NCS Conservation: Glue Residue

Posted on 3/14/2017

The ill effects of glue residue can range from yellow toning to environmental damage.

Residues are not only unattractive but, more importantly, can create permanent surface changes that will damage the coins we value. While many residues do not have specific causes some do. Glue residue can actively change the surface chemistry of a coin and, if not removed, leave it ineligible for NGC grading.

Glue residue is often a raised substance on the surface of a coin and usually on one side in a specific location. The substance is typically a different texture than the coin's original metal surface. With time, glue residue will yellow leaving an unappealing visual indication. Many times, though not always, glue residue will be sticky to the touch and attract further dirt and lint from the immediate environment.

1878-S $1
Yellowed glue residue can be seen on the obverse.
Before conservation
Click images to enlarge.

1878-S $1
Glue residue safely removed with minimal effect on the surface.
After conservation
Click images to enlarge.

A coin can acquire glue residue from a myriad of scenarios. These may include mounting in a holder or frame with a hardened liquid adhesive or held in place with a strip of transparent tape. Coins may have been secured by various adhesive substances for display or storage when it was used in daily commerce and long before it had any additional numismatic value.

When glue residue is present, professional removal is recommended. Removing glue residue can come with some concerns. Most of the time glue residue can be removed from the surface leaving a clean, relatively damage free surface. Many times, however, the glue substance can affect the surface. The result may range from a pattern in the toning to irreversible environmental damage in a clear shape where the glue was. When the visual difference is a case of toning, steps can usually be taken by the NCS conservators to minimize the impact. Permanent environmental damage, however, cannot be easily minimized.

1856C Mexico 8 Escudo Gold
Glue residue in the shape of transparent tape can be seen across the constitution.
Before conservation
Click images to enlarge.

Glue Residue safely removed with minimal effect on the surface.
After conservation
Click images to enlarge.

Glue residue can sometimes be mistaken for a mint error. This is especially true if the glue residue has the impression of another coin in it appearing as a sought after multiple strike mint error. The glue containing the secondary image will be yellowed and will be at least somewhat transparent to see the true surface of the coin. This thick type of glue will often contain air bubbles that even when tiny are observable. The secondary image will also have the visual texture difference even if it's a shiner matte appearance compared to the tie surface of the coin. Glue removal will be recommended in cases where it is masquerading as a mint error. Following removal this coin will be a standard non-mint error coin.

In all cases it is best to remove glue residue from the surface of a coin. NCS Conservation has developed techniques to safely remove the residue while leaving little lasting evidence in cases where environmental damage has not occurred. Following residue removal, most coins can be transferred to NGC for grading and encapsulation.

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