March 24, 2006

The Golden Rule

Coin collecting is somewhat of a hobby of mine. I've been doing it a little while now and am specialising in hammered coinage of England. As I have previously written about in other places there is perhaps one golden rule which stands out more than any other on the subject of coin collecting and it is this: don't clean them. Ever. Perhaps the previous sentence was a little zealous there, obviously if you have just dug it up then use clean, cool water to wash off excess dirt, but nothing else. Today I decided to break that rule, taking a Henry III voided long cross penny and giving it a jolly good go at cleaning it. After this I have discovered that the golden rule is golden for a reason… it is a good one. Anyway, after spending a long time using some soft kitchen roll and cold water I decided to have a go with the big guns. Cilit Bang and hot water. This may sound stupid and I know that a copper coin would clean differently to a solid silver on; but I thought I'd press on. Cilit Bang didn't seem to do anything, the heavy black coating on the coin remained and not a lot changed. Hot water was my next weapon, and this produced a rather unexpected result. It did clean some of the dirt off, but it also gave the silver a “burnt” look. Perhaps this was due to the rapid oxidisation caused when it was brought out of the water due to the heated silver, perhaps it was due to the Cilit Bang which might have still been working its way through. I don't know. Still the situation seemed a little bleak, although the rest of the silver had taken on a somewhat nice golden hue, so its not all bad. I decided to leave it there and left it to dry. When checking back on it dry and moving it to be with the rest of my collection it did seem to have got a little better, perhaps that was just the worse light. Either way, I now can state 100% that the golden rule is a good one… in the future I might follow my own advice.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. misterpunch

    How right you are to remind collectors to never clean their coins.

    As a teenager I cleaned all my copper and bronze Victorian farthings – with Brasso! I was too stupid to know that the Victorians actually put a black finish on the coins to prevent them being confused with more valuable gold coins.

    I guess I was lucky to learn my lesson early – no matter how tempted I am to clean my medieval hammered coin collection, I just remember all those shiney ruined coins all those years ago.

    26 Jun 2006, 16:00

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