally got to see what that reverse really was...
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  3. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    How do you get that super hard stuff off? I have a few uncleaned coins that I'm sure would have great details if I could just get that stuff off.
  4. YoloBagels

    YoloBagels Well-Known Member

    Wondering the same here
  5. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter

    Just for fun, rub some petroleum jelly on them and dry it off thoroughly with a soft cloth or tissue and see what they look like.
  6. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing

    Great work! I enjoy doing some cleaning on coins that deserve it. Here's a few that I've done previously.

    Nero, Ruled 54-68 AD
    AE As, Struck 65 AD, Rome mint

    Obverse: NERO CAESAR AVG GERM IMP, Laureate head of Nero right.
    Reverse: Victory alighting left, wings spread holding shield inscribed SPQR, S-C across field.
    References: RIC I 312, Sear 1976

    Before and In-Progress:
    Caligula (Gaius), AE As
    Struck 37-38 AD, Rome mint

    Obverse: C CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS PON M TR POT, bare head of Caligula left.
    Reverse: VESTA, Vesta, veiled and draped, seated left on throne with ornamented back and legs, holding patera in right hand and long transverse sceptre in left, S-C across field.
    References: RIC I 38
    Size: 29mm, 11.7g

    Before and In-Progress:
    Agrippa, AE As,
    Struck under Caligula 37-41 AD, Rome mint

    Obverse: M AGRIPPA L F COS III, head of Agrippa, left, wearing rostral crown.
    Reverse: Neptune standing facing, head left, naked except for cloak draped behind him and over both arms, holding small dolphin in right hand & vertical trident in left, S C across field.
    References: RIC I 58
    Size: 27.5mm, 8.3g

    I've just cleaned a Bretti uncia that was covered thickly with green but showed signs of a nice coin beneath... I'll be sharing that in my own thread soon, but here's a preview of the Before:
  7. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    Holy crap @Justin Lee you did a great job on those!
    Justin Lee likes this.
  8. Aaron Apfel

    Aaron Apfel Active Member

    Fantastic cleaning job!

    You can sometimes get the hard stuff off under a stereo microscope with dental picks/needles, but often these can't even break through. When its super hard, diamond dental picks work best but obviously need to be used very carefully and you need to use the finest grit diamond bits you can find. A little bit of ren wax to finish it off does wonders too, if its warranted. Hopefully these guys will let us know how they did it, they look great!
    furryfrog02 likes this.
  9. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    For those I simply used distilled water and mechanical picks.

    For the REALLY hard stuff I've found that the only solution is LTP - Lye, Then Pray.

    With Lye, you either maintain all of the patina, or you lose everything. So, sort of a gamble and I'd only do it with coins that are too far gone.

    I've had spectacular results with lye though - in my post on Holding History uncleaned coins, I used lye for each one and it never touched the patina one bit.
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  10. Aaron Apfel

    Aaron Apfel Active Member

    Looks like it worked great. How long do you soak it in lye for? And how much water do you dilute it in? Any precautions you take? I know the stuff can be really dangerous when handled incorrectly. I have a few crusties that may only be redeemable with something like lye, but am cautious about using it.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
  11. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I had a really sketchy and unscientific method of using lye.

    1. Find a random container. I used an empty tin of canned beans.

    2. Get some lye. Surprisingly difficult to find, went through 3 Home Depots and 2 Ace Hardwares before finding a jar.

    3. Get some water and just sort of toss some lye in. I have no idea how much I put I just threw in a bunch, probably way too much. Be careful because lye and water becomes VERY hot VERY fast.

    3a. In fact, for that batch above, I put in so much lye that the lye solidified on the bottom and adhered several coins to the can. I had to pour a bunch of water and vinegar to try to dissolve the solidified lye enough to pry the coins lose.

    4. I left the coins overnight. Anywhere between 8 and 10 hours, I wasn't counting.

    5. Since lye can destroy your skin in a heartbeat, I poured the coins and lye solution onto the ground. Then, I grabbed my vinegar jug and generously poured it all over the pile of coins.

    6. I then brought the coins back to the kitchen sink by hand and then doused in more vinegar and rinsed with water.

    6a. Doing this part by hand was a bad idea because I could feel my skin getting slick every time.

    7. Breathe a sigh of relief that you didn't burn yourself or your eyes.

    Use gloves, eye protection, and have a decent container both for the initial soak, and a decent container to neutralize in.
    I simply didn't have any containers at all so relegated to using a tin can and the ground.
    AussieCollector likes this.
  12. Aaron Apfel

    Aaron Apfel Active Member

    I wonder if a glass container might work best. I'll probably try this on some of my really bad coins sometime in the future. Cheers!
    hotwheelsearl likes this.
  13. AussieCollector

    AussieCollector Moderator Moderator

    Amazing @hotwheelsearl !

    Now I wish I had some dirty old coins to clean...
    hotwheelsearl likes this.
  14. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Many people who buy uncleaned coins turn out disappointed because under the encrustations is nothing but a slick.

    Justin Lee's examples are the best - coins that are completely covered, but have enough detail showing that you can be reasonably sure there's good stuff underneath!
    Kentucky likes this.
  15. Aaron Apfel

    Aaron Apfel Active Member

    It depends who you buy from, but yeah even when you buy from reputable sellers not all of the coins are going to be identifiable. Sellers are going to throw in ones they know are slugs underneath the dirt to fill up the lots they sell, kind of unavoidable. If you at least break even with your uncleaned coins in terms of the total value of the lot, you're not doing too bad.
    hotwheelsearl likes this.
  16. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    Very good job. I really like cleaning silver coins, here are a few recent ones:


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  17. AussieCollector

    AussieCollector Moderator Moderator

    Just the post I was hoping to see in this thread.

    Any advice on how I might go about giving this one a bit of a clean?


    SELEUCID Antiochos VII Euergetes (Sidetes), 138-129 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 30 mm, 16.10 g, 12 h), Antiochia on the Orontes. Diademed head of Antiochos VII to right. Rev. ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟY - EYEPΓETOY Athena standing front, head to left, holding Nike in her right hand and spear and shield with her left; to outer left, monogram above A within circle; all within laurel wreath. SC 2061.1n. Darkly toned and with some deposits. Very fine
    Johndakerftw, Bing and furryfrog02 like this.
  18. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    Hi @AussieCollector, this looks like a combination of dirt and horn silver (the black patina - although it may well be silver sulfide). The dirt can easily be removed, and I guess keeping it immersed in a glass cup of distilled water for a few days will loosen it up.
    In my experience, dirt on silver coins, especially those with a high silver content and a smooth surface (as this coin) are relatively easy to clean. Sometimes just rubbing it with your thumb under a running tap will suffice.

    Now the black patina is something different. As said, this could well be horn silver (especially on the reverse the texture of the patina is a bit grainy). I would not clean it, as I expect pitting on the reverse - although a very short immersion in sodium thiosulphide may make the reverse a bit more smooth. But as said, I would probably stay away.

    Also, a few more cleaning projects:
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
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  19. AussieCollector

    AussieCollector Moderator Moderator

    Thanks @Roerbakmix

    Just to be clear, are you saying I shouldn't clean it at all? Or stick to the obverse if I'm going to clean it?
  20. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    @AussieCollector: it depends on what you want to clean. If it’s the dirt, then it’s relatively easy. If you mean the dark patina, then that’s a bit more complicated.
  21. AussieCollector

    AussieCollector Moderator Moderator

    Just the dirt.

    So distilled water and a tooth pick should be fairly safe?
    Ryro and Justin Lee like this.
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