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To smooth or not to smooth?


ewomack
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Whether or not one accepts "smoothed" coins sounds mostly like a personal preference. I'm guessing that it overall depends on the level of "smoothing." From what I've read, "smoothing" overdone can easily become "tooling."

The coin below, which I do not own, is listed as "XF, smoothed." I like the overall look of it, but that word "smoothed" makes me wonder. Plus, Sear suggests that this particular type exists in relative plenitude, so perhaps holding out for one not "smoothed" makes more sense?

rG6ZE2d5cL5jxMP9Fg47N7SpyW3DBq.jpg

What are your opinions on "smoothing?" Is it bad? Really bad? Outright deplorable?

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I won't buy a coin, which is described by the seller as "smoothed". However, in ancient numismatics, the word "smoothed" seems to have many different definitions, depending on whom you ask. In the definitions below, I define "patina" to mean the hard layer of corrosion, often green or brown, for bronze coins.

Smoothed : Definition 1 : Some of the patina has been removed, but none of the metal has been removed. However, if I remember correctly, the patina is a combination of the metal and corrosion. In other words, if I remember correctly, the patina contains some of the original metal of the coin, combined with corrosion. Therefore, if I remember correctly, if patina has been removed, then metal has been removed.

Smoothed : Definition 2 : Metal has been removed, in the fields. Often, such a coin has been aritifically re-patinated.

Smoothed : Definition 3 : Metal has been removed, in the devices, and in the fields. Often, such a coin has been artificially re-patinated.

Smoothed : Definition 4 : Patina has been selectively removed, in the fields, but not in the devices, in order to make the devices more well defined.

Smoothed : Definition 5 : Patina and metal have been selectively removed, in the fields, but not in the devices, in order to make the devices more well defined. Often, such a coin has been artificially re-patinated.

Smoothed : Definition 6 : Tooled. Often, such a coin has been artificially re-patinated.

Just looking at the photos of the OP coin, I can't tell, that it is smoothed. However, I'm not an expert. Perhaps the seller discovered the smoothing, by looking at the coin, with a coin microscope, and saw signs of a dremel or some other tool. Or, perhaps the coin is unnaturally smooth, and not rough enough. I don't know.

Edited by sand
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P.S. : It seems that, depending on whom you ask, smoothing is done, for one or more of the following purposes. 

1. To make the patina appear smoother.

2. To make the edges of the devices more well defined.

3. To tool the coin. This includes carving a design out of the patina, or carving a design out of the metal.

Edited by sand
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P.P.S. : Another problem with removing patina is, how do you know, where to stop? If the patina is thick, then one can carve an entire design, out of the patina. One can selectively remove patina from the devices, and carve lines and trenches here and there. In my opinion, this is tooling, even if one doesn't touch the un-corroded part of the metal. You don't know, if the result, is an accurate reflection of the original design.

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David Vagi from his Coinage and History of the Roman Empire - "Because of the effects of oxidation on coins, they often emerge from the earth with pits or encrustation. The desire to smooth out these rough areas and create a more pleasing object hails back to the Renaissance, when collecting the objects of ancient Greece and Rome became fashionable. When encrustations are expertly removed without damaging the metal, it can greatly improve a coin's appearance. To qualify as "smoothing" the work should be limited to the fields of the coin. When it is also applied to the devices, or is done with severity in the fields, it must be classified as "tooling", which is the more serious form of this procedure.'

From NGC: TOOLED - Refers to either the smoothing of a coin’s fields to remove scratches, corrosion and other forms of damage or to the restoration of lost details through use of a graver or knife.

So, basically Vagi is saying smoothing is only applied to encrustation removal during cleaning, anything more than that (altering the metal) is considered tooling.

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On October 13, Noonans is auctioning (among other things) a collection of 53 Roman Sestertii, "the Property of a Gentleman." See https://www.numisbids.com/n.php?p=sale&sid=6082&cid=189220 . A number of the coins are described as being smoothed in the fields. Some more obviously than others, to the extent of looking a bit artificial. Would any of you be reluctant to bid on the sestertii described that way? I've never knowingly bought a Roman bronze that was smoothed, but I'm sure I have inadvertently. Which is one reason I don't buy Roman bronzes very often. Even if the practice is considered legitimate as long as it doesn't extend to tooling, I'm not confident in my abilities to detect the ones on which someone went too far.

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