Cleaning and Photographing Coins and Artefacts

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Cleaning & Photographing Coins & Artefacts

Generally speaking, my advice on cleaning coins and artefacts is don't. If there is even the slightest chance that the item you wish to clean is of historical importance or great financial value - leave the cleaning to the professionals.

You use any information or advice found within these pages at your own risk, I will except no responsibility for damage, or loss of value, caused to coins or artefacts by improper cleaning or attempts at restoration.

There are many stories that circulate the coin collecting community about valuable collections of coins rendered worthless by improper cleaning. Many of these stories go something like this:

A coin dealer receives a phone call from a man wanting to sell a large and very valuable coin collection he inherited from an elderly relative. The coin dealer, realizing the importance of the collection, agrees to meet the man the following day to examine the coins and negotiate a price. Upon the coin dealers arrival at the mans house the following day, the owner of the collection tells him 'I spent all of yesterday evening polishing up those old coins.' A once valuable coin collection becomes all but worthless because of an over enthusiastic owner and bottle of Brasso.

I am not sure if this story actually has any basis in fact, it may just be an urban legend, but it certainly has a great deal of value as a cautionary tale. NEVER clean coins unless you are absolutely sure of what you are doing.

Further Reading

  • Cleaning Coins and Artefacts: Conservation Restoration Presentation
  • Cleaning and Restoring Coins and Artefacts by Michael J. Cuddeford, Mount Publications, 1995, Pb. 40pp. No index.
  • First Aid for Finds: Practical Guide for Archaeologists by David Leigh, David Watkinson, Virginia Neal, Pb. 120 pages, 1998. United Kingdom Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works, Archaeology Section; 3 Rev Ed edition
  • Elements of Archaeological Conservation by Janet M. Cronyn, Pb. 352 pages, 1990, Routledge
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Cleaning and Photographing Coins and Artefacts
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