Numismatic and History Discussions > Uncleaned Ancient Coin Discussion

Beginner feedback - first cleaned coins

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Jeff E2:
Recently got interested in cleaning ancient Roman coins, watched a bunch of YouTube tutorials specifically on ancient Roman coins, bought a few "Premium Uncleaned Roman Coins from the Balkans" from an online dealer mentioned in a few popular YouTube channels and went to work.  100% sure I was waaaay to aggressive with the first few coins, and took my time with this one.  I'm now pretty sure it's the coin at the top of

In my coin, it looks like there's a top brown layer with a blue-green layer underneath.  I thought I needed to remove the brown layer, but when I tried, some letters came off with it.  There's also a light brown/yellow layer on top in some spots.  And some orange and red.  So pretty!   :-[

I know it's hard to say without a before-picture, but should I have stopped at the brown layer?  Is it possible to get rid of the yellow stuff that looks like dirt?  I was trying to get down to the patina, so I kept cleaning until I got to what I thought was the green layer, though now that layer seems too deep on this coin.


Ken W2:

Hey Jeff:  Welcome to FORVM. Lots of experts here.  I don’t hold myself out as one of them, just a journeyman.  Also there are lots of how to posts here.
I’d say that’s a good start.  What tools are you using ?  A pretty basic but effective approach involves first soaking in tap water or DW and brushing with a toothbrush under running water to remove the easy dirt.  Then more soaking in DW and patiently over time more brushing, but in most cases moving on to mechanical cleaning.  I cleaned using reading glasses for a few years, then moved up to a binocular microscope, using the 10X lenses, and that was a game changer. People have different tools of choice. I now mostly use a no. 11 exacto blade and sometimes diamond encrusted dental bits.  Cut off pins or needles in a pin vise works well too.
On your coin, you are as far as you should go where there is red/orange (actually that’s probably too far as that is frequently the base level of corrosion under a preferred, usually green patina). You are as far as you should go where there is the olive drab green and the lighter green.  It’s possible that the lighter green is an applied patina. Were those areas already showing or were they under dirt that you have removed?  The tan/light brown areas look like dirt and are the only areas that more cleaning should be done. People have different thoughts about cleaning dry or wet.  I prefer damp to wet. When damp and viewed under magnification, the dirt will darken in color and you can see the grains of dirt as you work. Stop when you can see the usually green patina layer, and on your coin I believe it’s the olive drab green.
Yes, sometimes you can apply too much force and actually knock off a letter or part of another detail.  That’s because on some coins the patina has become the material which forms some of the relief of the coin from centuries of undergoing the corrosion/patina producing process. If you ever strip any coins you’ll see that under the patina there often is an even less recognizable, pitted bronze disc.
Patience is key.  Long soaks in DW— days, weeks, and sometimes months— may be needed, and even then mechanical cleaning will usually be required to achieve full attribution and your preference of eye appeal.
Welcome again!

Virgil H:
Welcome, Jeff, cleaning is fun and not easy simply because it is so easy to mess up a coin. I also have a binocular microscope. It is quite amazing what you see under a 10X lens. I use distilled water soaks. I have a soft brush, pins in pin vises, and bamboo skewers, as well as a scalpel. Plus a few other odds and ends like a towel, as I like to clean damp/wet coins. The late Roman coins are a great starting place. I find it very difficult to find any truly uncleaned coins any longer and I wold say almost all have been looked at to remove any of value. I do have some late Romans waiting for me and it is fun to identify them when identification is possible. Here is an interesting thread from a few months ago (also the pinned topics on this section):

There are a lot of threads on the Forum here and articles in the Numiswiki on cleaning. Bronze and silver coins are usually very different in the cleaning process. Here is one Numiswiki article:


Jeff E2:

--- Quote from: Ken W2 on August 09, 2023, 06:40:09 am ---
Hey Jeff:  Welcome to FORVM.

--- End quote ---

Hi Ken, thanks for the warm welcome!  I initially soaked the coins in DW for a few hours and then used the nylon tip of a cleaning pencil and soft toothbrush to work my way through the dirt.  I had also ordered a diamond dusted dental pick and learned quickly how strong it is!  I just got a brass brush and am finding it works really well on some coins.

--- Quote ---Were those areas already showing or were they under dirt that you have removed?

--- End quote ---

I'm pretty sure the entire coin was covered in dark dirt, so I don't think it has an applied patina, but who knows!

Thanks for taking a look at the coin, and welcoming me to the forum!


Jeff E2:

--- Quote from: Virgil H on August 09, 2023, 01:09:26 pm ---Welcome, Jeff

--- End quote ---

Thanks, Virgil, for the welcome!  It has been a fun challenge to try to identify these, and it was a happy moment when I finally did.  It's good to find such a cool new hobby!



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