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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Uncleaned Ancient Coin Discussion (Moderator: bruce61813)  |  Topic: could use a little (lot) of advice... (please)... 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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« on: August 30, 2011, 01:31:09 am »

A while back I was happily scrubbing a way at my pile of corroded metal when I saw about 1 mm of smooth looking metal on this coin.  I decided not to be too aggressive and tossed it back in the oil.  I have gently brushed at it with a tooth brush and re-soaked.  Then, I tried "flicking" off pieces with a needle, but got worried that I was going to scratch it, so I switched to a scalpel blade with a rounded edge.  I have managed to make the area a lot bigger (hopefully without TOO much damage), but I think I am getting stuck.  What I can see looks so nice (especially compared to what I am used to) that I am now afraid to touch it as odds are good I will kill it....  I have had several panic attacks where I have been scraping at an area and suddenly think I scratched it, but then it seems to just be more of the red gunk.

There is this thick red stuff that does NOT want to come off.  I can scratch at it a bit with the scalpel and some areas will come off, but most seem firmly adhered especially around the edges.  I can't seem to get anywhere with the reverse, but really have only brushed it with a toothbrush.  It looks silver to me, but I have never figured out how to tell silver from silvered, so I am afraid to try lemon juice. 

I am tempted to leave it in the oil for another 2000 years, but I am sure that tomorrow night I will be drawn to it again, so any advice will be appreciated!
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« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2011, 06:57:52 am »

It does look a lot like silver.  Do you have a diameter and weight of the coin??

Shawn
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SC
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« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2011, 01:08:11 pm »

diameter is 13mm...  Maybe I will try to bring it in to work and see if the postal scale is accurate enough for a weight Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2011, 07:04:12 pm »

I know it looks silvery in the picture....but those pink blooms bother me. I am gonna say that it is a bronze coin with all but what is exposed and pretty, fully compromised and what we are seeing is the aftermath of BD gone wild. I could be totally wrong though. I guess it could be silver and what we are seeing is the devestated remains of the base metal coins buried with it corroding and adhearing to the silver coin...but I doubt it.

One way to find out for sure...and this will be viewed as sacrilege to some folks reading it, but...take an exacto to an edge and slowly shave down to the bare metal...if it is silver drop it in some lemon juice and get to scrubbing, if not you may as well drop it back in the olive oil and wait...

Chris
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« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2011, 01:59:02 am »

A fouree (a copper core wrapped or coated in silver to make it look like a regular silver denari)?  You might get this sort of corrosion especially if it was stored with other fourees.

Shawn
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« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2011, 06:10:34 am »

That is possible as well! I may have been looking at the perspective wrong and the smooth junk is on top and the corrosion is underneath.

Chris
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« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2011, 05:42:59 pm »

So possibly something more like this.
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« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2011, 05:58:36 pm »

Why not try boiling it in Distilled Water?  That will help loosen some of the encrustation and help you see what you have underneath.  I'd also suggest some Gringott's with the DW if you have it.
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« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2011, 08:59:59 pm »

Why not try boiling it in Distilled Water?  That will help loosen some of the encrustation and help you see what you have underneath.  I'd also suggest some Gringott's with the DW if you have it.

Or if you have no gringott's, a drop or two of dawn to get rid of the olive oil would be helpful as well.

Chris
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« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2011, 11:38:27 pm »

AAAAHHHHH!!!!  This coin may cause me to break down and go to a chiropractor... or maybe a psychiatrist Smiley

So, now that I have that out of my system.  I have spent hours (and hours) scrubbing, and picking.  What I am finding is that there is this pink layer FIRMLY adhered to the coin.  I can't get under to pick it off, even with a TINY 30 guage needle... and there is no way it is gently scrubbed off.  If I take the edge of a rounded blade, get it to catch on part of the pink, and ever so carefully push, I can push a fleck of it off at a time.  Then I can scrub away with a q-tip... not that it does any good, but I do enjoy seeing the one little fleck of pink so that I feel like I have gotten somewhere.

Unfortunately, there is no need for me to scrape the edge now as on one of these little pushes, it caught a lump and left a nice shiny area right near the chin Cry    Definately not silver all the way through.  I wanted to go bury the coin in my backyard at that point, but I have decided to continue on.  If I can ever uncover anymore of the coin, is there anyway to do anything about the shiny spot?  I haven't seen any Jax silver color.  Unless I can come up with a better way to clean this thing, I would bet there will be more spots.  Sigh... 

I have tried boiling in DW now, brushing with a toothbrush, scrubbing with a q-tip, and soaking in olive oil (it started with a 2 month soak and now overnights between my attacks).  I have made little round circles with a flat blade, and the "pushing" thing with a blade I described above....  I do have some gringott's conservator mix, but I was afraid it might be too harsh?  I would be willing to try that if you thought it might be helpful.  Course, I might try anything else that you thought would be helpful...

Here is a picture of progress so far...

Thanks for all of your time and advice!  My family is pretty sure I have lost my mind, so it is good to have a forum where other people sit and pick at dust particles on coins for hours at a time Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2011, 01:41:28 am »

If the coin is silver, or partially silver, what about applying an acid - lemon juice is the usual - selectively to small parts of the encrustation?

I am just wondering.  Please DON'T do this yet till wiser heads have weighed in to support me or tell me I am crazy.

Shawn
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« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2011, 06:23:01 am »

If the coin is silver, or partially silver, what about applying an acid - lemon juice is the usual - selectively to small parts of the encrustation?

I am just wondering.  Please DON'T do this yet till wiser heads have weighed in to support me or tell me I am crazy.

Shawn

I was thinking the same thing...maybe a dab of lemon juice in an area, let it soak in and then do the pushing. Make sure to neutralize after each cleaning session though, just to be safe.

Chris

PS fantastic job so far though...really! the area that you ahve cleaned between pictures is top notch (considering what you had to start with)!
C.
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2011, 08:01:31 am »

The coin might be a debased silver denarius. In this case, the red encrustation is copper oxide Cu2O formed as a result of the oxidation of the base metal. If copper gets washed out, the coin might become very fragile and collapse. I would not apply lemon juice or any other acid. Check here for a suggestion:
http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=65084.msg407967#msg407967
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« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2011, 01:01:25 am »

Thanks for all the suggestions!  

It seems that this coin is probably copper (or bronze? how can you tell which) with a silver coating... I think.  So, would that EDTA listed on that link be a good option for this?  Do you just soak and then gently scrub?  Or will it eat away at the areas where the silver has been broken through?

If I ever actually get it somewhat clean, is there anything that can be done to make the damage I created not look so awful?  

I may be offline for a few days as my work schedule, and a visit with the in-laws will be cutting into my coin cleaning time for the next several days (total bummer... Wink)

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« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2011, 03:18:21 am »

Telling the distance between copper and bronze is easy.

You can either a) go down to the basement and turn on your 2.5 million dollar x-ray flouresence machine, or b) cut your coin in half, dissolve it in very strong acid and then conduct a dozen or so chemical precipitate tests and then weight all of the resultant residues versus original weight.

I kid of course.  Luckily it does not really matter at all whether it was copper, true bronze, leaded bronze, etc for cleaning purposes.  As long as it is in the AE family and does not stray into silver or higher quality billon the methods should all be equal no matter what the exact coin composition is.  The soil conditions would have been far more important for the state of the coin than the alloy content.

But, luckily for us, researchers have already done these expensive, and often destructive, tests on many coin types and so we have an idea of what at least some coins from each major family are made of.  So you can often determine what a coin type is generally made out of by research.

Almost all late Roman bronzes will be "bronze" with or without some silver added depending on type and date.  This bronze will not though be true bronze (90% copper, 10% tin) but will be a copper-lead-tin alloy usually high in lead.

Not many Roman coins are simple copper.  The only common ones are 1st century asses and quadrans.  Many first and earlier 2nd century sestertii and dupndii are made of orichalcum, which is very close to modern brass (i.e. a copper-zinc alloy).

Shawn
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« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2011, 05:26:45 pm »

Update:

I call uncle!

I have spent about a million hours (I exaggerate slightly) trying to gently push pink crud off this coin.  Unfortunately, I have gotten to the point where I can get more pink crud off, but I am now causing way more damage than good.  Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to matter what I scrub it with, the pink won't come off... it will come off with  a sharp instrument, but at the expense of the silver, so I give.
 
It is a little hard to see in the pics, but there is still a layer of the pink... mostly on his hair, and on victory....  Sadly, I went through the silver layer in several places leaving ugly, shiny, bronze/brass (my x-ray flouresence machine needs repair) spots  Cry 

I took a few pics along the way...so here is the progress (see above for the "early" pics)

DNTHEODOSIVSPFAVG
SALVSREIPUBLICAE   
I think SMK in exe???  Does anyone have better eyes on the exe?

Thanks for everyones help...
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« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2011, 05:50:11 pm »

What a cool outcome!
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« Reply #17 on: September 14, 2011, 06:38:39 pm »

What a cool outcome!

I totally agree. You did a fine job on a near impossible coin. That pink junk sucks...bad. That wierd greasy feel gets all over my nerves!

As for my eyes, they are no better than yours...and possibly worse. I can't make out ANYTHING in the ex but some squiggles!

Chris
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« Reply #18 on: September 14, 2011, 11:20:55 pm »

Thanks!  As long as I ignore the shiny bits... and the leftover pink gunk, I am pretty pleased!
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« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2011, 12:05:43 am »

nice job!
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« Reply #20 on: September 16, 2011, 05:21:23 am »

What the?!?!?!

First, you did an awesome job with the cleaning.

Second, that Theodosius I SALVS REIPVBLICAE is, or should be, a simple leaded bronze coin.  Late Roman bronze coins had not had any silver added to the bronze for a few decades before this one was struck and had not been silvered (silver coated) since before that.  So it is highly unlikely that it was made with any silver on it.

It is possible that it was silvered after.  I have a coin contemporary to this one that has been silver plated, but it is a much larger AE2 and has a square nail hole in it indicating it had been mounted to something once.  I have never heard of a small AE4 like this being subsequently silvered.

I suspect the silvery look is due to some strange surface reaction.  Possibly related to the pink gunk.  What is the silver like when you go through it?  Does it flake at all or do you just go through?  I think that even if it is an odd silvery patina on the bronze surface you could still go through it like you said.

Shawn
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« Reply #21 on: September 16, 2011, 04:33:30 pm »

Hmmm... when I went through, it just seemed to come off and didn't really flake. 

On the very edge of the coin though,  I was occasionally able to push off a hunk of gunk and the inside of the piece that came off would look silvery, causing me to panic.  Usually though the coin edge still looked silvery where it had come off, so in spots, whatever it is seemed a little thicker than others. 

One night, in a fit of "I am going to throw this thing in the furnace" craziness, I put some lemon juice on a q-tip and scrubbed it.  Didn't seem to do anything at all, but in paranoia I thought it might look a little duller (is that a word or is it more dull?)... so I don't know.  It didn't really seem to cause any actual damage or benefit that I could tell...

Does that help?
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« Reply #22 on: September 17, 2011, 12:23:45 am »

Wow. Amazing cleaning job! I can't make out anything in the exergue, but I'm flabbergasted that you got enough of the pink gunk off to be able to identify the coin at all.
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« Reply #23 on: September 18, 2011, 12:51:56 am »

Thanks!  I really appreciate all the help and comments. 

Its a good thing I have all my usual coins that I am tearing apart to remind me that I still really have no idea what I am doing.  It was really nice to have one come out!
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« Reply #24 on: September 18, 2011, 06:40:19 pm »

As a complete newbie to cleaning ancients coins, I must say, WOW, nice job!!

Secondly, your enthusiasm is contagious and very encouraging. I can barely clean my little baby girl's 3 month old butt let alone and an ancient coin, but I know with the wisdom and help on this site and all of the connected resources, I will one day actually have a clue what I am doing.

-Kurt



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