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I. R. Bama's Blog

20 Jun 2020

Dipping: The Third Rail of Numismatics

Coins | I. R. Bama

Do you want to dip? Just a pinch between the cheek and gums? No not that kind of dipping, this of course is about numismatics. Dipping is probably the third rail of coin collecting. We know its done and we see examples of dipped coins, though the prevailing opinion appears to be this is a huge DON'T.
Nevertheless, I've seen items used to dip discussed and listed for sale, even in the Introduction to Numismatics diploma course there is a mention of the product Brightlustre sold at coins shops. In the course the student is warned of the effects of dipping a coin multiple times and devaluing the grade and, subsequently dropping the value of the coin in question.
I bought an 1853 Type I gold dollar recently from my favorite coin dealer and was somewhat horrified when the owner asked me if I wanted him to dip it. I have to say I was slightly horrified at the idea because of what I have previously read!
So in full disclosure of where I stand, the question is going to be asked, "So Mike, have you ever dipped a coin?" Well, I have. I've used acetone and isopropyl alcohol to clean some really dirty coins and I'm really not sure that I will use acetone again. It seemed to turn some pennies white. I left it in way too long due to the heavy deposits of dirt on the coin. I wasn't trying this on any valuable coin, it was more to see if this was going to be helpful. The alcohol didn't seem to help much one way or another.
The other thing is to dry them I gently dabbed them with a cotton ball with out rubbing. That probably wasn't any good either.
In any event, I'm probably giving up any attempts to remove heavy dirt deposits for the time being until I can learn more from the collective wisdom available to me on this great forum.

Comments

coinsbygary

Level 5

I have used NCS on a number of occasions with some results better than others. The last coin I sent had a tarlike sticky substance in the recessed points of the coin. My goal was not to improve eye appeal but to ensure that the coin would not be permanently damaged over time. I was very pleased with the targeted cleaning they did rather than dipping the entire coin. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Follow this link to my writings on the subject with before and after pictures. https://www.ngccoin.com/boards/blogs/entry/11441-i-couldnt-be-more-pleased/

Longstrider

Level 6

Some guys at VamWorld do use acetone successfully but this is on silver coins. Personally I have used, don't laugh, olive oil to remove crud on nasty ancients. Nothing of any value. It works, maybe. I'd like to bring up "Coin Doctors". These people consider themselves restorers. They clean, tone, and alter coins. I know you don't mean these guys in your blog but wanted to bring them up. They also swear TPG can not detect their work. Thanks.

coinsbygary

Level 5

I first used olive oil on an aluminum coin from New Caledonia with great results. That first coin can typically be found in a dealer's junk bin. I do not dip coins but if I were I'd practice on junk coins before moving on to something more valuable.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Yes I just read about the olive oil. One of the most minimally invasive ways of cleaning a coin without damaging.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Long beard raises the interesting and correct point that NGC's conservation is a cleaning process. Here is what they have to say about it: "From within a state-of-the-art secure facility, NCS uses a variety of proprietary techniques to remove harmful surface contaminants, stabilize and protect a coin’s surfaces, and improve eye appeal" and "NCS pioneered a professional approach to numismatic conservation and can safely remove these harmful surface contaminants and often dramatically improve a coin’s eye appeal. Unlike improper cleaning, which will permanently impair a coin’s surfaces, professional conservation from NCS reveals a coin’s originality."

Long Beard

Level 5

There is beyond a doubt a way to clean a coin without the fear of it being graded by the third party firms. That would be to have it conserved. NGC does it every day if you are willing to pay the additional fee. Which brings me to the real question. Are "conserved" and "cleaned" (dipped) not the same meaning? Acetone, not nail polish remover, and a product called MS70 do the job if done properly. Trial and error, so start small and short.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

That is a very good question about the conservation process NGC uses.... I'll see what I can find out and let you know....

It's Mokie

Level 6

I have never dipped but I sometimes run change through the washing machine, they always turn out bright and shiny, but I am not going to try that with anything of numismatic value. (:

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Golfer's comment has led me to look into this deeper, especially his wondering about electronic cleaning methods. I will report back!

Golfer

Level 5

I asked an Ebay seller about his medals. States he takes off PVC. Said it doesnt harm coins or in this case medals. Apparently he and another person at least, has submitted them for grading with no problems. If I bought some, i was thinking of having them graded, but didnt want refusals or holders with cleaned printed on them.

Golfer

Level 5

Isn't there a way now to clean coins without some kind of dipping? A seller on ebay states he cleans coins without harming them. Not sure how. I believe electronic method? I asked this seller if his cleaned medals would grade without being labeled cleaned. He said all of his medals would grade with no problems. Are there safe ways to clean PVC off a coin, or dirt, etc.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

I don't think the issue is if they would grade, but if they would grade lower after cleaning. We can't know unless you take said medal, grade it, crack the slab, clean it and resubmit. The seller you mentioned may be right or he may be wrong. I don't think he can assert that as an absolute truth, though.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

There is another dealer in Charlottesville who keeps most of his coins in the back. He's honest, but having the bulk of the stock in the back is off putting to me. Generally his prices are a little higher than the dealer I go to over in the Valley, but that's Charlottesville for you. I try to avoid going over there at all costs but the exception to the rule is his prices for bullion coin is a little lower. I guess because he does a higher volume of business in that aspect of the market.. So I go there for them over the shop in the valley.

Mike

Level 7

Never clean any coin. There is one dealer by me. I was there once. No coins on display there in the back.Mean while he sold more cleaning fluid than I could carry in three trips. He sells it all. Most dealers are honest then you have guys like this.

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