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Thursday, June 24, 2010

How not to Clean Coins (and the pitfalls of selling coins on Ebay!) [PART TWO]

What happened to the 30 coins
I received a return with a refund request shortly, since I had misrepresented the coins. It turned out, according to the buyer, they were not "quality." In order for him to discover this, though, he first had to "clean" them. ALL OF THEM. "His way." I was horrified. Mostly I was left with a handful of bits and pieces of coins, none weighing more than 2 grams or measuring more than 10mm across. Furthermore, it appeared that they were different coins entirely. I wondered how the coins could have transformed so dramatically in a few days (including mailing time).
The buyer explained that he "didn't clean coins in the usual way. I just soak them in water two days then take the crust off. This brings you down to the patina. It is then a person can tell if it is a good coin or not. I do not take off the patina. But occassionally I do scratch the patina."

Clearly the coins had been sand-blasted, scrubbed with steel wire, or blasted with a power-sander. Most were flattened on at least one side, and not a single one had a patina that was even remotely intact. Most were broken, weighed considerably less than the original, were smaller, and unrecognizable. Of little use as collectibles: I would not give him a refund, I explained, because he had gone ahead and destroyed ALL the coins. If he had destroyed only one or two, perhaps. But why did he need to sandblast them all?

I would mail them back, I said. "No," he responded, "do with that junk what you will. I don't want it."

He was greatly offended that I said they were destroyed. "I have two picture frames of these on my wall," he told me, whatever that means. In any case, it didn't sound good for the coins.Naturally I never tried to sell the coins. I still have them, four years later. They look considerably worse in hand. I'm considering selling them as a lot of total culls on Ebay and donating 100% of the final sale price to charity. But for now they still sit in the basement just as raggedy as their sad, torn up, brown bubble pack from 2006.

LESSON? ONE: TAKE YOUR TIME! Two days is not long enough to soak (unless you're talking silver coins in dilute vinegar, and even then...). Power tools should be limited to The Dremel or other rotary device, with soft attachments. No sandpaper or steel. (Rarely, a little steel wool, and more commonly brass brushes, used gently.)
TWO: If what you're doing ruins the first 10 coins, or even the first 1 or 2--DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!
THREE: Seller beware!
FOUR, and most important:Don't destroy things of art that are thousands of years old, even if they are only worth a few dollars!

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