Should I clean my coins?

Many people just getting into coin collecting ask the question, “Should I clean my coins before taking them in for an appraisal with a coin dealer?” Whether or not you should clean your coin depends on what kind of coin you have. A collectible coin is one whose intrinsic value is worth far more than that of its “spot price”. The spot price is simply the value of the weight of the coin and a value which fluctuates with the market price of the metal. An example of coins whose value is that of its spot price is junk-silver coinage such as Franklin and Kennedy half dollars or Roosevelt dimes (1946-1964).  While most of these coins are not collectible, they have a certain melt value, which is based on the composition of silver and the spot price at the time of sale.

old coin

Cleaning your old coins could cost you

If you really want to clean your minted gold or silver coins, I highly recommend you do not do so, as this will lower the coins value.  However, if you think you have a rare or collectible coin and you are not a professional, then the unanimous rule of thumb is: for the love of the coin and all that it is worth, do not clean it yourself!  Leave that to the professional coin dealer’s discretion.
As Americans, we tend to like our stuff bright and shiny clean because – let’s face it – in general things that are clean, bright, and shiny just look prettier. However when it comes to collectible coins, you should think again before trying to get them into what you consider to be perfectly presentable condition because doing so can substantially reduce the value the value of the coin. What do we mean by substantially? Well, we heard one story from a dealer who received a phone call from a gentleman in possession of a rare coin which should have been worth about $20,000. Sadly, for both the dealer and the seller, the man decided to clean the coin before he brought it in for the dealer’s appraisal. Close your eyes for a moment and take a wild guess at how much you think that deed of good intention reduced the coin’s value. Would you believe that one simple act of cleaning a coin reduced its value from $20,000 all the way down to $1300?
Let us all wipe that tragedy from our memories and learn from someone else’s mistake!
Rather than chastise you for even thinking about cleaning your collectible coins, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t do it. First of all, coin collectors have a bit of a nostalgic thing for wanting to see an old coin in its original condition – dirt, grit, grime, and all. Collectors see things with a very different eye than most people. A coin’s perceived flaw may be exactly the thing that gives the coin its value. In addition to that, a professional collector or dealer knows exactly what should and should not be removed from a collectible coin; and, if it does need cleaning, knows how to do it without damaging the coin.
Another reason you should not clean your collectible coins is because many cleaning agents – especially those people tend to use for cleaning metals, such as Brasso or other polishers – contain abrasives and abrasives cause value-reducing micro-scratches. Even trying to polish a gold coin with an apparently soft cloth can scratch it. Remember: gold is a soft metal and as such, it can easily be damaged by rubbing or scrubbing. If you are planning to keep your coins and you want them to be in the best possible condition for maintaining their value, then you should play it safe and take them to a professional. Taking them a professional will ensure your coins are properly cleaned and ready for safe storage.

Striking it rich with your pocket change

If you look hard enough and have the right information at hand about what coins are rare and collectible, you can strike it rich, as they say.  That is what a recent article had to say about a coin collector that wishes to remain anonymous, who had found a very rare 1983 copper-alloy cent.

The woman said that she found this coin after purchasing a book called “Strike it rich with pocket change” that was co-authored by Ken Potter and Brian Allen.  She found the rare copper one cent coin after reading the author’s account of how a man named Billy Crawford of South Carolina found one of these.  He had separated all of his pennies from 1983 and began looking for a double die coin and other types.  During his search for something else, he stumbled onto his find.

The cents struck from 1963 through about mid 1982 are of a solid brass composition made up of 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc. They weigh 3.11 grams. The cents struck from about mid 1982 to date are struck on planchets made up of a solid zinc core (with a trace of copper) that are barrel plated with pure copper and weigh 2.5 grams.

Crawford hoped that his efforts would result in him finding a transitional error of a 1983 cent struck on a planchet left over from the early part of 1982 before the copper plated zinc cents were introduced later in that same year.


Eventually he found one and we detailed his story on the find on Page 64 of the second edition and on Page 75 in the third edition of our book.

In our book we placed a possible value of $15,000 on an AU/Unc. example but it was just a guess. The owner now has this coin slated for sale in an upcoming Heritage auction, so we’ll see how this one goes and report on the result.

This story has been unfolding for a while. The finder of this second example first contacted me Aug. 6, 2010


Read more from the original article here

So, if you are a collector and are willing to spend the time searching and sorting through your pocket change and perhaps some coin rolls, you could possibly be the next lucky person to find a coin that has substantial collector value.  As the author stated in the conclusion of the article, it will definitely repay the owner many times over for the cost of the book.  Pick yourself up a copy of this book and you may never look at pocket change the same way again.