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e-Letters: June 8, 2022

From the May 13 Numismatic News E-Newsletter

Have you ever cleaned a coin? If so, what was the result?

Yes. I have cleaned some of my coins using a cleaning product called Cif Cream “with 100 percent natural cleaning particles” (by rubbing the coins with my fingertips).

Roberto Lopez
Address withheld

Everyone knows that you should never clean a coin. I would never clean a coin that has any collector value.

As a kid, who hasn’t took a common-date brown cent and put it in ketchup? The results was a pinkish-red dull cent.

As an adult, I had two common foreign coins that had some dark substance stuck to them that I tried washing in water. When that failed, I tried something a little acidic, lemon juice. To save time, I put both coins in the solution together.

The results were quite unexpected. One coin was either a copper British or Canadian penny. The other coin was a more yellow-brass Scandinavian coin. When I took them out of the solution, both coins had imparted some of its metal to the surface of the other coin. Not knowing, I think an experiment in electroplating was performed.

Bottom line, don’t clean any coins of value!

Richard Bumpus
Marion, Mass.

I had a coin come back from grading stating “PVC Residue.”

I let the coin soak in a small jar of acetone overnight; the next day I put the coin in a fresh jar of acetone for another day.

Coin looked a little dull, but I sent it for grading. No “PVC Residue.”

Charlie Bathman
Address withheld

Not a coin I was going to keep, but yes I have cleaned a coin. I think at one time or another, everyone has

William Johnston
San Antonio, Texas

Yes, I have cleaned a coin. It was just a 1909 VDB Lincoln cent in XF condition. It had a very dark surface, front and back. I was only 15 years old. When I was done, it had a very unnatural appearance – its surface had a very dull, almost orange, tone. Leaving it on my windowsill for two years did not do any good. I have never cleaned another coin since then because it made this coin very ugly.

Dave Burdis
Charleroi, Pa.

Yes, I have cleaned coins upon purchase. But what that cleaning entailed was more for hygienic reasons than making the coin more attractive. A simple and gentle washing in warm water and anti-bacterial soap puts my mind at ease in light of these days’ health advisories. Purists may look aghast at that practice, but I would ask them if they ever use hand sanitizer after handling any other items; and furthermore, I’ve yet to hear if anyone could detect a mild cleansing (mild, not abrasive or harsh) on a coin not knowing its condition beforehand.

Chris Kierski
Address withheld

Yes, back in the ’70s I found an 1877 Indian Head penny while checking an old Civil War area. It looked like a real nice one, but every time I tried to sell it I got the same results from lots of dealers that they were afraid of it because it was real dark. I had a couple of them saying that they would love it if it wasn’t so dark. I had a good friend of mine that had cleaned some with Care but I should experiment with some cheap ones first. Well, after using it on a few Lincoln Heads plus a couple Indian Head ones, I decided to try it on this one and it had so many pit marks in it that no one wanted it. I finally sold it as a filler for this guy that had a complete set minus this one and I traded it for a couple Buffalo Head nickels.

Jerry Ray
Address withheld

I cleaned one to see, using soda and a little vinegar. Not much change.

Greg H.
Freeport, Texas

I must admit, in the past, I have used several concoctions to reveal details on copper cents, mostly unsuccessfully. Now I just leave them as acquired and take good photos!

Robert Archer
San Francisco, Calif.

I cleaned some war nickels and they were ruined.

Bill Dory
Address withheld

In the past, I experimented and cleaned a few coins. Generally, I found that the appearance of the coin was worse after I cleaned it. The unnatural appearance was usually unsatisfactory.

As a child, I tried using steel wool pads to clean pennies. The pennies became shiny, but the number of new scratches on each coin was horrible.

I tried baking soda. It was not as bad as the steel wool. The scratches were smaller, but still evidence.

A friend used a buffing wheel to whiz his coins. The net result was a weaker design. But the coins were unnaturally very shiny.

I tried silver dip for different grades of silver coins. The dip made the appearance of every coin in VF or lower worse. XF and AU coins with ugly toning were marginally improved unless they had corrosion that was previously hidden by tarnish.

Cleaning coins usually leads to unsatisfactory results. For silver coins, they will eventually tarnish again and will probably be uglier the second time.

Folks that clean coins often do so for immediate resale. Unwary buyers will regret the purchase in the long run. I avoid sellers of cleaned coins and now never clean any.

Bruce R. Frohman
Modesto, Calif.

I have tried cleaning some general circulation, circulated South Korean coins with dipping (acetone). It didn’t really improve or help. Also tried cleaning some junk Korean cash-style coins with an olive oil bath for a few weeks. It helped a little to clean off some junk.

Jon Powelson
via Facebook