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How to Clean Coins

STOP! If you have old coins that you think might be valuable, you should probably not be cleaning them for any reason. The natural aging process and oxidation of older coins – often referred to as “toning” – can actually increase the value of your coins. Advanced collectors prefer original pieces that have not been altered by cleaning. Yes, that dirty, crusty look is just what they find appealing! More importantly, the process of cleaning coins can damage their delicate surfaces and make your coins less valuable (or even reduce them to face value). Many cleaning solutions actually remove a layer of metal from the coin’s surfaces impacting its luster and thus its value. Even very soft items like cloth and cotton swaps can leave small scratches (called hairlines) on the surfaces of the coins they touch that will reduce their value and frequently make them “body bag” or no-grade at the grading services. Please do not attempt to clean your coins until you have an understanding of when (if ever) and how coins should be cleaned. Wizard Coin Supply offers several educational coin cleaning books that can help educate you on when and how to clean coins. If you are unsure about whether or not you should attempt to clean your coins, please contact us - We will be happy to help you.

When is Cleaning Coins a Good Idea?

Although it is generally a bad idea to clean your coins, there are instances where certain coin cleaning agents and accessories can help you remove contaminants and other impurities without affecting toning and the other natural characteristics of your coins. In these situations, the risk of damaging the coin from cleaning it is outweighed by the certainty of damage from the foreign substance. PVC (polyvinylchloride), an ingredient in many plastic products, is one such substance. PVC-containing plastics were frequently used in older coin supply products (and amazingly still used in many today). PVC leaches out of the plastic and onto the coin. Left on the surface, it will cause haze, green “goo” and ultimately irreversible damage to the coin’s surface. Depending on the nature of the contaminant, the proper cleaning solution could range from simple soap and water to a solvent to an acid. We have several coin cleaning products that will make the process of cleaning your coins very safe for you while remaining gentle on your coins. Our selection of coin cleaning books will help you identify the condition, determine whether a cleaning is appropriate and, if so, advise the proper type of solution and provide instructions for safe removal.

Cleaning Old Coins is Not Recommended

As we stated above, cleaning old coins is almost always a very bad idea. Natural toning is expected and valued in older coins and trying to clean an old coin may forever spoil its original surfaces. New collectors are sometimes unaware of these concepts, believing bright white and shiny equates to more valuable and they end up severely devaluing their collections through cleaning. In short, the best way to clean your coins is usually not to clean them at all.