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Cleaning Silver Coins

Junk silver coins that are 80 and 90 percent silverMention cleaning silver coins to most dealers and you will get a strong reaction - "don't do it". While I generally agree, in my opinion there can be exceptions. Before you even think about cleaning any silver coin, there some things you must take into consideration...

It is not uncommon for silver coins to have a value over and above the value of their silver content (intrinsic value) plus, of course, their tacked-on premium. Cleaning a coin that is numismatically valuable can destroy that value thereby costing you tens or even hundreds of dollars (in rare cases, even more). If you are tempted to clean your silver coin(s) before finding out their potential value (based on scarcity, demand, condition, etc.) DON'T.

There are very few good reasons to clean your silver coins. But if you have common date silver coins in your personal collection that you would like to shine up and keep to admire, that shouldn't be a problem. If you have common date silver coins you want to present as gifts to children or grandchildren, that is understandable also. But if you plan on selling your coins and think shining them up a bit will get you a better price - it won't. Cleaning silver coins (sometimes referred to as "whizzing") is definitely frowned on by most dealers and experienced investors.

Silver dollar whizzedTo see a closeup of one of the worst whizzed coins I have ever come across, click on the picture at left. This coin was in a lot I purchased from a dealer some years ago. Some abrasive material was used to clean the coin which really messed it up. Do you suppose the guilty party bothered to find out its value before doing the dirty work? Most likely not. Here are the facts on this coin...

1896 Morgan Silver Dollar-no mint mark (therefore produced
by the Philadelphia Mint)-total mintage 9,976,000.

 This coin happens to be a common date silver coin and its value is limited to the silver content (.7650 for a circulated Morgan dollar) plus the current premium. If this had been an 1896 S, in VF condition its value would be three times that of the 1896 and cleaning would have probably destroyed that value.

Some of the silver coins you see on this site have been cleaned (to better display them on this site) - most have not. All of the cleaned coins are common date silver coins - no key-date or numismatic coins in the bunch.

If you have done due diligence on the coin(s) you want to clean and decided to proceed, two different methods are described below. 

Silver Coin Cleaning - Method 1

The first coin selected for cleaning was a 1926D Peace Silver Dollar. This Peace Dollar was minted at the Denver mint with a total mintage of 2,348,700. In grades Very Fine and above (which this coin is not), this silver coin is worth a tad more than its intrinsic value. The intrinsic value of this coin can be gotten by multiplying .7650 times the current spot price of silver. 

Peace silver dollar prior to cleaningPeace silver dollar after cleaning

To clean this coin, I used a commercially available product (Weiman Royal Sterling Silver Polish). Putting an amount of polish about the size of the silver coin on a soft cloth, fold the cloth in half (which gets polish on both halves) then place the coin in between. Rubbing the coin in the cloth using your thumb and index finger, you can clean both sides at once. Then wipe the coin on a clean part of the cloth to remove the polish and get the shine you see. You will end up with a very dirty cloth and a very shiny silver coin. I spent just a few minutes to get the results which is about 98% clean.   

Cleaning Silver Coins With Baking Soda

Walking Liberty half-dollar prior to cleaningWalking Liberty half-dollar after cleaningThe second coin selected for cleaning was a 1944D Walking Liberty half-dollar. This 1944 Walker was minted at the Denver mint with a mintage of 9,769,000. This is a common date coin which, in circulated condition, contains approximately .3575 troy ounces of silver. To clean this coin, make a watery paste of baking soda and water in a small container. Dip the entire coin in the paste, then rub both sides with your thumb and index finger for a minute or so. Rinse with water and wipe dry with a soft cloth. l repeated this about three times to achieve the results you see above. The baking soda is a little more abrasive than the silver polish but the results were good considering all of the little crevices around the image. 

There you have two effective methods of cleaning silver coins. Just remember to research the value of any coin you wish to clean before going ahead or you may be kicking yourself for ruining what could be a small windfall.One source you can use to determine the value of popular silver coins can be found in my book The Last US 90 Percent Silver Coins. Available in paperback and eBook formats.

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