Last month, I wrote about the United States mini dollars, counterfeit coins, different types of bullion ads
and sales commissions. This month’s focus is how collectors can overpay for authentic coins that have been cleaned, artificially toned, or have problems.
Thousands of authentic coins are purchased everyday. Some are accumulated and others collected. But, how many collectors overpay? To answer this I think back to when I was young boy searching for old coins only to find that many were cleaned and overpriced. That being said it is possible to find fair deals. Some collectors really do not think much about overpaying because they are just trying to fill holes. Some just buy for novelty. For those that do care and want to improve their collection here are a few general tips. These tips will help with buying, but cannot eliminate mistakes.
A collector can spot a cleaned coin by examining the surface with a magnifying glass. In my opinion, a 7X power is best to view the surface of the coin. A normal untampered coin will have very small flow lines in the field. Flow lines are produced when a coin is originally struck. These fine lines appear to flow out from the center of the coin to the rim, but will only be seen in the field of the design. Flow lines will be seen on high-grade examples that have not been cleaned. Once these flow lines are disrupted, they can never be reproduced. A typical cleaned coin will have straight lines produced from the friction of cleaning and these lines will move from the field area onto other features of the design like the letters and/or the portrait, which is not natural. Cleaning a coin will disrupt the natural flow lines of a coin and will reduce its value.
Toned coins are notorious for being artificially colored. My recommendation is to first learn what is the original color on a coin. Only examining many naturally toned coins will help in the detection of an artificially colored coin. Keep in mind that many times a coin is artificially toned in order to hide imperfections.
Problem coins are typically discounted. Buying a problem coin is only an issue if the person buying did not realize there was a problem and if overpriced. Noticeable nicks, scratches, dings, pitting, the coin being bent, etc can all detract from a Coins value. That being said, an authentic 1856 flying eagle cent with a hole can be worth thousands, so even a damaged rare coin can have great value.