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My first time to use a coin cleaning solution (dip), I ruined an uncirculated set of steel cents I had just purchased.

I wanted my attorney dad to file universal coin lawsuits against the cleaning solution company and the dealer who sold me the dip.

He helped me process what had happened and made me realize I had to tak e responsibility for my own poor choices and not file coin lawsuits universally.

 

You see, I was twelve and I had just mowed a neighbor’s yard on a hot day for $3. That money was, as my Dad would say, burning a hole in my pocket. We went to a coin shop and I purchased my first uncirculated set of steel cents. I also purchased a jar of a popular coin cleaning solution.

I didn’t know that most coin cleaning solutions are acidic and 1943 steel cents were made with a highly reactive zinc coating. They fizzed like Alka Seltzer’s in that dip and came out dull, seriously ugly and worth 3¢, not $3.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s I taught over twenty seminars for the American Numismatic Association. I began each seminar with a simple universal statement “do not clean your coins” and I then told my tragic steel cent story.

The last Monday of the month, I have a talk show on KLVI-560 radio in Beaumont, Texas from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. CST. I universally implore my listeners “do not clean your coins!” I often recant my 12 year old horror story.

You can’t ever undo the damage of improperly cleaning a coin. Experts can tell quickly if a coin has been improperly handled or even dipped too long or too often.

Do not wipe a coin with a cloth or rag as it can leave hairline scratches.

Do not use a brush on a coin as that can leave hairline scratches.

Do not dip a coin into a coin cleaner unless an expert is involved. He will probably dilute acidic dips in half as straight dip is usually too strong.

Experts often use an air bulb to gently blow surface contaminants off. They also may rinse a coin with warm water and air dry or gently pat, not rub, dry with a soft cloth, not a paper towel. They may use an organic solvent like acetone or trichlorotrifluoroethane. These chemicals should only be properly used by an expert in a well ventilated area. Skin absorption of these chemicals can also be harmful. When experts decide to clean a coin they usually have consulted with another expert and practiced on similar inexpensive coins. If you must clean a coin do what expert’s do first.