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Advice sought on Didius Julianus, To clean or not to clean? That is the question.


Dafydd
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Posted (edited)

Apologies to William Shakespeare on the title but please lend me your ears.
I bought a Didius Julianus Denarius at the FUN show yesterday and the whole event surrounding the purchase is described in my OP regarding the FUN show. I was pleased to unexpectedly complete my "year of the five emperors" set although I was aware the coin had issues.

The coin was described as artificially toned by the dealer and I found the coin within a couple of minutes on Coin Archives as being sold by Roma Auctions in their late May sale.

I have taken some images with my cell phone and will try and do a better job when I return home as my images do not do the colour justice. The coin is now a slate grey colour with a barely discernible blue tint. The grade is described by Roma as Good Fine although in my opinion it is only about fine but nevertheless I was happy with it and paid no more than the original auction price, possibly a bit less. My question is , could whatever has been done to it be reversed? I would be happier reverting back to the original state and it there was a foolproof way to do this I would give it a try. Instinct tells me to do nothing and accept what I have but I thought I would ask the question because there are cleverer folk here than me and someone might be able to suggest how this was toned and how that artificial tone could be reversed.

Here is the original Roma Auction image followed by my own images.

thumb01208.jpg

DidianusA.jpg

DidianusB.jpg

Edited by Dafydd
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Posted (edited)

I hope I have understood your wish correctly!

You have bought a coin.
Then you looked for it and found it at Roma London.
But there (at that time) the coin looked different.
For you, the coin at Roma had a nicer colour.
You want to have the colour again, like in the Roma photos?

IF I have understood you correctly - then there is an easy way for you. 

a) Take a good picture of the coin.
b) use an image processing programme
c) put a blue filter on the picture

And you have the Roma colour again 🙂

Because - the pictures of Roma are not "real" - they like to beautify the coins with a blue filter. Wait, I'll just get two coins of mine that I bought at Roma.

Edited by Prieure de Sion
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So now. These are the 2 original pictures from Roma - how I bought the coins there. I can take pictures with my mobile phone tomorrow in daylight. They are completely different colours / shades in real life! COMPLETELY different tint 🙂

image.png.5a6e7bb0301d5cd895377f33632fc646.pngimage.png.622cfc853b300878875614c759eb17ca.png

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Posted (edited)

I wouldn't clean it. The coin seems fine to me. A DJ is a nice find, in most conditions. I'm still waiting to find a nice sestertius of his but have yet to find one. He did strike a ton of them. promising 25,000 sesterces per man in his bid to bribe the Praetorian guard. That works out to around 200 million sestertii in total. It seems, however, that Julianus was not able to pay up, and when Septimius Severus showed up with a real battle-hardened army, they quickly dispatched him.

Edited by Ancient Coin Hunter
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1 hour ago, Spaniard said:

@Dafydd....Sorry could you clarify what you mean by artificially toned? I'm a bit confused here as the coin looks good via the photo.

I think - he found the picture at Roma auction and like this toned from the Roma picture more. And he wants the same toned like at the Roma picture. But again - the Roma pictures have filters - so its not possible to get in real the "Roma toned". But ... I dont know that I understand 100% correct what he want exactly 🙂 

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Posted (edited)

I think OP is referring to the black stain in the Roma photo (on the neck of the bust). Someone removed it. But it is still toned, just without the stain. Presumably, that is now fake toning. So should that be cleaned off, is the question.

Edited by John Conduitt
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Posted · Supporter

The coin is a rarity that has already passed through many hands and been harshly cleaned, scratched etc. Leave it be and be proud you have a coin of such an incredible douchbag. 

Everytime we "clean" a coin, remember for all the gunk that we clean off we clean off more detail. 

Here's my D bag-ianus 

2554873_1644203765.l-removebg-preview.png.bfc51b39daecf040d4d07c0f6d3e82f5.png

could I further clean this? Sure, but why? Lose detail to have a shiny silver slug. Naw. I despise this ruler enough to make this my last purchase of a coin of his and I don't need it looking any worse than it already does. 

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3 hours ago, Prieure de Sion said:

 

Good point you make.

In reality I would not have known it was toned artificially if the dealer hadn't intimated it , I'm not greatly happy that someone decided to "improve it" but I bought it as it is so guess I will leave it alone and not add to its woes.

Thanks

 

Dafydd

3 hours ago, Prieure de Sion said:

 

 

 

So now. These are the 2 original pictures from Roma - how I bought the coins there. I can take pictures with my mobile phone tomorrow in daylight. They are completely different colours / shades in real life! COMPLETELY different tint 🙂

image.png.5a6e7bb0301d5cd895377f33632fc646.pngimage.png.622cfc853b300878875614c759eb17ca.png

 

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Posted · Supporter

@John Conduitt interpreted exactly what I was saying, @Ryro also makes a good point.  Haven given this further thought , I will leave it well alone as I can only probably do more damage. I bought a rare coin I did not expect to find so should be satisfied. I am. Personally if I had bid on the coin I would have been bidding on the stain and would have left it. I saw the coin in the original auction and passed on it because of the stain but someone decided to try and remove it. 

The buying of the coin was a good experience though.

Thanks for all the replies. 

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3 hours ago, Spaniard said:

@Dafydd....Sorry could you clarify what you mean by artificially toned? I'm a bit confused here as the coin looks good via the photo.

Originally it looked a different colour @Spaniard but without seeing the original coin in hand, the comments about the auction house images by @Ryro are really sensible , usually coins turn up looking better than the images in my opinion and experience and it does not take much to enhance a digital image. My issues were that somebody had dipped the coin in some chemical and maybe it could be "undipped". There has been some kind of chemical reaction that is artificial and truth is that seems a shame to me but again I bought it with the knowledge that somebody had done something. 

On a slightly different theme off the OP, at the show I saw so many "rainbow" Morgan Dollars it confirmed my view  and what I have read elsewhere that someone has a production line making them. A topic for another forum though and not this one. 

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  • Dafydd changed the title to Advice sought on Didius Julianus, To clean or not to clean? That is the question.
Posted (edited)

Hi @Dafydd!  Coingrats on landing a Didius!  Would love to see your Niger too.  I haven't managed to get one of those and will be jealous of yours no matter what it looks like!

It's difficult to tell from your photo what the Didius looks like now, but I gather the unsightly stain on the neck was removed... and I also gather (from your reaction) that there is some visual evidence of this remaining on the coin, e.g. some roughness there on the neck, or a discolouration, or something like that.  Some more detail about what's going on now on the neck would be helpful.  Also a photo that illustrates the "fake toning."

IMO the coin likely looks better than it did, in which case the cleaning was a success.  True, there's no telling how it will tone up over time... perhaps the neck spot will tone differently from the rest of the coin.  But I think that was a risk worth taking.

If the current "fake toning" is all over the coin, not just on the neck, and it looks very fake to you (maybe oily/iridescent in a bad way?) I don't think there would be any harm in cleaning it off, e.g. with ammonia.  Then you can just let the coin retone naturally.  FWIW I've found that Abafil cases do a nice job of toning coins over the years! 😄 

(Coincidentally I just snagged a Didius last month... from Roma!)

Edited by Severus Alexander
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6 hours ago, Prieure de Sion said:

I think - he found the picture at Roma auction and like this toned from the Roma picture more. And he wants the same toned like at the Roma picture. But again - the Roma pictures have filters - so its not possible to get in real the "Roma toned". But ... I dont know that I understand 100% correct what he want exactly 🙂 

In my limited experience, it appears to me that all or most of Roma's ancient coin photos are  in black-and-white, not in color.  Obviously, they're going to look different in hand.

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5 hours ago, DonnaML said:

In my limited experience, it appears to me that all or most of Roma's ancient coin photos are  in black-and-white, not in color.  Obviously, they're going to look different in hand.

Not necessarily. With bronzes and golds, they leave the colour in completely.

image.png.cfec83275e69cd722ddf127e9b4da313.png

 

Even with silver, they often leave the colour intact.

image.png.e3aeff8bf57fa5c11897c8efba9f537c.png

 

And with the rest of the silver - it's not black and white - you take the saturation out (minus saturation). And if you see coins - like my two up there - then you simply increase the colour temperature from 6500k to 7000 or 7500k.

My two examples above are not black and white either. There, too, the saturation was simply taken out and the blue value increased by raising the colour temperature slightly.

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5 hours ago, DonnaML said:

In my limited experience, it appears to me that all or most of Roma's ancient coin photos are  in black-and-white, not in color.  Obviously, they're going to look different in hand.

 

Again.

Take a look of this original Roma Picture from the Auction.

image.png.26911cc831bca7061b89801d39659ab6.png

This is the original picture I shot for a minute for you 😉 

image.jpeg.2696b404fcbf47efc1c697a759c48de9.jpeg

 

And when I make only black & white for this coin - looks like that:

image.jpeg.256f2d4ddf091823ed63608df945aaa6.jpeg

 

 

And the same of all my ordered Roma (silver) Coins. It is not only an switch to black & white. They also tweak other things like saturation and color temperature and a little bit of the dark blues. But it's ok. I know that when I climb with Roma. I don't care about the colour - I look at the detail and get very nice detailed coins. but I also know that the "colour" will not be like in the pictures. 

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11 hours ago, Severus Alexander said:

Hi @Dafydd!  Coingrats on landing a Didius!  Would love to see your Niger too.  I haven't managed to get one of those and will be jealous of yours no matter what it looks like!

It's difficult to tell from your photo what the Didius looks like now, but I gather the unsightly stain on the neck was removed... and I also gather (from your reaction) that there is some visual evidence of this remaining on the coin, e.g. some roughness there on the neck, or a discolouration, or something like that.  Some more detail about what's going on now on the neck would be helpful.  Also a photo that illustrates the "fake toning."

IMO the coin likely looks better than it did, in which case the cleaning was a success.  True, there's no telling how it will tone up over time... perhaps the neck spot will tone differently from the rest of the coin.  But I think that was a risk worth taking.

If the current "fake toning" is all over the coin, not just on the neck, and it looks very fake to you (maybe oily/iridescent in a bad way?) I don't think there would be any harm in cleaning it off, e.g. with ammonia.  Then you can just let the coin retone naturally.  FWIW I've found that Abafil cases do a nice job of toning coins over the years! 😄 

(Coincidentally I just snagged a Didius last month... from Roma!)

Hi @Severus Alexander

Thanks for the comments. I actually use Abafil cases myself and they are a quality product. They also ship speedily from Italy and I recently had a case turn up only 5 days from ordering. They also last. I have one that I bought in 1978 when I started collecting shillings. Congrats on your new Didius.

Here is my Niger

image.png.49811453055fe64dbf5c7dd473164a24.png

PESCENNIUS NIGER. 193-194 AD. AR Denarius (2.82 gm). Caesarea in Cappadocia mint. SALUS STG R, FEEDING SNAKE HELD IN HER ARMS. ALTAR AT FEET.

17mm 2.5 gm Ex NBS Auctions no 7.  I was very pleased to find this one.

 

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Dafydd, I think that any attempt to remove the toning will inevitably result in a bright shiny and unattractive coin with little or no contrast.  Since your coin's features generally subtle due the grade and possibly other factors, they will blend in with the fields and not stand out after cleaning, making the coin appear slicker and less appealing, in my view.

"Restoring" or reverting back is are terms that is complicated by what one thinks was the coin's previous state.  Reverting back to the way it might have looked like from a hoard, assuming that's where it came from?  Reverting back to how it might have appeared coming out of the mint (not advisable as stated above)?  The fact is coins, like everything else in this world are in a constant state of change, so reference points become relative.  Even coins that have been carefully stored will slowly darken over time if they are silver or bronze, unless they are in an environment devoid of oxygen.  

If you coin was artificially toned, I assume that it was cleaned to the point of having bright surfaces.  However, I have seen gray with some blue toning in a coin's recesses caused by storage in manila and other paper envelopes, so I am not convinced that there is artificial toning present on your coin.   

So, getting back to the question about your coin, I'd say leave it alone, but a better photo would be helpful.  Time will make sure that your ancient coin remains ancient in appearance.

Question: Had you not had the dealer's opinion that the coin was artificially toned, would you be pleased with the way it appears now?

That's a nice rare coin by the way!

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1 minute ago, robinjojo said:

Dafydd, I think that any attempt to remove the toning will inevitably result in a bright shiny and unattractive coin with little or no contrast.  Since your coin's features generally subtle due the grade and possibly other factors, they will blend in with the fields and not stand out after cleaning, making the coin appear slicker and less appealing, in my view.

"Restoring" or reverting back is are terms that is complicated by what one thinks was the coin's previous state.  Reverting back to the way it might have looked like from a hoard, assuming that's where it came from?  Reverting back to how it might have appeared coming out of the mint (not advisable as stated above)?  The fact is coins, like everything else in this world are in a constant state of change, so reference points become relative.  Even coins that have been carefully stored will slowly darken over time if they are silver or bronze, unless they are in an environment devoid of oxygen.  

If you coin was artificially toned, I assume that it was cleaned to the point of having bright surfaces.  However, I have seen gray with some blue toning in a coin's recesses caused by storage in manila and other paper envelopes, so I am not convinced that there is artificial toning present on your coin.   

So, getting back to the question about your coin, I'd say leave it alone, but a better photo would be helpful.  Time will make sure that your ancient coin remains ancient in appearance.

Question: Had you not had the dealer's opinion that the coin was artificially toned, would you be pleased with the way it appears now?

That's a nice rare coin by the way!

That is an extremely good point @robinjojo because mentally I had committed myself to purchase it and it was within my price range. I asked the dealer if he had any latitude on the coin and he said yes as he thought it had "issues" and dropped the price by a huge  $175.00. Had he not said anything I would have been perfectly satisfied and I do not have the expertise to have known that the coin had been chemically altered. Of course when I looked it up I could see that the original auction listing showed a "brightish" coin with a dark stain. I had seen the coin before but did not bid on it because of the stain but had I bid and won, I would have left the stain alone. 

The fact is that the price drop is what raised my concerns and instead of being grateful for the great deal it raised some concerns.

The only work I have done on coins is to soak them in distilled water to try and stop bronze disease and that's not going so well. I have read and reread the threads on coin restoration and reached the conclusion that its a bit like the cliche that if you have 12 Priests or 13 Rabbis in a room , you will have at least 13 opinions!

I have decided to leave the coin alone and be grateful for what I found. I think my dissatisfaction was temporary and unfounded and the coin has "grown on me" over the last couple of days. When I return to Wales I will take some better photographs or at least attempt to, photography is something I am practising. 

The forum comments on the OP have been very sensible and measured, more so than my original question.

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I would also like to say something about cleaning. If you are not a 100% expert and know exactly what you are doing, there is a 50:50 chance that you will "break" the coin.

I once got a Republican coin, which I put in a jar with water, salt, aluminium foil and a dash of lemon, using instructions from the internet. And it worked great! 

Then I thought - I know my way around - now I can do it. And I dared to make a 200 euro denarius. But this one - apparently - had a different base. A different history. I didn't recognise it beforehand. When I took the denarius out of the bath, I knew I could neither put it back into the collection, nor ever trade or sell it. It's ruined. 

Since then I have bought the coins as I see them and I know that I have to live with this condition. If I can't live with it - I don't buy the coin. But I don't get my hopes up that I can clean the coin afterwards.

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5 hours ago, Dafydd said:

Here is my Niger

image.png.49811453055fe64dbf5c7dd473164a24.png

PESCENNIUS NIGER. 193-194 AD. AR Denarius (2.82 gm). Caesarea in Cappadocia mint. SALUS STG R, FEEDING SNAKE HELD IN HER ARMS. ALTAR AT FEET.

17mm 2.5 gm Ex NBS Auctions no 7.  I was very pleased to find this one.

That's an excellent example I would love to have!  And judging from the venue, I'm betting it's nicer in hand too.  Great score!!

Might as well show the Roma photo of my new Didius:

image.jpeg.98b70fda51280e90640c475284711d38.jpeg

With a weak GBP at the moment, I was very pleased with a hammer of 280.

 

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