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Conserving (cleaning) Early Coppers

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Here's a file that I obtained permission to share with you. Bob Macchia is the originator of a lot of this type of info on the Yahoo Early Coppers forum. He's more than happy to answer questions. Please email him at : bobemakk@optonline.net . It deals with cleaning/conserving early coppers. Please pay particular attention to the warnings. The chemicals are dangerous.

 

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From: ROBERT MACCHIA <bobemakk@...>

Date: Sun May 8, 2005 2:58 pm

Subject: Re: [earlycopper] Copper cleaning/conserving eacs4me

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The professional graders usually clean (conserve) the coins before they slab them. (always use rubber gloves with any of the solutions)....It is best to use this process on mid to higher grade coppers only...unless you have a key date in a lower grade....

Buy some MS70 from a good online dealer, put the coin in the solution and cover it completely. If the verdigris doesn't come off within a few days, use a very soft toothbrush and go over the coin gently (it will never harm it) and re-soak it for another day or two. If that doesn't work you can use Tarn-X, but this will remove the desired chocolate color and turn it bright like a new copper penny, then you have to use Deller's Darkener and rub it gently into the coins surface with your fingers to the desired darkness. ALWAYS use a solution of baking soda and warm water to neutralize the chemicals after the MS70 or the Tarn-X but not after the Dellers Darkener or the Blue Ribbon.

 

If the coins color doesn't change color, you can use just some Blue Ribbon coin preservative and let it dry thoroughly and after a few days remove the excess with cotton balls. The problem with copper is that it gets dirty and attracts dirt. I have over 200 EAC's and a good part had some dirt or verdigris and I professionally cleaned/conserved them and now they are beautiful. Good luck and don't be afraid to do this. The nonsense of "don't clean your coins" is just nonsense. If you remove the dirt, the coin will not get pitted or corroded or porous, and I call it "coin conseration." Let me know how you make out. (This writeup was published in the Numismatist magazine, (the ANA's monthly publication)....Bob M., ANA Member 216718

 

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The color addition is mine. Please be very careful here and realize that you are probably going to seriously reduce the value of a mid to upper grade coin unless everything turns out perfectly.

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One BIG problem with the advice: Tarn-X and re-color an old copper, and you have RUINED the collector value. Check prices realized for cleaned (dipped!!!) and recolored LC's and HC's. You'll take a huge "hit".

 

Acetone or xylene work slightly better on old coppers for cleaning "gunk" off of them than MS70, but since MS70 is just "soap" it won't harm the coins at all.

 

Please don't dip a copper EVER. I did on some old but very common and really cheap British coppers to test a variety of chemicals (I was bored ... what can I say!!!) and the Tarn-X and JeweLustre dips wrecked the color (of course) and, to a small but noticeable degree, the lustre (and surfaces) as well.

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One BIG problem with the advice: Tarn-X and re-color an old copper, and you have RUINED the collector value. Check prices realized for cleaned (dipped!!!) and recolored LC's and HC's. You'll take a huge "hit".

 

Acetone or xylene work slightly better on old coppers for cleaning "gunk" off of them than MS70, but since MS70 is just "soap" it won't harm the coins at all.

 

Please don't dip a copper EVER. I did on some old but very common and really cheap British coppers to test a variety of chemicals (I was bored ... what can I say!!!) and the Tarn-X and JeweLustre dips wrecked the color (of course) and, to a small but noticeable degree, the lustre (and surfaces) as well.

 

I have to agree with you on the Tarn-X thing. I've tried it on a few hopeless coins and it does terrible things to the color. Acetone seems to have no effect on the color on the coppers. I've never tried MS70.

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I've tried MS70 on some clunkers and it will change the color somewhat. I think that they safest bet is Blue Ribbon and soft q-tips followed by a brushing with a camel hair brush if you're going to do anything. Dellers darkener has a purpose, and that's to retone copper that someone else screwed up. I haven't seen an old copper yet that can't be picked out of a crowd once dellers is used. Instead of a nice brown color the coin usually ends up very dark, sometimes just about black.

 

Some people swear by a long olive oil soak followed by a gentle working of the verdigris and dirt around the devices with a toothpick or large thorn. The problem here of course is that the dirt may scratch the copper if pushed around on the surface.

 

Best thing to do is buy some old copper clunkers, even foreign, and experiment. You'll soon see that there is no real good answer to the age old question of grubby copper coins.

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I've tried MS70 on some clunkers and it will change the color somewhat.  I think that they safest bet is Blue Ribbon and soft q-tips followed by a brushing with a camel hair brush if you're going to do anything.  Dellers darkener has a purpose, and that's to retone copper that someone else screwed up.  I haven't seen an old copper yet that can't be picked out of a crowd once dellers is used.  Instead of a nice brown color the coin usually ends up very dark, sometimes just about black.

 

Some people swear by a long olive oil soak followed by a gentle working of the verdigris and dirt around the devices with a toothpick or large thorn.  The problem here of course is that the dirt may scratch the copper if pushed around on the surface.

 

Best thing to do is buy some old copper clunkers, even foreign, and experiment.  You'll soon see that there is no real good answer to the age old question of grubby copper coins.

 

I have to agree that there's no real answer for grubby old coppers, but the coins will continue to detiorate if the harmful chemicals aren't removed and/or neutralized. I believe that sometimes the cleaning/conserving is simply the lessor of two evils.

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As far as i'm concerned should you use this Tarn-X stuff and you coin comes out shiny and new, then leave it that way. (Maybe i'm biased cos i have a thing for full lustre copper coins above all else), But in my view dipping it once was damaging it, then going and retoning it on purpose is damaging it twice. It's adding insult to injury.

 

I'd rather have a coin described as;

 

VF - Bright (Cleaned)

 

than;

 

VF - Cleaned and retoned.

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As far as i'm concerned should you use this Tarn-X stuff and you coin comes out shiny and new, then leave it that way. (Maybe i'm biased cos i have a thing for full lustre copper coins above all else), But in my view dipping it once was damaging it, then going and retoning it on purpose is damaging it twice. It's adding insult to injury.

 

'Twould be nice if it just brought back the original mint brightness, but it doesn't. The coin might be bright, but it'll resemble a pumpkin much more than a coin. The color is hideous.

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Guest Stujoe

Some of the obviously messed with copper I have seen that is 'shiny' also has kind of an ugly pinkish tone to it. I don't know what causes it but it is :ninja: I stay away from obviously cleaned copper. I really prefer brown or a mellow red//brown to the red (or orange or pink or whatever) stuff. Unless the contaminent is actively destroying the coin, I would rather have a gunky brown example than a shined up one. If the contaminent is active, I would rather just get rid of the coin.

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Some of the obviously messed with copper I have seen that is 'shiny' also has kind of an ugly pinkish tone to it.  I don't know what causes it but it is :ninja: I stay away from obviously cleaned copper. I really prefer brown or a mellow red//brown to the red (or orange or pink or whatever) stuff. Unless the contaminent is actively destroying the coin, I would rather have a gunky brown example than a shined up one. If the contaminent is active, I would rather just get rid of the coin.

 

 

That shiney pinkish tone usually comes from dipping in something like TarnX.

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Copper coins i like them full red or not at all.

 

 

I have cleaned many a copper coin in my time, (mostly worn Victorian pennies) often in vinegar.

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Guest Stujoe
That shiney pinkish tone usually comes from dipping in something like TarnX.

 

Thanks Art. I figured it was some kind of chemical thing. Makes sense that it is a common one.

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Yeah, I hate that, we have copper pans and all the copper cleaners turn them pink at first, it takes a few days before they look copper again. :ninja: I couldn't stand seeing coins look like that.

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Are there any homemade remedies available? (Olive oil was mentioned above; soap and water? etc.?) The above products are not available here. I have a bunch of old Finnish copper that I inherited, most of it has some level of verdigris and/or dirt and grime. None of these are of high significant value. I am not looking to "clean" them as such, but just to try and neutralize the damage as best I can. The coins are from my great-uncle, and thus for sentimental reasons, I do want to keep these in my collection. I am just trying to figure a way to give them some minor conservation.

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Are there any homemade remedies available? (Olive oil was mentioned above; soap and water? etc.?) The above products are not available here. I have a bunch of old Finnish copper that I inherited, most of it has some level of verdigris and/or dirt and grime. None of these are of high significant value. I am not looking to "clean" them as such, but just to try and neutralize the damage as best I can. The coins are from my great-uncle, and thus for sentimental reasons, I do want to keep these in my collection. I am just trying to figure a way to give them some minor conservation.

 

Sisu, the best things to use to remove junk from copper are either acetone or xylene. Neutralization occurs when the debris is removed. Neither product will remove the permanent hard green stuff, however.

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Sisu, the best things to use to remove junk from copper are either acetone or xylene. Neutralization occurs when the debris is removed. Neither product will remove the permanent hard green stuff, however.

Someone recomended vinegar.........anyone know if this is a good way to clean my old cents?

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I've tried a couple different things on some junk wheaties.

 

Vinegar: Removed some dirt and crud, but changed the color slightly.

 

Coke: Didn't really do much.

 

Soap and Water: Removed the dirt and crud.

 

Copper Cleaner: Awful. The wheatie is pretty in kind of a special fake way.

 

Sorry for not having more specific details. I think I'm going to play with some different things this fall. I'd like to take a closer look at the chemistry involved.

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