Understanding Toned Coins



Do not tone it down

Coin toning can actually up or lower the value of coins. Natural coin toning can be quite beautiful. It can also be quite ugly.

And because beauty is often times in the eye of the beholder, placing a value on a coin due to its toning can present problems.

Should you pay extra or less for toned coins? After all, a coin that is toned is going through a form of corrosion, right?

We are talking about a discoloration or patina that forms due to reactions to the metal with the elements. Air, water, humidity; all can result in a coloration changein a coin or parts of it.

The reaction that creates toning can vary from metal to metal, silver gold copper nickel and so on.

Coins which are toned are in a normal stage of the process. Do not worry about it, and if stored properly there is no problem. Only being in a vacuum will stop all changes.

Your coin will not disintegrate or go to a non-collectible state.

Even in worse cases, the tone color will usually take years to get to its darkest and least attractive appearance.

Nowadays, a toned coin is appealing, not a detraction.

Spots on gold coins, spots on copper coins, and milk spots on silver coins are not really part of eye appeal, but they are part of the grade and grade deductions are made similar to those made for marks or hairlines. Note that in some instances, spots can appear subsequent to grading. In the case of copper coins, the spots would result in a grading deduction, and, since there are often environmental factors. For modern silver issues, spotting is a Mint acknowledged problem. For modern silver coins, it is possible for two coins to have the same technical grade and one be spotted and one be spot-free. In these instances, the spotted coins will command a lesser price in the marketplace.

You could call it tarnish, but that has a negative sound but same on the science level. As long as it is on a natural level, its fine. Do not arificially tone it. You will most likely ruin it.

There are ways to tell if toning adds value to your coin.

For most people its eye appeal. If a coin is not good looking, unless its real rare, folks are not going to buy it. On the other hand, if it is for your collection, and you like it, end of story. If collecting was all about shiny coins there would not be a problem with cleaning and polishing like your bumper.

I would say, not considering rarity, coins with high populations but few toners, would be looking for a nice variant with toning. Morgans are a good example. There are plenty around, but one that is toned would be an example unto itself and very desireable. I will amend my article later by adding in a toned Morgan which is not rare, but pricey due to extreme toning.

To make a point, I once sent in 20 Morgans for grading, and one came back reverse mounted due to extreme toning on the reverse.

Obviously, the graders liked toners. Good for me on that one.


Some folks like to add their own value by doctoring a coin. I call that forgery. There are ways to do it, but when it gets to the grader, they will know and you will get DETAILS on your coin or it may even come back ungraded.

I would be quite wary buying toned raw coins. Best to buy graded toned coins and that gives you a nice level of confidence. Any method or way of toning a coin beyond natures way, will and can dramatically reduce your coins value.

Numismatic metals tone in different ways. Silver coins as a whole tone more beautifully than those made of other metals. Silver, exposed to the right environmental influences -- to small amounts of hydrogen sulfur in the air or larger amounts in albums, envelopes, canvas bags, paper rolls, leather wallets or purses, rubber bands, and some glues and paints -- can naturally turn subtle or sometimes brilliant shades of yellow, magenta, turquoise, and other colors before eventually turning black. The toning on silver is typically silver sulfide.

Copper is the most chemically reactive numismatic metal used in the U.S., and it and its alloys -- bronze (primarily copper and tin) and brass (primarily copper and zinc) -- usually turn from red to a dark and fairly unattractive brown. But copper can turn green as well (sometimes called verdigris). Sometimes copper and its alloys can pick up multiple subtle and attractive shades of red, brown, green, blue, and yellow.

Ancient bronze coins can pick up an attractive or desert sand patina. This sandy beige appearance over all or part of the coins surface results from the deposition of microscopic grains of silicate from sand or sandy soil.

Nickel generally tones only slightly, typically becoming hazy gray though sometimes light golden or pale blue. Nickel coins can also pick up color as a result of PVC contamination from being stored in soft vinyl flips. On nickel, wild rainbow toning, in which multiple colors progress from one to another, is usually artificial.

Conclusion: Toned coins are a matter of preference. I like them, you may not. Always be sure of how it got its patina. I would stay away from raw coins totally, especially toned items. Price on toned items can vary greatly, so watch the premium you add to one when buying. No one but you may appreciate the color.

and lastly, if it is for your collection, and you like it, GET IT!

Capt Brian





INFORMATION HERE COURTESY OF COINSGUIDE, COINNEWS, and personal knowledge agreeing with some verbage on line.


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