Silver coins such as Britannias, Eagles and Maples are especially striking when first purchased but unfortunately, silver has a habit of tarnishing and losing its lustre. Older coins will have accumulated a thin layer of dirt. Many collectors are eager to restore the appearance of their coins but should be aware that cleaning may have its drawbacks.
Mechanical Or Chemical?
There are two choices when it comes to coin cleaning. Mechanical methods include buffing with specially formulated cleaning cloths. The coin can be dipped into soapy distilled water before using a toothbrush with the softest bristles you can find to gently rub over the surface to remove grime. A wooden toothpick can be used to dislodge ingrained dirt. However, cleaning in this way can leave tiny abrasions in the surface of the silver. Chemical remedies involve dipping the coin in a variety of substances such as lemon juice or vinegar then polishing. However, the level of acidity is often sufficient to cause a reaction leaving the coin far from silvery.
This is a difficult problem for collectors as tarnish is hard to eradicate. Many valuable coins are left untouched for fear of damaging the delicate surface. Coin dealers will often have a range of solutions that coins can be dipped into but they need to be matched correctly to the particular alloy of the coins.
Green PVC Film
Some years ago it was popular to store coins in clear PVC wallets. Unfortunately, these react over time with the silver to cause a greasy green film to settle on the surface. This can be removed by wiping the coin with pure acetone but be careful as it emits a toxic fume in addition to being flammable.
Some silver coins have been covered with a form of lacquer to preserve their lustre but this seriously depreciates their value. The lacquer can be removed by immersing it in a glass jar of acetone before rinsing in distilled water and buffing with a soft cloth.
Clean Or Not To Clean?
For a beginner, coin cleaning can be a hazardous pastime, ruining the surface of valuable coins through trial and error. It is always best to practice on coins with a very poor monetary value before tackling anything of some worth. And remember, that once a mistake has been made it can never be rectified. Avoid costly errors by consulting Indigo Metals for their expert advice.