Selling guides, Tips and tricks

How To Clean Old Coins (Hint: Don’t!)

How To Clean Old Coins (Hint: Don’t!)
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Old coins are not just fun collectable items, they can also be extremely valuable. Of course, if you collect or trade coins, you'll want to keep them in the best condition possible and have probably wondered at some point if you should clean old coins. Well, we're here to give you the low down on all the dos and don'ts when it comes to cleaning coins.

Collection of dirty South African vintage coins

So what is the best way to clean old coins?

The best way to clean old coins is, incredibly, to not clean them at all! Your first instinct, if you collect or want to sell old coins, might be to try to get them as shiny and beautiful looking as possible. However, the reason that you shouldn't clean old coins is that their tarnish and signs of age are actually part of their appeal. Coins are graded by collectors due to a number of different factors, from the rarity of the coin to the date, to the mint where it was produced, and of course the condition of the coin. But the condition of the coin is classified as wear and dents, not the superficial aesthetics such as dirt and grime. Patina, that green film that forms on old metals due to exposure over the years, is actually desired and appreciated by avid coin collectors. It is best not to clean rare coins as removing the patina can significantly reduce their value. For this reason, most coin hobbyists almost never clean their coins. In fact, 99% of coins do not increase in value after you clean them, but many will be greatly devalued. If you really insist on trying to tidy up your coin collection, a very light brushing, or possibly a quick rinse with water is the absolute limit of what you should attempt. Do not rub coins, just let them dry naturally in the air. Coins all shiny from using brass or silver polish will have actually lost much of their value.

Old coins in patina

How can I clean old coins?

Copper, silver, nickel, and gold coins should strictly never be cleaned. But if you do really want to get stuck in and have a go at cleaning some coins, we recommend that you experiment with some modern loose change instead. Something like a penny for example. There are a variety of suggested ways when it comes to cleaning coins, and cleaning coins with coke is the internet's number one method of choice. Simply place one coin in a glass or tub and pour coke over the top, enough so that it is fully submerged in the liquid. Leave the coin to soak for about 5 minutes or so and then check on its condition. If you feel that it needs longer, you can soak it for up to 15 minutes. Once you've removed the coin from the coke, gently rinse it under cold running water. Next, carefully pat it dry and leave it to fully dry naturally on a windowsill or similar. Warning - do not mix coins together when they are soaking in the Coke, as some coins may discolour other coins.

Coin cleaning in progress

What other ways can I clean my old coins?

If you really need to clean a coin and are looking for alternative methods, then here are some other ways that you could try. Firstly, we recommend holding the coins by their edges, as this will hopefully limit the amount of damage that you might do. Perhaps the gentlest way that you can try to clean a coin is by rinsing it in distilled water. Most water is now treated with fluoride, which can cause a chemical reaction in some of the metals used in coins. Using distilled water, therefore, removes some of the potential to cause harm to the coin. Soaking the old coins in vinegar is another method that you can attempt. Just leave the coin immersed in vinegar for around a minute or so, then rinse off the vinegar and leave it to dry. If you don't have any vinegar to hand, then you can try tomato paste or ketchup as a substitute. The tomatoes and vinegar in ketchup are lightly acidic. The acid will attack and remove any oxides that have formed on the surface of the coin.

Soaking old coin in vinegar to clean them

So should I really sell my old coins without cleaning them?

Yes! Numismatists - that's coin collectors to you and me - really don't mind about a bit of dirt and discolouration (known as toning in the trade). In fact, they actively encourage you not to clean old coins before selling them. If you have some old coins that you want to sell and are looking for a new and easy way to get a great price for them, then you're in the right place. Here at Vintage Cash Cow, we love nothing better than a handful of grubby old coins! Their griminess actually adds to the mystique of their history, and our team of experts can easily see past a bit of old dust and dirt to assess the coin's true value. We see hundreds of old coins each week, so can quickly give you an accurate valuation of the coins and make you an offer based on their market value.

How to clean coins

How does Vintage Cash Cow work?

Simply collect up your old coins, along with any other old valuables that you want to sell. Package them up and pop them in the post to us using one of our free postage labels. As soon as your items arrive with us, we'll get our team of in-house experts to check them over and make you an offer according to their value. The more things that you send in, the greater your amount is likely to be. Simply accept the offer and you'll get paid out on the same day. It's quick, simple and safe. Request your free information pack today. We're always on hand to answer any questions that you might have and will keep you informed every step of the way.

How to clean coins 

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