You're digging through a giant jar of pennies you've ignored for years, hoping to find something special. That's when it happens. You come across a rare Indian Head Cent from 1909, a coin that's generally worth over $400. Pretty good for one cent! But wait -- it's very dirty and tarnished. What do you do? Is it worth the risk of damage to get the coin shining? Here are some tips to help you answer those questions.
1. Never Clean a Proof or Uncirculated Coin
No matter the circumstance, there's never a good reason to clean an uncirculated or proof coin. Even if there is adhesive residue stuck to it, fingerprints, stains or discoloring, leave it alone! Bring it to a professional to remove anything. And try to always handle coins from their sides to avoid fingerprints in the first place. A professional will know how to handle any stains or discoloring you see on your coins. It's too easy to ruin a coin with even the gentlest coin cleaning methods.
2. What Some Call Tarnish, Coin Collectors Call Toning
Discoloring in the coin-collecting community is known as toning. Unlike what is referred to as tarnish in other instances of silver and gold discoloration, toning is actually considered a good thing. Coins collectors look for toning on uncirculated and proof coins. Toning ensures coins have never been cleaned improperly and damaged.
3. Never Use Gold or Silver Cleaners!
Gold and silver cleaning products -- or any harsh abrasive cleaning products -- are always a bad idea for coin cleaning. Abrasive cleaners can easily damage the fine detail found on coins, as well as the glossy finish on proof coins. Gold is also incredibly easy to scratch. When used with an abrasive cleaner, even a cotton cloth can scratch a coin.
4. Cleaning Coins Discovered by Metal Detector
One of the only times it's appropriate to clean a coin is if it's a coin discovered by metal detector. Sometimes objects buried in the ground are unrecognizable until they get a little cleaned up. Even in this circumstance, it must be done very carefully. Simply soak the coins overnight, and gently rinse with distilled water in the morning. If the coin is unrecognizable after soaking, don't go any further! The risk of damage is too great, particularly if the coin is ancient. The safest thing to do is take it to a professional.
5. Cleaning Circulated Coins
Circulated coins are usually dirty, but it's never a good idea to clean them yourself. It's just too easy to wipe away hundreds of dollars in value. Let a professional do it. If there's a circumstance where you simply must clean the coin, it's best to just stick with the aforementioned simple solution of soaking it in distilled water.
6. Proper Coin Handling and Storage
The best method for cleaning coins is to never have to clean them at all. You can keep your coins looking great through proper storage and handling. The best way to store your coins is in a proper, professional coin case or coin album. Some types of plastic can melt in high temperatures, and end up damaging the coin. Taping coins, as some collectors do, can also damage and discolor the coin. Keeping coins in steel boxes can end up staining gold coins with rust.
Most of the time, cleaning your rare coins is just too risky. If you do find yourself in a situation where you need to clean a coin, take it to a professional first to make sure it's done right. Or not done at all.
Bellevue Rare Coins specializes in gold buying and dealing in rare coins. We are a family-owned business located in Bellevue and Lynnwood. We also buy and sell silver, diamonds, currency and jewelry. Visit us for a free evaluation.
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Bellevue Rare Coins Located at 10541 NE 4th St, Bellevue, WA. Phone: 425-454-1283. http://www.wscbrc.com.