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How to Clean Coins Safely

By September 23, 2006

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Newcomers to the hobby of coin collecting, as well as people who find (or inherit) a stash of old coins, frequently ask how they can clean their coins. The simple answer to this question is "don't!"

If you clean your coins improperly (which is very easy to do) you will significantly reduce their monetary value. One of the best and fastest ways to ruin a valuable and rare coin is to use a silver dip type cleaner, or rub it with something abrasive like Wright's silver polish. (For more ways to easily ruin your coins, see the Top 7 Ways to Ruin Your Coins.) Believe it or not, your old coins are virtually always worth more with the toning on them, than with the toning removed. Better yet, don't let them get toned in the first place!

Having said all that, sometimes it is appropriate to give certain coins a careful washing with mild detergent and warm water. For example, if you decide to help a youngster start their first coin collection using the advice given in How to Start a Coin Collection on $4, gently washing the coins is a good idea because coins in circulation are very unclean, carrying all kinds of germs and filth. In fact, about the only time it is correct to clean coins is to give recently circulated coins a good washing for hygenic reasons. But don't ever immerse uncirculated or proof coins in any substance to clean them, not even water!

If you have some coins that you think need cleaning, follow the easy steps in How to Safely Clean Your Coins, and if this advice doesn't solve the problem, come ask for help in our Coin Collecting forum, before you ruin them!

Comments

September 24, 2006 at 4:47 pm
(1) Silver Coins says:

I would suggest to anyone not to clean coins and especially not with silver dip which cleans to much in once.

If you do that on ancient roman coins you can’t even sell them as they believe then to see a fake.

Cleaning Silver Coins

October 19, 2006 at 10:59 pm
(2) beckybg says:

Silver is antibacterial, antifungal & antiviral. Us, Canadian,English, Scandinavian, & German coins all have these qualities. Not as grimmy as one would think.

April 26, 2008 at 9:22 am
(3) bob says:

there is gunk on my silver coins and my gold coins are not shiny what do i do

May 14, 2008 at 4:48 pm
(4) John says:

Leave them alone! Do not wash, rinse or put anything on them, they are worth more leaving them in their natural condition.

June 18, 2008 at 3:17 pm
(5) carol solotoff says:

my father had nickels and quarters in a glass cup for yrs. and now they are all green.
how can i get that stuff off?

August 7, 2009 at 5:19 pm
(6) Rusty says:

I have recently acquired an odd coin that looks gold but tarnished like a penny. Even where the coin has pitted from the corrosion looks gold. there aren’t any distictive minting except for a few small crescent shaped stamps. Any information you could give me would be helpful

September 26, 2009 at 11:09 am
(7) Frustrated says:

I have just gotten the proof set of 1967 coins still in the original box. To say the least, they look in very rough shape. They are turning green with black spots. Is there something I can do and not ruin them. This is the only coins that I have in this shape. Older coins I have have faired much better. Help!

December 4, 2010 at 8:16 am
(8) Susie Q says:

My Dad was a wealthy man and had an extensive coin collection which he eventually sold in a coin auction. At least 25 years ago he gave me a gold $5 coin from 1907, which he had mounted in a gold holder with a loop to wear it on a chain as a pendent necklace. He kept reminding me not to lose it as it was worth money. The screw came out of the holder and I put the coin in my purse to bring it to be fixed at the jeweler, and a stick of gum accidentally got on the face of the coin. I rubbed the coin and it tarnished and became dull like a green penny, and I put it away for many years. Just took it to a jeweler who told me he doubted it was gold and worth anything! He pointed out the two sides of the coin, the shiny side is what it SHOULD look like, he said. This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, my Dad would never have given me a copy or worthless coin. How do I clean this to show it’s true worth?

December 12, 2010 at 1:00 pm
(9) Andrew says:

I found a few cois the other day and they are pretty old (a 1907 nikle, an 1896 S. Barber quater, and a 1839 large cent to name a few) and some of the coins are barly distinguishable. Why would it be better to not clean them?

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