Last edited by Mike Rolling; 06-27-2013 at 05:40 PM.
Craig is certainly correct in his assertion to use the inexpensive solvents like acetone or xylene first. They are nearly always my "go to" choice first because of that reason, plus the fact that they clean and evaporate away exceptionally fast. After using acetone, the large cent is completely dry in literally just a few seconds.
The large cent then typically looks clean, the toning intact, but the large cent looks a bit on the "dry" side. I then use my small remaining supply of Blue Ribbon very sparingly as a protective lubricant for preservation.
Other than Blue Ribbon, which is very hard to come by, I really don't know of any other protective lubricants that will protect a large cent from being attacked by the outside elements. (Maybe someone else can weigh in here) The natural oil on your skin also appears to "un-dry" an acetone cleaned large cent. I don't know whether this type of skin oil protects the large cent or harms it although I have never seen any negative effects from this. Certainly for me, storing my large cents in cotton lined envelopes has preserved my large cents by far the best over any other other storage methods.
Actually, I have not experienced these solvents altering what appears to be natural or artificial toning. I have only seen these solvents cleaning off what appeared to be an artificial color, that appeared to be a toning of the large cent. Fortunately it has only happened to me twice, and on relatively common varieties. What remained on both was a kind of unnatural blackish toning, instead of an even brown tone.
The oils from your body, as in hands(fingers and thumb), as far as I know does effect and damage coins over the long haul and should be avoided at all cost. Think about Uncirculated Silver coins(with luster) when they have a finger or thumb print on them and over time it causes permanent damage. I have also seen High Grade Large Cents(which have luster) and what they look like after they have a thumb or finger print on them...and what happens over time. These prints are permanently embedded damaging the coins!!!
For that reason it is always best to handle coins by their 'Rims'. When coins are handled by their obverse or reverse sides they do need to be stripped again of the oils from your body so permanent damage over time does not occur(also Rod Burress carries and sells excellent brushes with natural bristles for use on your coins)!!! I also will use Xylol or Acetone to strip a coins surface from oils and also for 'Crud Removal' and then use a light coat of Blue Ribbon to preserve their surfaces before being placed in cotton sleeves(also made and sold by Rod Burress) and then envelopes. Also words of wisdom, check your coins at least twice a year and brush them lightly, this is done as a precaution!!!
I usually do not get involved in conversations which discuss "cleaning, manipulating, tampering with and so forth" on copper coin's surfaces because just like Grading, you will never get agreement on what should be done and what is acceptable procedures. Some collectors will never collect coins which have been manipulated in anyway but what is interesting to me is most copper coins have had their surfaces played with at some point in their existence. This is a fact of life and if you do not believe me that's also fine. It may have been done over a 100 years ago but believe me it has be done.....
Since I collect Late Dates Large Cents I have been fortunate to take my time and buy higher graded coins so usually there is not very much if any "Crud Removal" necessary. I prefer to buy coins which are XF40 and above and would be considered 'Average Plus' for their condition. But of course some Die Varieties can not be found in high grade so this is when I have to settle for whatever I can find. Unfortunately like everything else prices have been rising very quickly for the Late Dates and it is getting harder and harder to find nice examples.....Oh well!!! C'est La Vie!!!
Take it easy.....Leo
The only difference between men and boys is the price of the toys.....
Leo, I appreciate your comments and advice. They are important to me in learning the ways of collecting the coppers. I realize that there are wrong ways of conserving copper coins and tokens and the 'cleaning' of coins is very controversial. Thank you for getting into this threads conversation!
This may have been said before...Just a quick reminder regarding the use of Xylene and Acetone. Always do this in a well ventilated area and wear a mask that will filter out these type of organic vapors. I use the AO Safety respirator with R51A cartridges and I can't even smell the vapors while I am using the solvents. Breathing these vapors is NOT good for you--even in small doses.
C'Frog, Excellent post on the safety in conserving coppers! All the posts so far have been very informative. This is what I was looking for from those who have the knowledge and experience in collecting copper tokens, half cents and large cents. Some of us do not realize the health precautions needed to safely conserve these tokens and coins.
Please keep the posts coming, even if you think they are insignificant.
Last edited by Mike Rolling; 07-15-2013 at 01:39 PM.
Second thoughts, not sure... If a copper Token, Half Cent or Large Cent was improperly "cleaned" and retoned; other than the visible hair lines, would there be a specific color to the copper? I am not sure if there would be various colors to look for in this situation.
Often times the color is much darker than the preferred light or medium chocolate brown. In others, the color is not even with lighter splotches showing thru, almost looking like if you smeared shoe polish on something and it didn't quite cover everywhere. Some of them are extremely well done and if they are so good you can't tell...then I wouldn't worry as much about those ones. You will get a feel for it but the only way is by looking at a lot of copper, just go to shows and look at as much copper as you can. One of the best ways to learn about cleaned/retoned coins is to actually clean and retone some coins yourself. Of course, you will want to use some junk lincoln cents, culls, or something that was already harshly cleaned to experiment. When you see the results you get, in controlled conditions, it will be easier for you to spot them in the wild.
Copper Frog is generally right about this. Everything that is used to recolor coppers - other than paint and shoe polish - acts by oxidizing the copper and turning it black. If the layer of "black" is very thin, you have the phenomenon called "thin film interference", which is what makes the rainbow colors on an oil film on water or on a silver coin. Copper is darker underneath, so the color that develops is different, but the principle is the same. The thickness of the oxidized layer (i.e., tarnish) determines the color of the light that reflects back.
The quality of the result depends somewhat on what you use to recolor the coin and a LOT on how skillful you are. However, no matter how skillful you are, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. The key factor, IMHO, in recoloring coins is to have patience. If you try to do it quickly, the results are generally bad. If you are in no hurry, you can get much better results.
As advised, play with Lincoln cents before valuable early coppers, but remember that Lincolns are not made of pure copper, so they do not respond to recoloring exactly as early copper do.
Very interesting comments regarding "Thin Film Interference", it makes sense. It is always black but in differing degrees of levels that can be perceived as brown when looked at with the copper color behind it. So, why does copper tone black when retoning and light brown in regular circulation? Of course it is a much slower process and you have things like oils in skin, grime, air, sunlight, etc., acting on the copper as well but still...seems odd they usually are light brown.
What kind of luck have you guys had with setting the coin to be retoned in a window for days, weeks, months...years? What if you put a very light coat of sulfur/vaseline solution on the coin, then set it in the window, would that give it a bit more natural tone over time? I guess what I am trying to angle at is that the window is a good choice, but very slow. Sulfur is quick, but leaves something to be desired in color. Perhaps there is a compromise between toning it in 10 minutes with sulfur solution and 10+ months in a window.