Jump to content

Cleaning Ancient Coins: A Before & After Comparison


Kaleun96
 Share

Recommended Posts

This can sometimes be a bit of a touchy subject, and usually for good reason, but being able to remove certain types of deposits can be a handy skill to have in a collector's toolbox. To that end, I've made a new page for my website focussing on 15 coins I've cleaned to various degrees over the past couple of years. I usually try to take a "before" photo prior to  cleaning, not only so that I can see the difference afterwards, but also so I can ensure I haven't damaged the coin in any way that's not easily visible to the naked eye or through my loupe.

I almost only clean silver coins, the exception is treating bronze coins for bronze diseases, so all the following examples are silver coins and some of the methods I mention may only apply to cleaning silver coins. That being said, this is not a guide or instruction on how to clean coins, merely a comparison that I hope is at least interesting, if not educational for some. I also briefly mention some of the reasons I decided to attempt cleaning of a coin and how I thought it turned out, i.e. is there something I would've changed with the benefit of hindsight.

https://artemis-collection.com/showcase/cleaning-coins

Screenshot example of one of the comparisons (it only works on my website).

Drag the slider in the middle to the left or right to unveil more or less of the "after" photo.

You can zoom with your mouse scrollwheel or by using the tools in the upper left corner.

image.png.64bbae52deda0d490ffd86bfd4be053c.png

N.B. This is a new tool for my website, combing the "Ultra Zoom" viewer some of you may know with a slider to let you compare two images simultaneously. There may be bugs or other issues, please let me know if you spot any!

N.B.2. Some of the "after" photos may have been taken months later with the coin since developing toning that wasn't previously there. I also didn't necessarily photograph the coin the same way for the before and after photos so it may also appear different due to reasons of lighting, angle, and editing.

  • Like 8
  • Clap 2
  • Heart Eyes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Kaleun96 said:

This can sometimes be a bit of a touchy subject, and usually for good reason, but being able to remove certain types of deposits can be a handy skill to have in a collector's toolbox. To that end, I've made a new page for my website focussing on 15 coins I've cleaned to various degrees over the past couple of years. I usually try to take a "before" photo prior to  cleaning, not only so that I can see the difference afterwards, but also so I can ensure I haven't damaged the coin in any way that's not easily visible to the naked eye or through my loupe.

I almost only clean silver coins, the exception is treating bronze coins for bronze diseases, so all the following examples are silver coins and some of the methods I mention may only apply to cleaning silver coins. That being said, this is not a guide or instruction on how to clean coins, merely a comparison that I hope is at least interesting, if not educational for some. I also briefly mention some of the reasons I decided to attempt cleaning of a coin and how I thought it turned out, i.e. is there something I would've changed with the benefit of hindsight.

https://artemis-collection.com/showcase/cleaning-coins

Screenshot example of one of the comparisons (it only works on my website).

Drag the slider in the middle to the left or right to unveil more or less of the "after" photo.

You can zoom with your mouse scrollwheel or by using the tools in the upper left corner.

image.png.64bbae52deda0d490ffd86bfd4be053c.png

N.B. This is a new tool for my website, combing the "Ultra Zoom" viewer some of you may know with a slider to let you compare two images simultaneously. There may be bugs or other issues, please let me know if you spot any!

N.B.2. Some of the "after" photos may have been taken months later with the coin since developing toning that wasn't previously there. I also didn't necessarily photograph the coin the same way for the before and after photos so it may also appear different due to reasons of lighting, angle, and editing.

Amazing job cleaning coins, especially Lysimachos! Well done

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting.

Of course, what might be considered as improvement may be in the eye of the beholder.  

In some cases, such as the Lysimachos, there was an obvious improvement.  In others, once the horn silver was removed, rough surfaces were exposed.  Or, where toning was removed, the loss of contrast made the devices look flatter or more mushy.  In my opinion, a nice natural toning can actually improve a coin’s details by adding a ‘shadowing’ effect in the layers of the devices — As is the case with my thinking that the Antiochos I Tet’s appearance was more appealing beforehand.

That stated, most of these turned out improved.

Thanks for sharing.

Edited by Herodotus
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, Herodotus said:

Interesting.

Of course, what might be considered as improvement may be in the eye of the beholder.  

In some cases, such as the Lysimachos, there was an obvious improvement.  In others, once the horn silver was removed, rough surfaces were exposed.  Or, where toning was removed, the loss of contrast made the devices look flatter or more mushy.  In my opinion, a nice natural toning can actually improve a coin’s details by adding a ‘shadowing’ effect in the layers of the devices — As is the case with my thinking that the Alexander Balas Tet’s appearance was more appealing beforehand.

That stated, most of these turned out improved.

Thanks for sharing.

Yeah I talk a lot about revealing surface issues in regards to some specific coins where rougher surfaces were revealed underneath. Part of it is a learning process so you can better predict how they will turn out, though I don't think there's any one coin in there that I regret cleaning entirely. Usually it's just a certain aspect of it where I could have done things differently.

But the differences in how some photos were taken probably explains a lot of any "shadowing" differences. The Lysimachos, for example, has a tonne of contrast in the "after" image but a lot of that is due to the lighting setup. Other coins go the other way, where I reduced the contrast of the devices with diffused lighting. You can make a coin look entirely different with small changes to the lighting. 

Worth keeping in mind the photos don't always illustrate how they look in-hand normally. The Balas in particular, as well as the Antiochos VIII, had quite poor appeal in-hand. The Balas looked completely flat and dusty, while the Antiochos had the brightest surface I've ever seen, and not in a lustrous way. In those cases, I would prefer to start the toning again from scratch if the surface underneath is good and it means I can remove some light deposits that cover the toning or features.

Some, like the Paphos stater, have already toned considerably since I took the "after" photo. I've been meaning to rephotograph it for that reason. Though I'm not a fan of a lot of toning either so hopefully it slows down a touch 😅

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of late I do not buy coins that require any cleaning on my part.  I used to but overall though I was generally happy with my efforts, the coins I would attempt to clean would be generally less expensive coins, so any missteps would be marginal. However back in 2019 I bought this coin.

Ar Tetradrachm of Ptolemy IV Obv Jugate busts of Serapis and Isis right Rv Eagle standing left head reverted cornucopia on shoulder CPE 892 13.99 grms 26 mm. Photo by W. Hansen

Sv1123-1ptIV.jpg.081d9c56970b4e83a43db0118725c141.jpgThis coin was illustrated in an Ars Classica Auction back in 1925. However if you look closely you can see a hard brown incrustation in the hair and in the eye of Serapis. As this coin is rather pricy I really did not want to mess with it that much. However one day I decided to try. I really only wanted to clear away the gunk around the eye. So I placed the coin in a glass of water intending to take it out in a few minutes. However I forgot about it I got involved with some other project and realized over an hour later that i had a coin swimming in a glass of water. So I pulled it out.

Sv1123-2ptIV.jpg.d51465cb8c15083fe03d37eafc2d6971.jpg

The same coin after cleaning. Photo by W. Hansen. I guess I was lucky all that went was the brown colored gunk. It had completely dissolved away. The rest of the  coin is intact including its rather identifiable patina which was something I did wish to keep. I cannot say if this coin was incrusted by the brown stuff since before 1925. Perhaps a subsequent owner got sloppy with something. But  some incrustation that was driving me to distraction for some time is gone, and I did not have to mess around with it too much. 

  • Like 9
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...