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Tarnished Coins


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I usually collect Bank notes and so not posted on this forum I do have a few proof set of coins which I usually collect every few years.. I have some from South Africa nd the set I have is not in any plastic, its just directly in the case and the coins are exposed when opened .. The cases have been stored for a few years in a safe, and now they seem to have tarnished badly see pictures.. Does this do anyhting to the value ? is this something that is normal over time and is it safe to clean them .. (or should that be left to a professional)








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Leave them as they are.


If you mess with them, then they are messed with, and no longer untouched. If you want to sell them later and the buyer does not like the colors, the buyer will take care of that.


Some people pay more for interesting natural toning and your silver certainly seems to qualify.

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Photos are not clear enough to actually tell what is on that first coin. The first coins appears to be corroded or as you say, tarnished. This is not toning. Toning is sort of what has happened to that second, dark coin but in that instance, the toning has gone to excessive states. Way to dark to be considered nice or decent toning.

Now the confusion. Why the case of other coins that appear to have no problems?

Regardless, my suggestion is to put all those in a Zip Lock Plastic bag and push out as much air as possible to stop further problems. As to that first coin with the problem in the center. Again, due to the photo not being clear, it is difficult to give any accurate advise.

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Thanks to all for your help, they were just in their boxes as normal (wrapped in a cardboard sleeve) and left in the safe. It seems very strange that the coins have coroded so much over a few years.. is it a normal thing for "Proof " Coins to be in a box without any other kind of protection


I have now kept them in a zip lock bag until I can get to the local coin shop in London and get them to have a look

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The first coins appears to be corroded or as you say, tarnished. This is not toning. Toning is sort of what has happened to that second, dark coin but in that instance, the toning has gone to excessive states.


I have to disagree with Carl on this. That will open up yet another long and pointless 92-sided argument on Toning.


Chemically, there is no difference between toning and corrosion. It is in the eye of the beholder.


When copper tones dark, that makes it hard to scan. A dark coin can still look very nice in hand in natural light. We cannot know from a scan. Scans are transductions of mechanical perceptions. Not bad, but not real life.


I do agree with Carl that less air is better. I also underscore Mark Stilson's suggestion for a dessicant, one of those little bags of "gel" that come in vitamins, etc., to absorb moisture.


However, a "baggie" may not be the best choice as the plastic can degrade and cause further damage.


We can go around on this until we are blue in the face.


Finally, realize that when anyone comes to any discussion board like this - or for roses or dogs or antique glue sticks - all you get is a bunch of opinions. You still have to vet your sources. And then we get into another never-ending list of posts centered on "I've been collecting for 105 years, and let me tell you..."

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  • 2 weeks later...

For one thing a Zip Lock Plastic Bag is not a Baggie. And I contacted the manufacturer as to their products safety for coins. And they stated if their Zip Lock bags are safe for foods, they are more than safe for coins.

Many suggest a moisture absorbing item to be placed in the area of thier coins. This is a decent idea but has massive drawbacks. Any item that absorbs moisture has a saturation point and when that is obtained, that product could do more damage than good if not reactivated or discarded. Placing such a product inside a Zip Lock bag would for a while be effective but eventually be saturated with moisture and give off possibly more than is wanted.

It is rather true that toning, tarnishing, corroding, staining are basically the same. BUT not exactly. The normal toning of metals is just that, toning due to normal reactions with items in the air such as Oxygen, moisture and a small amount of Sulfur Oxides. Corroding of metals usually is referring to a chemical reaction with other gassious substances such as Chlorine, Flourine, etc. Staining is similar to Toning though and is usually associated with surface only reactions whereas corroding is usually associated with deep penetrations of the metal.

I've put all my Albums in Zip Lock Plastic Bags for as long as they have been around. No other moisture absorbing products inside those either. I simply push out as much air as possible during closing. On really valuable Albums I use two of those with one inside the other. Prior to Zip Lock bags I used to use any Food storage plstic bags for the same reasons that no air, no moisture, no gasses, NO PROBLEMS.

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There is no arguing with the facts. Thanks, Carl. Ziplock it is.


I will not quibble on toning versus whatever.

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