Should you clean old coins?

Should you clean old coins? No, it’s better to keep the patina on old coins intact. Coins are made of different metals with different densities and react differently to chemical exposure. 

Although cleaning coins will remove dirt, some parts might be removed also, which can damage them permanently or make them less collectible. 

If you clean a coin too aggressively, you may end up with scratches on it since some cleaners (e.g., bleach) can erode metal over time. Also, don’t use toothpaste because the acid in mint flavoring can corrode metal over time (even worse if mint contains fluoride). 

You can quickly remove dirt by gently scrubbing the coin with a soft brush and soapy water. If you want to clean coins, be sure to rinse them carefully 

Does it hurt the value of a coin to clean it?

A question that has been asked numerous times by coin collectors and potential coin buyers alike. The short answer to the question is no, cleaning coins does not “hurt” their value. However, it can affect the grade of the coin. If you clean your coin to improve its grade but end up removing detail in the process, you’ll find yourself with a less valuable collectible, because it’s now slightly below its original condition.

The long answer requires some background information. Coins are made of either silver or gold (or sometimes both). But more importantly, they are composed of countless sub-components like copper, nickel, zinc, and tin – these metals make up the vast majority of coins’ composition (usually 95%+). 

Even though most modern coins are only 5.5% copper, that means they’re 94.5% zinc/tin, which isn’t as valuable as their face value would suggest. 

To protect the value of the coin’s precious metal content, many countries employ a protective coating to keep the surface pristine and to prevent corrosion (and rust) from tarnishing the coin beyond its accurate grade. 

Many collectors, numismatists, and coin dealers differentiate between two types of damage that a coin can sustain: 

(1) Punctures or gouges 

(2) Cleaning – the act of intentionally removing that protective coating to improve appearance or grade.

A puncture or gouge is usually an act of vandalism where someone purposely sharpened something like a pen/pencil/tool etc., stabbed it into the coin, twisted it around very fast, and then pulled out whatever was lodged inside. 

This type of damage usually leaves some sort of noticeable “scar” on the surface, which lowers its value quite dramatically; all points below the puncture are now “surface loss” which diminishes the coin’s value even further. 

However, this type of damage is usually easy to spot and shouldn’t require any special tools or equipment if you’re looking for it (but you shouldn’t go poking around every single coin with a magnifying glass).

Cleaning coins can sometimes be an act of vandalism as well, but not always. Sometimes it’s done out of necessity to save an otherwise completely uncollectible coin from destruction. 

For example: if corrosive chemicals found in the ground gradually eat away at a coin’s surface until it’s no longer recognizable, cleaning will slow down that process and ensure your collection isn’t destroyed by corrosion. 

So unless the cleaning is so extensive that it removes large details (like the face of the coin), little harm is done to a coin’s value.

However, the main reason cleaning coins is controversial and frowned upon by some collectors is because of their potential to alter grade and thus value. While this isn’t always true, (especially when it comes to modern bullion coins like Silver Eagles). If you’re looking at a collectible numismatic coin from a mint where quality control standards were high, then there is no doubt in my mind that cleaning your coin will reduce its grade/value. 

I’d recommend leaving any rare or valuable coins alone unless you have extensive knowledge in numismatics – especially when adding them to an already existing collection. But with cheap bullion coins like Silver Eagles, there’s a good chance that the grade will not change significantly after a thorough cleaning, and it should be worth slightly more than before.

Can you clean OLD coins without losing value?

Cleaning old coins is a little difficult. First of all, if the coin has some coating (such as nickel), then this coating must be removed before attempting to clean it with any chemical cleaning solutions. Usually, grime can be removed with mild soapy water and a soft toothbrush. 

However, different chemicals can also remove the varnish and tarnish – these include vinegar – lemon – baking soda – salt – ammonia – alcohols such as isopropyl alcohol, or methylated spirits (methylated spirits might damage most metals). You should never use abrasive material cleaners on most old coins.

Cleaning old silver coins is usually simple – just some water and soap can do the job.

Regarding gold cleaning, some easy home remedies work better than store-bought chemicals.

However, before cleaning any old coin at home, you should research the best method to avoid any regrets afterward. 

If your goal is to increase the value of your coin, you need to know that cleaning will not add any value. Sometimes, light or heavy scrubbing can remove scrapes and marks and leave a good shine on the surface – however, every mark that was left behind decreases the value of your coin (sometimes even dramatically).

Can vinegar damage old coins?

As vinegar is a natural acid, it can damage some coins. 

Generally speaking, vinegar isn’t going to “eat” your old coins too quickly or easily. But if you have a rare coin, it may be best not to take chances with vinegar unless you know for sure that the coin’s metal content will be able to stand up against a little acidity! 

There are differing views on this subject and whether or not different types of vinegar or concentrations of vine matter when talking about the effects on coins. What is known for certain is that vinegar can have serious effects on the surface of coins. So if you are going to bathe your coins in it, be sure to use a fan or some other air circulation device nearby so that the fumes don’t damage the coin’s patina!

Perhaps this depends on what type of old coin one has. It has been noted that vinegar does cause metal corrosion and can eat away at metals including copper, silver, nickel, and iron — all common elements found in various types of old coins. The element most likely to suffer damage from coming into contact with vinegar would be copper.

The formation of vinegar that may cause corrosion is acetic acid, along with enzymes that are found in microbes called acetobacters. 

These enzymes are actively involved when fermenting organic substrates such as the sugary liquids present in fruits and grains used to produce alcoholic beverages, vinegar being an essential byproduct! 

The reaction of acids with metals typically produces salts or hydrogen gas at room temperature. This reaction can be carried out more quickly if the mixture is heated up to around 100 degrees celsius so it’s best not to try this at home unless you know what you’re doing! 

Copper will dissolve into vinegar over time, but silver will most likely not react. However, these results can’t be generalized to all other old coins as there are too many variations and types of different metals and acids that we can’t tell you what will happen if vinegar is mixed with your particular coin type.

It should also be mentioned that removing the patina from a coin by using chemicals or harsh treatment, such as scrubbing it vigorously with steel wool or sandpaper before applying any chemical can also cause damage to the surface. So be careful!

When trying to decide what type of preserving process you want to use, remember that your old coins are valuable because they have withstood the test of time! And if you think destroying them is “cool,” go ahead and use whatever treatment you like — just know that when it comes time to sell them, don’t expect other collectors or coin dealers to feel the same way.

What is the safest way to clean old coins?

The safest method of cleaning old coins is with warm water and dish soap.

The first thing to do when you realize your coin has begun to show some wear is to use a soft cloth to gently wipe it off. This will remove any loose dirt or particles clinging to the surface but won’t affect the condition of the metal underneath. Wash all exposed surfaces: this is especially important for coins kept in open display cases as airborne pollutant particles settle on exposed coins and begin deteriorating them without your knowledge.

Next, clean your coin with warm water and dish soap. Make sure the water is not too hot; you don’t want to warp or melt the coin’s surface in any way. Very gently scrub away any stubborn stains with a toothbrush or old makeup brush used for nothing else but this sole purpose. Rinse thoroughly under running water and dry carefully with a soft cloth before returning it to its display case.

Although there are store-bought products that claim to clean coins, many have been found to damage coins beyond use by removing too much metal from their surface in an attempt to clear away dirt and grime. Inexpensive household items such as vinegar, rubbing alcohol, baking soda paste, lemon juice solutions, and silver polish can also damage a coin’s surface by removing some of the metal with it.

In most cases, treating a coin very carefully and allowing it to remain as untouched as possible is the best approach. This way you will be able to enjoy your precious memories for years to come!

Some materials that are used in the process of cleaning coins include cloths, brushes, soaps, sponges, polishing tools, and cleaning solutions.    

-Don’t use silver polish. 

-Use a toothbrush or makeup brush to gently scrub the surface of the coin.

-Do not use vinegar, rubbing alcohol, or baking soda paste.

-Do not place coins in direct sunlight after washing them because it will damage them further.  

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