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HomeCollecting StrategiesDon't Clean Your Coins - A Demonstration in Silver Dollar Destruction

Don’t Clean Your Coins – A Demonstration in Silver Dollar Destruction

CoinWeek Sponsor and The Coin Course creator 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.

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To the seasoned collector, few things are as heartbreaking as a rare coin that has been cleaned or otherwise altered in a well-intentioned attempt to make the coin look “better”.

Yet this happens all the time – frequently when a collector dies and leaves their prized collection to their non-collecting heirs. All too often in such cases, the assumption is that these “dirty old coins” would sell for more money if they got rid of all the schmutz and the coins looked shiny like the day they were struck.

Unfortunately, this is far from true, and all our well-meaning heir has managed to do is dramatically reduce any NUMISMATIC value the coin once had.

We all know the stories.

The primary reason for this destruction of a coin’s value in the eyes of collectors is due to the loss of the piece’s original surfaces.

The look of an “original surface” is hard to fake; it is created on the surface of the metal of the coin by the very act of the hard metal dies striking the blank planchet with an immense amount of pressure at a high rate of speed. The blow (sometimes repeated blows)–along with the imparting of the coin’s design–causes the metal to behave like a liquid, sending distinctive ripples across the field away from the center. When you slowly rotate a coin with original surfaces/”mint luster” back and forth at an angle, you can see a telltale cartwheel pattern that resembles spokes in a wheel appear to move around the coin.

And while dirt and tarnish can get in the way of this, there is usually enough of this luster visible that a collector knows a coin is original.

For the same reason, when this luster has been hamfistedly eradicated (such as through the use of chemicals), no matter how “shiny” and “new” a coin looks it just doesn’t “feel” right. Therefore, coins with original surfaces are more desirable to collectors and more in demand, commanding greater prices than cleaned and doctored specimens.

Don’t clean your coins.

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  1. friends Dont Let Friends CLEAN COINS………… i need a bumper sticker loved the video i run across people all the time that either cleans or wants to know the best way to clean them.. there shocked when i tell them there worth more dirty.. thank you for the video.

  2. Thanks for the “community service” video, Jerry. Hopefully it will deter future novices from doing untold damage. The “rainbow stain” story is almost heartbreaking to imagine. As Gomer Pyle used to say: “Shame,shame ,shame!”

  3. This video just adds more confusion for people in the hobby. It would have been much more helpful if you would have explained the differences between “cleaning” and conservation. Also, dipping itself is not bad or even considered “cleaning” if done correctly. It is one of the accepted conservation techniques. Again, if done correctly.

    An easy way to think about it is this:
    Cleaned = Improperly Cleaned = BAD
    Conserved = Properly Cleaned = GOOD

    Consider making a video that explains this and I think many collectors would benefit. Also, an important topic is when you should absolutely conserve a coin … such as PVC or other active corrosion.

    Love the site. Thanks!

    • We asked Jerry to make a video that was geared towards non-trained people, who might come into contact with coins and feel giving them a good cleaning would increase their value. Using commercially-available coin cleaning products, Jerry does what any non-trained but well-intentioned person might try to do and a harshly cleaned coin is the result.

      We are not in the NEVER CLEAN YOUR COIN crowd, we believe in the proper application of conservation to stop a coin from being further ruined by time and the elements- however, I personally have experience with professional coin preservation techniques ruining an otherwise beautiful coin. It’s a risky thing to do, to take a coin and try to restore it or slow its decline. This is why we believe in the CAREFULLY CONSIDERED and CONSERVATIVE application of restoration techniques.

  4. Thanks for the response Charles. Fair enough… I certainly agree.

    Love the site and especially the videos you do out in the coin community (coin shows, interviews, coin grading, etc.). I try to visit weekly.



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