DON’T CLEAN YOUR COINS – A Demonstration in Silver Dollar Destruction

CoinWeek Sponsor and creator of The Coin Course, Jerry Shaffer teamed up with CoinWeek to produce this great step-by-step demonstration of what happens when you dip and clean vintage silver or gold coins.

To the untrained, the fastest way to damage a vintage coin and ruin its NUMISMATIC VALUE is to treat it or clean it with metal polish or other foreign substances.

41 Comments on “DON’T CLEAN YOUR COINS – A Demonstration in Silver Dollar Destruction”

  1. I do agree with video for the most part. I myself won’t clean anything rare or semi rare. But there are a lot of coins that aren’t worth much over melt, even in nice condition. So from time to time I’ll break out the Dremel and the silver polish to kinda see what people saw when these coins were newly minted and they’re beautiful. I get the whole never clean a coin thing, but in the end, they are my coins and I can do with them what I wish.

    1. Way too abrasive to be a good thing for the coin. Even if not worth more than melt(actually worth spot still, not melt; only dealers pay melt because they want higher profit on resale) or face. There are much better ‘intervention’ methods if you decide it’s justified. Honestly ‘I break out the Dremel tool’ is exactly why even the collectors, dealers, and conservators will say ‘don’t clean coins.’ Because you will do all the wrong things.

    2. I have a 1 ounce Asahi bar that slipped out of its plastic flip and half of the bar is toned and the other half is perfectly clean. It’s as if you took a straight edge and made a line exactly down the middle. I think it would be OK to clean a bar like that there’s no numismatic value.

  2. 92 – Cleaning
    This is a tough category and the subject of much debate and discussion over the years. PCGS interprets cleaning as surface damage due to any form of abrasive cleaning. “Cleaned” covers a wide range or appearances, from a grossly polished coin to one where faint hairlines can be seen only at a particular angle or in only one area on an otherwise perfectly normal coin. This is perhaps the most frustrating of all the No Grades, because subtle cleaning is often difficult to detect in less-than-optimal grading conditions. “Dipping” (the removal of toning with a chemical bath) is not considered cleaning under this definition, unless it has been done repeatedly or improperly. In the past, many coins were cleaned by well-meaning numismatists, before the dangers were fully understood.

    1. Step1 add some soap to some non tap water mix it well. Step 2 dip the coin in the soapy water solution several times you can shake the coin lightly and let the water n soap do the trick. Step 3 rinse off the soapy water with some non tap water to get dirt and debris off the coin repeat steps 2 and 3 again if needed. Step 4 dip the coin in the dip for 5 second then right after back into the soapy water dunking the coin several times then Rinse off the coin with non tap water then pat the coin don’t rub the coin with a non abrasive cloth and you have dipped a coin the correct way and will not destroy the value. The only way you will ruine the coins value is with prolonged dips and or removing attractive toning. Not all toning is attractive especially if the toning isn’t uniform on the coin and you have hot spots and random unattractive tarnish spots that look ugly. check the video I’m going to post soon about what attractive toning looks like thanks.

    2. I got myself a ultrasonic cleaner and I don’t add anything harsh to the distilled water, just a drop of Dawn dish soap.
      Leave it on about 5 minutes.
      It removes the dirt and grime, but nothing else.

  3. Everything is only worth what someone else will pay for it. The funny thing about the ‘coin community’ is that it works almost like no other collectible market. If I have a rookie Babe Ruth baseball card and it had a bunch of grime on it, it would be worth way less than if it was in ‘Mint’ condition. I would rather display clean coins instead of the dirty ones and if more people agreed to that then cleaning them would become the norm and more valuable.

    1. lots of people do things wrong and it can get all scratched up with bad cleaning. So a dirty coin might be better than a scratched coin?
      Probably a reason that coin community say “Don’t clean your coins” might be for people who find/inherit a rare coin, but it looks dirty so the first thing they do is rub it and scrub it and scratch it up?

    2. Except it’s like you got the Babe Ruth card wet and scrapped off the front half. Removing all the detail. Every time you “clean” your removing a layer of the coin’s metal and details. Hence why you can barely make out the details on old coins.

  4. Your cleaned Morgan looks better than the part not cleaned. I would buy it as long as the luster and/or toning has NOT been compromised.

  5. I usually only clean coins if they have been cleaned before because you can see the old dirt residue lines along side and in the coin’s crevices. I remove all of those dirt outlines which makes the coin look much better. Believe me, someone will still buy that coin for as much or more than I did!

  6. Very impressed with the e+z+est. Didn’t realize how good that stuff works. Gotta get some of that stuff and clean all my silver. Can’t speak for others but I wouldn’t trust my local coin dealer as far as I can throw him. He’s gonna find a reason to u undercut you. If it’s not clean he’ll undercut for it being dirty and if it’s clean he’ll undercut you for that. I have no collectable coins (only BU ASE/AGE and bars) but don’t want to give him any excuse to not give me close to spot for the weight.

    1. Yes, it’s sad these days,the “jeweler” in our town also buys gift cards, at 50cents on the dollar! Newage crookery!I even bought an engagement ring from this guy,4yrs later,marriage not so good,he said 50.00 for the 1200.00 ring!

  7. I think the majority of Morgan dollars in slabs have been dipped and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just doesn’t make sense for a coin to stay bright white for over 100 years. Obviously you should keep the dips short and dry them carefully.

  8. If a cleaned coin fails to get the price you’re looking for I’m sure there’s a YouTube video on how to quickly age a coin.

  9. If you dip AU and MS coins with some previous luster, they will not get detail grades. Only if you scrub them abrasively. I can’t tell you how many coins I’ve dipped or “cleaned” that I’ve submitted and gotten back problem-free. I’ve even dipped some XF coins and gotten problem-free grades. The key is that you do it properly.

  10. I’m sure this is good information for collectors with valuable coins, but my thing is metal detecting, so everything must be cleaned to some degree. The key is to do it as gently as possible. I use a warm water bath followed by a mild dish washing soap and a very soft toothbrush.

  11. Does leaving the dirt and grime on a coin not cause it to degrade faster? Does cleaning support the physical longevity of the coin?

  12. Awesome !!
    I was told by my grandfather back in 1978 to NEVER polish any of my coins. You are correct !! I went to a coin show and asked a dealer his opinion of cleaned coins. He said the exact same thing. Cleaning coins are graded lower then aged coins. He said dirty coins or coins with patina will be graded higher then coins that were cleaned .. he went on explaining about brush and swirl marks and something about the strike plate on the coin…. that was above my pay grade lol. So I leave them alone. I have inherited so many wheat pennies that I may have a 1909 VDB… or the 1955 double die. Too many to go through. However, in my will, my daughter will be happy. She doesn’t know about my collection. I just hope when she has a child, she will continue the tradition and pass them on.

  13. Jim Halperin ( Heritage Galleries ) has often told the story of a 1799 bust dollar that was choice unc but toned an ugly mottled brown. He was the one to dip it back in the 1970’s and it came out fabulous with blinding luster. It’s value (and market grade) went up dramatically. You never dip a circulated coin as you did here but there aren’t a lot of brilliant uncirculated Morgans that haven’t been carefully dipped.

  14. Coin dealer don’t want you to clean them, they want to offer you a lot less, clean the coins themselves, and charge a lot for a beautiful example of a coin.

  15. My grandmother left me 60 silver dollars from the late 1880s through 1922. All of them were well circulated.
    I placed a few of them on eBay before cleaning and sold them for around $80 apiece. I cleaned the remainder and sold them on eBay for around $120 apiece. This was roughly 15 years ago. I guess it all depends on who your audience is and how much they are willing to spend. According to my experience, most people wanted the shiny and new coins.

    1. It’s true about value vs audience, etc; but your method of cleaning was probably too abrasive and actually did real, irreversible damage. Is it more important to maximize your profit? Or to keep the coin surviving time better/longer? Or to at least no damage that would diminish its survival?

    2. That is only because they took a chance with only pics as a guide and were disappointed when they saw they were cleaned upon receiving it.

    3. @cavscout888 What sort of damage if you use a proprietary cleaner like demonstrated here ( E Zest Coin Cleaner ) ?

  16. Personally, I think this advice applies primarily to numismatic collectors — particularly those interested in grading. Stackers probably don’t need to worry too much about this, since in the end silver is silver and you’re likely only going to receive SPOT or MELT prices from your local coin shop. In other words…if you like your coins shiny…shine ’em up! Just understand that any numismatic value may be affected in the process. (And many stackers won’t care.)

    1. Definitely, these dudes talk about it like it’s the 11th Sin, or cutting the wires on a bomb !

  17. Grading companies: “You should never ever clean your coins”
    Also grading companies: “You can pay us to clean them but we call it conservation when we do it”

  18. I loved this video, thank you!!! I just couldn’t understand why a clean coin was less valuable. What about when they do coin restoration; does that also decrease the value???

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