Numismatic and History Discussions > Uncleaned Ancient Coin Discussion

How to Clean Silvered (not Silver) Coins

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Mark Farrell:
Here is an interesting coin that I picked up a couple of years ago with ten or twelve others in a lot -- all ants, most with some silvering, all very harshly cleaned with chemicals so that basically no patina remained on any of them. I didn't mind much at the time, because I was more interested in learning the type, and the details on the coins were clear. So I tossed them into a drawer  for the past two years and voila! they are toning nicely, as is the example below.

Notice that there is a definite silver layer above the bronze core. See obv from 1 to 7 o'clock, the bronze is exposed on the right half while on the left half of the obv the silver layer is plainly still in place. Likewise, the silver layer -- it is not as thin as I'd expect "silvering" to be. It is more like a clad coin -- bronze core, silver laid on top. Sort of a nice contrast, all in one coin.

Probus, AD 281, Rome, AE Antoninianus, 3.46g.
Obv: Bust type F (radiate and cuirassed bust right); PROBV - S PF AVG.
Rev: Victory advancing left, holding wreath and trophy; VICTO - RIA AVG.
Mintmark: R thunderbolt Sigma (sixth emission, Rome mint).

Enjoy,

Mark

Rich Beale:
Here is a before and after shot of a coin I have just spent an hour cleaning. Those of you that recognise this as a very rare (R3) piece (and a very attractive one, I feel), will understand that I ummed and erred and dithered for quite a while before deciding to go ahead and clean it. Add to this the fact that it is an ex-Spink coin, and most would cry "STOP!! WHAT IN GOD'S NAME ARE YOU ABOUT TO DO?"

But I think the results speak for themselves. Don't you?

For those that are interested:

Constantine I silvered AE Follis. Trier, 318 - 319 AD. IMP CONSTANTINVS AVG, bust of Constantine wearing high crested helmet, cuirassed with spear over right shoulder / VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP, two Victories standing, facing one another, together holding shield inscribed VOT PR on altar. PTR in ex. RIC 208a

Very Rare - R3
Ex Spink VII 1996

Rich Beale:
I find that the simplest technique is often the best. I just immersed the coin in lemon juice for 2 minutes at a time, removed and scrubbed with a small nylon bristed brush, and repeated the lemon juice/scrubbing until I was satisfied most of the gunk was gone.

Of course, you're then left with a very bright silver coin. Normally, I hate the idea of tampering with silver toning but in this case since I had removed it, I felt I could retone it without any ill conscience. A very weak solution of sulphurated potash (liver of sulphur) will, over the course of about twenty minutes, restore a somewhat darker appearance to silver.

Ta da! And there you have it.

Two caveats:
1) This worked so well because the silver plating was in good condition and not flaking off. Sometimes, it may be loosened by corrosion of the bronze beneath, in which case you might screw the coin up. But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Or.. 'he who dares wins, Rodney.'
2) I do not advocate the artificial toning of silver coins. Natural toning is far far more attractive and desirable.

Hoped that helped in some small measure.

Rich Beale:
Kevin,

Thanks for your input and kind words of praise! I must admit, those remaining areas of green encrustation did look glaringly obvious once you pointed them out, and I was 'forced' to go back for a second round. Am now running out of lemons...

Since I don't normally clean coins, I (alas) do not own any diamond dusted implements, nor could I justify the purchase of a dremel. But I think that improvisation is more fun anyway!  :) A scalpel, a toothpick and a cottonbud were my weapons of choice this time.

Well, here are the latest results. Still a few spots remaining, but I'm happy to leave the coin as it is now. The helmet certainly looks better.

All the best,
Richard

Hermes III:
I just bought this silvered gallienus. i would say that it is like 60 to 65% silvered...very thin silver.. On the high points you can see all bronze..but there is still some tarnished silver...Any advice on what to do with this coin?

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