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Thread: Cleaning Your Finds: Coins and Relics

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  1. #1
    us
    Knowledge in machine struck coinage and colonial through 1800's Relics.

    Feb 2013
    New England, Somewhere Metal Detecting in the Woods
    Teknetics T2 SE (DST) Spare Teknetics T2 SE (backup) 15" T2 coil Pro-Pointer Bounty Hunter Pioneer 202 Fisher F2 Fisher F-Point
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    Coins and Relics
    Banner Finds (2)
    Honorable Mentions (1)

    Cleaning Your Finds: Coins and Relics

    Here is a subject brought up quite a bit, it involves cleaning your finds. I like to "restore" finds more than cleaning, it may not sound like a huge difference, but there is. ''Restoring'' a find is the process of removing any matter on the coin, but leaving the patina and trying to bring out the detail. Whereas cleaning is more harsh, most often the surface of the coin will be dramatically changed, sometimes resulting in ugly pitting. When cleaning finds it's important to realize that every find is different and will need different cleaning. For coins, I recommend being more careful in cleaning, and avoiding any abrasives, relics on the other hand can be cleaned a little harsher. Another problem happens when items are "overcleaned", overcleaning usually results with an ugly artificial look.

    Copper Coins
    When you are dealing with dug copper coins, I recommend avoid using lemon juice, vinegar, or any other acidic substance, using any acidic substance will sometimes destroy the surface of the coin leaving you with a pitted copper slug. Remember, Some coins are just too far gone, and no cleaning will help.

    Here are a few processes I recommend using for cleaning copper coins: Hydrogen Peroxide, Olive oil/mineral oil, Q-Tip, Toothpick, a Simple Wet Paper towel compress, and WD-40

    Hydrogen Peroxide: I recommend using this on coins that have a far amount of detail showing, I have had mixed results with toasted coppers, but it normal works fine on coppers with decent detail. Here's how to do it: First pour some Hydrogen Peroxide into a small microwave safe container, you only need enough to submerge the coin, but using a little bit more would help because some of it evaporates during boiling. Then put the Hydrogen Peroxide in the Microwave until it boils, remember DO NOT PUT METAL IN THE MICROWAVE. Take the Hydrogen Peroxide out of the microwave, and drop the coin in. You will notice bubbles forming, wait 30 seconds and take the coin out, dry it off and see what you think, if you feel it is necessary repeat the process. Hydrogen Peroxide will dry out the coin, so put the coin in Olive Oil for around a day to moisten it.

    Olive Oil/Mineral Oil: This is a great but lengthy method of cleaning all copper coins. The oil will moisten the coin and bring out it's detail. First pour some of the oil in a container, enough to submerge the coin. Then put the coin in the oil and leave it there for anywhere from a week to a year. Remove the coin from the oil when you are done soaking it and remove what ever dirt may still be on it with a toothpick and paper towel. This method is great for bring out the detail on a corroded copper coin.

    Q-Tip: This is the first thing you should do on a dug copper. Wet the end of a Q-Tip in hot water, and add some dish soap (dish soap is not necessary, but sometimes helps). Gently swab the surface of the coin with the Q-Tip, you will notice that dirt that you did not even know was there will be on the Q-Tip, rinse the coin and dry it.

    Toothpick: You can either wet down the coin or leave the coin dry, I recommend wetting down the coin. Pick the grooves of the coin with the toothpick and rinse, repeat if needed.

    Wet Paper Towel Compress (Best on freshly dug copper coins): Wet down a paper towel with warm water, fold up the paper towel around the coin and press it down. When you are done with the do the same thing with a dry paper towel. This method does a good job making dug coppers with a reasonable amount of detail look better.

    WD-40: I have not done this method but I heard it works the same as olive oil and mineral oil. First soak the coin in WD-40, after a while remove the coin, rinse it and dry it.

    Silver Coins:
    These are the most simple coins to clean, other than gold coin. When you find a silver coin never rub it, the coarse dirt will leave tiny hairline scratches on the surface of the coin.
    Most silver coins do not require any cleaning but some have a black tarnish and can be cleaned with any silver cleaner or baking soda and vinegar, when you find a silver coin, always rinse away the dirt with out brushing with your hand, for that will leave small hairline scratches.

    Nickels and Clad Coins: Nickels almost always some out of the ground looking horrible. There are a couple methods of cleaning nickels. Also, You will never make a nickel look perfect again, they will always be pitted. Navel Jelly (as suggested by Tom in CA): Coat the nickel in Navel Jelly, the Navel Jelly will help take the brown red color off of the coin.

    One method it soaking the Nickel in Worcester Sauce for a few hours, then remove it and rinse it with water. Another method is to use steel wool on it, just remember, that is your last resort for it will make the coin look unnatural and make it not worth any money, it's just good for getting a date or IDing a nickel. I have also heard of rubbing your finger on your nose/forehead area and getting grease on your hand, then rubbing the grease on the nickel.
    ----------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------------------------

    Now we are moving on to relics, they are less easy to mess up, but still can be damaged.

    Brass Buttons: I recommend using the Hydrogen Peroxide method on all brass buttons, it helps enhance any design, and make backmarks readable. Use the same Hydrogen Peroxide method here as you use on coins, as mentioned above.

    Tombac Buttons: Cleaning tombac buttons is usually very easy, two methods are navel or aluminum jelly, or the rough side of a sponge. If you use aluminum or navel jelly coat the coin in the jelly for 20 seconds then rinse it and your button will look brand new, shiny and smooth. If you do not have aluminum jelly, you could use rough side of a sponge. Soak the sponge in warm soapy water, then rub the button on the rough side of the sponge until the button is smooth and shiny.

    Gilded or Plated Items (Especially Gilded Buttons): Navel jelly or Aluminum Jelly works best on any plated or gilded item. If you find an item that may have gilding or plated on it coat some Navel Jelly or Aluminum Jelly on it, you will be happy with the results.
    Lemon Juice: *Added 4/7/15* Heat some lemon juice in the microwave, when it is hot and almost boiling take it out. Dip a paper towel in the lemon juice until it is wet and wipe the relic with it (you will be amazed on how fast it works).
    1902 Medal Cleaned with Lemon Juice Method. (Almost no gilt showed before cleaning)
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Brass Relics: I recommend using a soapy brush of some sort (a tooth brush would work) on brass relics

    Pewter Buttons/Relics: There is not much you can do on crusty pewter, a lot of times the pewter crumbles with cleaning.

    Lead Relics or Bullets: They do not require much, if any cleaning. You can just rinse them or brush them with a soapy tooth brush

    Iron Relics: *Added 4/07/15* Electrolysis works best for heavily corroded iron artifacts, such as nails, cannonballs, and other iron relics. It is the best method on those items and works wonders. If an item is thin sheet metal I don't recommend it because the electrolysis can leave small holes in the relic because the rust has compromised the metal and when the rust is gone there is no metal left under. I also don't recommend doing electrolysis on things other than iron, sometimes electrolysis works on some coins. If a coin is already pitted electrolysis is only going to make things was worse and leave you with a toasted
    "cookie". Coins with very little to no be pitting can be made nice with electrolysis though, don't do anything with much collector value though because this method can be quite risky and makes copper coins look "unnatural"
    Guide on Electrolysis
    http://www.metaldetectingworld.com/e..._removal.shtml

    Large Iron Relics: *Added 4/07/15* Brute Force (Hammertime) I have done this method before on larger iron relics, even on horse shoes. I use it to remove those chunks of corrosion from the surface. Anyways, Put the iron relic on a flat surface. Gently tap it with a hammer. You will see big chunks of corrosion fly off due vibration. When all the big chunks of corrosion are gone you can rinse it off if you would like. From there you could do electrolysis.
    Don't do this method on anything small or thin, rusty iron is very brittle and can shatter with impact. Axe heads are the kind of thing I do that method on.

    Olive Oil Soak for a day and Q-tip: Before and after on a 1690's Halfpenny
    Before:
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    After:
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    Well, I'm done with this post, if you have any questions or ideas, post them or ask below.

    Thanks for Looking,
    Coinman123,
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by coinman123; Apr 07, 2015 at 05:15 PM.
    2014-2017 Finds
    1700s Sundial
    165? french liard
    1696 1774 1730s 17?? copper
    1723 irish ˝ penny
    1730 KG coin toy
    2x AU 1803 LC
    1722 1/2 Penny
    1779, 1781˝ Real, ? 1 Real
    NJ Copper 1786
    1805,1838 LC
    26 Coppers 17 colonial
    175 1720-1850 buttons
    40 Musket Balls
    1906 1912 1934 dog Lics
    16 1700s Buckles 1 silver
    2 1700s spigot
    3 Thimbles 1 silver
    Cleaning Finds:
    http://www.treasurenet.com/forums/ge...ns-relics.html

  2. #2

    Mar 2007
    Salinas, CA
    Explorer II, Compass 77b, Tesoro shadow X2
    13,667
    10029 times
    Banner Finds (4)
    Good post. Thanx for typing all that out. I would add another method for nickels: Naval Jelly. For all other metals/coins that doesn't do anything, but for nickels, it works to remove the reddish/brown color.
    coinman123 and CincinnatiKid like this.

  3. #3
    us
    CincinnatiKid

    Nov 2013
    Cincinnati Ohio
    XP Deus, Garrett ProPointer
    2,089
    1228 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Wonderful, detailed post. Sorry you now have carpal tunnel syndrome though.
    Seriously, I've had problems retaining patina on two large cents. I will save and try your methods.
    Best post on overall cleaning/restoration I've yet to read. Well done!
    Peace
    coinman123 likes this.

  4. #4
    us
    Knowledge in machine struck coinage and colonial through 1800's Relics.

    Feb 2013
    New England, Somewhere Metal Detecting in the Woods
    Teknetics T2 SE (DST) Spare Teknetics T2 SE (backup) 15" T2 coil Pro-Pointer Bounty Hunter Pioneer 202 Fisher F2 Fisher F-Point
    4,648
    5682 times
    Coins and Relics
    Banner Finds (2)
    Honorable Mentions (1)
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom_in_CA View Post
    Good post. Thanx for typing all that out. I would add another method for nickels: Naval Jelly. For all other metals/coins that doesn't do anything, but for nickels, it works to remove the reddish/brown color.
    Thanks, I have never tried that method, but it sounds like it may work good on nickels, navel jelly also does a good job at cleaning plated or gilded items too, I ended up adding it to the post recently. I forgot to mention some other methods too, such a never use a tumbler for any potentially good dug coin, more specific dug copper coins it will destroy them, only use a tumbler on clad.

    Coinman123,
    Last edited by coinman123; Nov 18, 2014 at 01:43 PM.
    2014-2017 Finds
    1700s Sundial
    165? french liard
    1696 1774 1730s 17?? copper
    1723 irish ˝ penny
    1730 KG coin toy
    2x AU 1803 LC
    1722 1/2 Penny
    1779, 1781˝ Real, ? 1 Real
    NJ Copper 1786
    1805,1838 LC
    26 Coppers 17 colonial
    175 1720-1850 buttons
    40 Musket Balls
    1906 1912 1934 dog Lics
    16 1700s Buckles 1 silver
    2 1700s spigot
    3 Thimbles 1 silver
    Cleaning Finds:
    http://www.treasurenet.com/forums/ge...ns-relics.html

  5. #5

    Mar 2015
    97
    47 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Excellent article! So with silver coins, can you over clean them and hurt the value? Or tarnx everyone you get?
    coinman123 likes this.

  6. #6
    us
    Apr 2014
    New York
    XP DEUS, Minelab CTX 3030
    2,559
    3360 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Banner Finds (2)
    Thank you for this excellent tutorial. Very useful, I hope everyone gives it a read. HH


    DIG WE MUST !!!!!!

  7. #7
    us
    Knowledge in machine struck coinage and colonial through 1800's Relics.

    Feb 2013
    New England, Somewhere Metal Detecting in the Woods
    Teknetics T2 SE (DST) Spare Teknetics T2 SE (backup) 15" T2 coil Pro-Pointer Bounty Hunter Pioneer 202 Fisher F2 Fisher F-Point
    4,648
    5682 times
    Coins and Relics
    Banner Finds (2)
    Honorable Mentions (1)
    Quote Originally Posted by Jameyjg01 View Post
    Excellent article! So with silver coins, can you over clean them and hurt the value? Or tarnx everyone you get?
    If you overclean a silver coin it will get a very unnaturally shiny color with hairline scratches. Coins like that won't be nearly as valuable as one not overcleaned.
    2014-2017 Finds
    1700s Sundial
    165? french liard
    1696 1774 1730s 17?? copper
    1723 irish ˝ penny
    1730 KG coin toy
    2x AU 1803 LC
    1722 1/2 Penny
    1779, 1781˝ Real, ? 1 Real
    NJ Copper 1786
    1805,1838 LC
    26 Coppers 17 colonial
    175 1720-1850 buttons
    40 Musket Balls
    1906 1912 1934 dog Lics
    16 1700s Buckles 1 silver
    2 1700s spigot
    3 Thimbles 1 silver
    Cleaning Finds:
    http://www.treasurenet.com/forums/ge...ns-relics.html

  8. #8

    Dec 2014
    North-Central CT
    AT-PRO; Garrett-Carrot
    514
    720 times
    Metal Detecting
    Thanks for the bump of this thread - great post!!! Thx for sharing!
    coinman123 likes this.

  9. #9
    us
    Oct 2009
    8,569
    7417 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Quote Originally Posted by coinman123 View Post
    If you overclean a silver coin it will get a very unnaturally shiny color with hairline scratches. Coins like that won't be nearly as valuable as one not overcleaned.
    Keeping in mind that the vast majority of silver coins we dig have no collector value, and cleaning changes nothing.

  10. #10
    us
    Knowledge in machine struck coinage and colonial through 1800's Relics.

    Feb 2013
    New England, Somewhere Metal Detecting in the Woods
    Teknetics T2 SE (DST) Spare Teknetics T2 SE (backup) 15" T2 coil Pro-Pointer Bounty Hunter Pioneer 202 Fisher F2 Fisher F-Point
    4,648
    5682 times
    Coins and Relics
    Banner Finds (2)
    Honorable Mentions (1)
    Quote Originally Posted by Jason in Enid View Post
    Keeping in mind that the vast majority of silver coins we dig have no collector value, and cleaning changes nothing.
    Agreed, I dip all my cheap worn tarnished 1950's and 1960's junk silver I find coin roll hunting in E-Zest, they are already only worth melt value and I think the cleaning makes them better to look at. If you have anything with any collectors value (Such as Reales, Capped Bust, Seated, and even barbers) try to be careful on cleaning them. Junk silver is not a big deal.
    2014-2017 Finds
    1700s Sundial
    165? french liard
    1696 1774 1730s 17?? copper
    1723 irish ˝ penny
    1730 KG coin toy
    2x AU 1803 LC
    1722 1/2 Penny
    1779, 1781˝ Real, ? 1 Real
    NJ Copper 1786
    1805,1838 LC
    26 Coppers 17 colonial
    175 1720-1850 buttons
    40 Musket Balls
    1906 1912 1934 dog Lics
    16 1700s Buckles 1 silver
    2 1700s spigot
    3 Thimbles 1 silver
    Cleaning Finds:
    http://www.treasurenet.com/forums/ge...ns-relics.html

  11. #11
    us
    Oct 2009
    8,569
    7417 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    What is E-Zest? I tried a search and all I found was a i-cloud services company.

  12. #12
    us
    Chuck

    Feb 2015
    North Central PA
    Tesoro Compadre, Tesoro Vaquero, Garrett Pro-Pointer
    1,908
    2952 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Honorable Mentions (2)
    Great post!.........I've Googled for cleaning guidelines, but was overwhelmed by so much conflicting information/opinions.............gotta print this for quick reference..........
    coinman123 likes this.
    Back to the hunt.........

  13. #13
    us
    Knowledge in machine struck coinage and colonial through 1800's Relics.

    Feb 2013
    New England, Somewhere Metal Detecting in the Woods
    Teknetics T2 SE (DST) Spare Teknetics T2 SE (backup) 15" T2 coil Pro-Pointer Bounty Hunter Pioneer 202 Fisher F2 Fisher F-Point
    4,648
    5682 times
    Coins and Relics
    Banner Finds (2)
    Honorable Mentions (1)
    Quote Originally Posted by Jason in Enid View Post
    What is E-Zest? I tried a search and all I found was a i-cloud services company.
    This thing. Not recommenced for anything with collector value but won't hurt the junk silver you find
    E Zest Coin Jewelry Cleaner 5oz Gold Silver E Z Est | eBay

    A little pricey though.
    Jason in Enid likes this.
    2014-2017 Finds
    1700s Sundial
    165? french liard
    1696 1774 1730s 17?? copper
    1723 irish ˝ penny
    1730 KG coin toy
    2x AU 1803 LC
    1722 1/2 Penny
    1779, 1781˝ Real, ? 1 Real
    NJ Copper 1786
    1805,1838 LC
    26 Coppers 17 colonial
    175 1720-1850 buttons
    40 Musket Balls
    1906 1912 1934 dog Lics
    16 1700s Buckles 1 silver
    2 1700s spigot
    3 Thimbles 1 silver
    Cleaning Finds:
    http://www.treasurenet.com/forums/ge...ns-relics.html

  14. #14
    us
    AquaTerra

    Mar 2015
    Orange County, CA
    Minelab Excalibur II 10", X-Terra 705, 3 Khz, 7.5 Khz, 18.75 Khz, Digger.
    13
    3 times
    Beach and Shallow Water Hunting
    Thank you Coinman for the great post. I did not see electrolysis as a cleaning method in your post. Would you recommend it?
    coinman123 likes this.

  15. #15
    us
    Mar 2015
    Oklahoma
    16
    1 times
    Coin errors and varieties
    OH my gosh! Thank you so much! I've begun the long overdo process of sorting and cataloging my coins. I grew up hearing that they should never be "cleaned" and the "restoration" process was something I've not ever heard about. I was always too afraid to attempt anything but a gentle wiping with a tissue...now I'm afraid that wasn't the right thing to do.
    But this post definitely helps to clarify and provides some much needed education!
    Thank you!!
    coinman123 likes this.
    I might have been Collecting for decades...but I don't know exactly what I was Collecting!

 

 
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