I still remember the first bad financial decision I ever made. My seven-year-old buddy told me that if I lent him a few dollars, he would pay me back ten a few weeks later. Unfortunately, he forgot all about his debt, and I was left without my allowance. Although it might seem like a silly example, bad financial decisions like that one plague adults everyday. I have had my fair share, and so I decided to create a blog dedicated to helping you to invest your money properly. Before you take your hard-earned money and throw it at a cause, think about the advice on my website to make a great decision.
If there's anything that gets novice coin collectors in trouble, it's the sometimes overwhelming desire to clean the dirty and stained coins that you accumulate. The older the coin, the more likely it is to be debris encrusted, or to have a coloring quite different than what you'd expect the original metal to look like. There are plenty of tutorials and guides out there that explain how to remove debris and restore a coin's original luster. The problem is that most of them are wrong. Take a look at a few coin cleaning methods you should never use.
Metal polish is an obvious choice for someone looking to clean a metal coin. Some copper and silver polishes even advertise themselves as being good for coin cleaning. However, it's never a good idea to polish a collectible coin.
Sure, when you've finished, your coin might be shiny and may more closely resemble what you think that silver or copper should look like. The problem is, along with the dirt and debris, you've removed the patina of the coin. A patina is the greenish or brownish film that develops on the surface of the coin due to oxidation over time. On silver forks and spoons, you'd think of this as tarnish, and you'd be right to remove it. But on a coin, that film adds to the authenticity – and therefore the value – of your coin. Once you remove the patina, you greatly diminish the coin's value.
It's understandable that you might consider trying toothpaste to get hard-to-clean debris off of your coins. After all, toothpaste removes sticky plaque from your teeth, so you already know that it's effective in taking off layers of film from a hard surface. Why shouldn't it work for coins?
And it does work. Toothpaste is an extremely effective abrasive agent that will definitely remove debris from your coins. The problem is not that it doesn't work, the problem is that it will work too well. Along with debris, it will also remove the metal from your coins. Try it with a coin that wasn't valuable to begin with – a common penny, for example. After you clean the coin with toothpaste, look at it under a magnifying glass, and you'll be able to observe dozens of tiny striations on the surface of the coin. These marks can be enough to render a previously valuable coin completely worthless.
Another common method new coin collectors use to shine up their coins is rubbing the surface of the coin with a pencil eraser. You may think that a pencil eraser is fairly harmless and non-abrasive, and to the naked eye, your coin may look shinier and cleaner after rubbing it with a pencil eraser.
But have you ever seen an eraser that doesn't leave at least a little smudging on the surface of paper when you erase a mistake? Depending on the newness and quality of the eraser, the rub marks might be more or less visible, but they're certainly there, changing the surface of the paper. Pencil erasers have the same effect on coins. They leave rub marks that are visible – under magnification, if not to the naked eye – and that permanently alter the surface of the coin, decreasing its value.
So How Can You Clean Your Coins?
This may come as a surprise, but in most cases, your best course of action is no action at all. Most collectors actually prefer coins that show obvious discoloration and signs of aging. Coins that have scratches from abrasive cleaners stand to lose more than half their value, and even lightly cleaned coins lose 10% to 30% of their value. The best and safest way to preserve the value of your coins is to simply leave them alone.
In the event that your coin is covered with dirt or other debris to the point that you can't make out the markings on the coin, one thing that is fairly safe to do is to let the coin sit in water briefly to dissolve the dirt. Once the loose debris is gone, remove the coin and pat it dry (don't rub!) with a soft towel.
Any other cleaning, such as the removal of green corrosion caused by exposure to certain plastics, is best left to coin professionals. If you have any doubts about the best way to preserve a coin in your possession, take it to a rare coin dealer in your area for personalized expert advice. If you take care when cleaning your coins, you are more likely to get a better price when you put up your ancient coins for sale.Share