What You Need To Know About Improper Cleaning of Coins
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This post is an addendum to the WYNTK posting by TomB, March 4, 2006. This post further explores altered coin surfaces and improper cleaning. I wanted to discuss and illustrate (3) improperly cleaned coins that I purchased raw from a major, national auction firm/dealer and also from (2) large national dealer/collector/authors. I will state up-front that I believe these coins were sold in good faith by these (3) firms and they not aware that the coins were “improperly cleaned” and had altered surfaces. The bottom line is that buying raw coins, sight-unseen is risky. Even respected dealers can be fooled.

 

These three coins all looked “as represented” without magnification. The alterations were expertly done in each case. One of the following three coins had even been previously graded by ANACS as MS62. A major mistake in each of these transactions was that I waited too long to carefully inspect these coins under magnification. Plus, I did not send them in for certification until I had owned them for a period of time after the dealer’s warranty had expired. I mistakenly put entirely too much trust in the dealer’s reputations.

 

The following are pictures with descriptions of the problems with and the improper cleaning procedures that were used on each coin. All three coins have been conserved by NCS to expose their problems.

 

1857Cent.jpg1857CentRev.jpg

Example I: 1857 Flying Eagle cent (S-12) which was sold to me (raw) by a major dealer in this series. Additionally, the variety is uncommon which added to the price of the coin. I submitted it to NGC and it was BB’ed as: “Spot Removed”. The coin was then sent to NCS and was returned as: “Uncirculated Detail”, “Improperly Cleaned”. The coin had a small carbon or verdigris (?) spot in the right obverse field, next to the right wing of the eagle. This spot was removed by mechanical means and retoned in an attempt to cover up the alteration. The cleaned area is very small and resembles a carbon spot.

 

1860Dime.jpg1860DimeRev.jpg

Example II: 1860 Seated Liberty dime which had, at one time, been encapsulated in an ANACS holder as MS62. The coin was sold to me by a major collector/dealer of this series. The coin was smoke-toned very dark brown with green highlights (see attached scan) when I received it from the dealer. I submitted it to NGC and it was BB’ed as “Artificial Toning”. I submitted the coin to NCS for conservation and it was returned as: “Uncirculated Detail”, “Improperly Cleaned”. The dark smoke toning was artificially applied to obscure the swirl marks from an earlier polishing. These polish marks are now visible in the coin fields after NCS conservation.

 

1913-SDime.jpg1913-SDimeRev.jpg

Example III: 1913-S Barber dime purchased several years ago, as a raw coin through a major-dealer’s auction. It is a key-date Barber dime in uncirculated condition and had been part of a large, nationally known collection. The coin was cataloged and graded as MS63 by the auctioneer. I submitted the coin to NGC and it was BB’ed as “Improperly Cleaned”. I then submitted the coin to NCS for conservation and it was returned as: “Uncirculated Detail”, “Improperly Cleaned”. There is a dimple or planchet flaw above the jaw line of liberty that someone had attempted to polish out. The coin doctor then applied wax or putty to the polished surface covering up the alteration. The polished area and the dimple are now visible only after NCS conservation.

 

Hopefully, this post can aid others in spotting mechanical alteration problems or at least remind collectors to use magnification before accepting raw coins after purchase.

Edited by Oldtrader3

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11,425 posts

I'm sorry to read of what happened to you, but this is a great post to educate people on the importance of careful inspection of every coin they own, regardless of source or certification. Nice work!

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Hey, thanks for this post. These kinds of posts are especially helpful to collectors like myself who are still trying to figure everything out.

 

Thanks again, Winston

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Thank you for excellent info. When you say magnifacation, do you mean 5X or something significantly higher?

Now I'm more worried about the ones I sent off on Friday.

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Generally, most advanced collectors do not use higher than 7X magnification. I use a 7X Toolmaker's Loupe from SPI. Higher magnification begins to make it difficult to differenciate toolmarks from other marks. Most, even uncirculated, coins have too many luster breaks and other small surface marks which make higher magnification useless.

 

I do not feel too badly about these coins. They were a combined error that fooled both me and a dealer "expert". To have only obtained (3) of these in (40) years of collecting is probably not bad odds, considering the number of coins that I have owned over this time span (many 100's). They certainly are a good education tool as well.

Edited by Oldtrader3

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Charlie----Great Post! I would like to know how long ago did you purchase each of these three coins? And how much of a percentage of value do you figure that you lost at that time? And, in the meantime, have you recovered that lost value?? Could you sell them now for more money than you have in them?? Thanks. Bob [supertooth]

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I agree with you, Charlie, about magnification power for examining coins. Typically, I use an inexpensive, disposable 5x aspheric Bausch & Lomb. I write that these are disposable because it seems that every show I do, I find one of these on the floor. They cost about $10, I believe. On better coins, or coins that are deeply toned, I use a 10x Zeiss from an analytical microscope and once you get used to the peculiarties of such a lens, you will find there is nothing better out there.

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Charlie, The FE was obvious to me but the 1860 dime would have bamboozled me based upon the photo. It looks like a nice coin there, probably much better than after conservation.

 

Could you post the after pic of the 1860 and the before of the 1913 S dime if available.

 

p.s. Now, just over a year after LASIK surgery, I am still disadvantaged since I lost my immaculent near vision. I very rarely depended upon a loop before but I guess that I need to get in the habit of using my Zeiss more often.

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Thanks for this great and informative post.

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Great Post - I love the real life examples. I believe that really helps get the point across.

 

PS - your record of 3 problem coins in 40 years is exceptional....

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Bob: I have owned the 1860 dime for about (6) months. The 1857 cent for 3-4 years and the 1913-S dime for probably 7-8 years. I paid retail for each of the coins. The 1913-S dime has increased to 150% of it's original price ($550). The others probably much less of an increase. I do not know what the coins would sell for now. My guess is probably AU50/55 money. I would sell them in their NCS slabs if I ever do.

 

Victor: The 1860 dime does not scan well, but I have attached a scan of the coin before conservation. The smoking of the surface is darker and covered the polish marks quite well, but you can see them now in bright sunlight. The coin also has clashed dies.

60-PDime.jpg

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Many thanks for this post, Charlie. We all need to learn to be careful out there.

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Thanks for the great post oldtrader.

 

I do have a question for the pros on here. If the graders grade these coins in just a few seconds (like I've read quite a few times), how do they catch these problems? What type of tools (lights, magnification) do they use to see these problems so quickly?

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As others have stated......great post....!!!!

 

I also wanted to add a note of caution that being observant doesn't just mean spotting cleaned or altered coins................I can think of a couple of times over the past 2 years that I have bought nice eye appealing coins only to get them home and re-examine them and find problems like scratches. The problems were clearly visable with and without magnification but I was so enamered with the good points of the coin that I didn't pay attention to the negatives. I would imagine this could hold true for cleaned coins as well.....if the price was right we may not pay close attention like we ought too before jumping in.

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That's a good point, KC.

 

About six months ago I had in-hand a gorgeous PF65 Seated dime that had terrific, original color. However, it also had myriad and fairly deep scratches throughout the open fields on the reverse and also scattered about the obverse. The scratches were hidden by the toning. These were not die polish lines, and the coin should never have graded PF65, especially since it was in one of the "big two" holders. Needless to say, I did not buy the coin.

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I'm sure it was a great post, but the images are gone now, so it isn't all that useful today.

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