In addition to being fun and educational, coin collecting can be a lucrative hobby, with some rare coins being worth hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. In many cases, the value of the coin depends on the condition. You may think that this means you have to clean your coins to maintain their condition, but this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, some methods of cleaning coins that are popular or seem like they should work can actually decrease their value. These include both abrasive and non-abrasive methods.
If a coin is badly soiled or tarnished, you might be tempted to use an abrasive method of cleaning to remove the accumulated grime. Abrasive cleaning is any method that involves rubbing or scraping to clean the coins. For example, a technique called “whizzing” involves scraping the surface with a wire brush. The problem with abrasive cleaning methods is that they always remove some of the metal of the coin along with the dirt. This occurs whether you intend it or not, no matter how gentle you are with the abrasion. The damage may not be visible to the naked eye, but appraisers can see it and will lower the value of the coin as a result.
To protect your coins, you should never use any cleaning technique that involves applying friction to remove dirt, even if it seems like the material you are rubbing the coins with is soft and gentle. For example, microfibre cloths have been hailed as the ultimate tool for cleaning because of their absorbency, durability, and softness. The cloths provided to clean the lenses of glasses are made of microfibre, purportedly because they are less likely to leave scratches. However, coin collectors who have tried to use microfibre to clean coins find that the synthetic fibres that have been split into tiny strands so they capture dirt and dry more quickly leave behind micro-scratches on coins that may not be as obvious as damage from other abrasive cleaning methods but still affect the value.
Since circulated coins have already been exposed to wear and tear, some collectors consider it acceptable to use a microfibre cloth to clean them as the abrasion may have a negligible effect on their value. However, experts are adamant that no uncirculated or proof coin should ever be subjected to abrasive cleaning, even with microfibre.
Non-abrasive methods of cleaning coins do not involve any friction or rubbing. Typically, they involve using chemicals to remove tarnish, or toning, from the coin’s surface. You dip the coin into the chemical bath and it comes out clean. There are many heavily advertised brands of coin dips on the market and they sell very well, but they should be used with caution as they can damage coins.
During the minting process, an uncirculated coin receives flow lines that give it its reflective properties. Because coin dips usually contain some acid, they eat away at the surface of the coin, removing some metal in the process. While it may be effective at removing dirt, it also removes the flow lines, and the coin may take on a flat, artificial look as a result.
While the damage to the flow lines is permanent, the cleaning effects of the dip may be temporary. Some coins that receive this treatment start developing black spots or specks soon after, while others darken over the entire surface.
If cleaning your coins is necessary, it is better to have it done professionally than to attempt to do it yourself. A professional knows best what can be done to remove dirt and tarnish without affecting the coin’s original appearance or decreasing its value.
Everything You Need for Coin Collecting
In addition to rare and collectable coins and paper money from around the world, we also offer coin supplies to help protect them. Find everything you need to support your hobby from Colonial Acres Coins.