Coins: To clean or not to clean?

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Hello All,

Well, I have decided to give up my drywashing completely in favor of coin/jewelry/relic hunting. We all just seem to have a much nicer time when we are dettecting rather than throwing dirt all day. So, until I can sell my 151 drywasher and pick me up an E-Trac, I would like to ask some questions in preparation.

1. To what extent should a coin be cleaned after being pulled out of the ground? If it is fairly clean where I can just rub dirt or mud off of it and it be legible then obviously that is okay. But what if it comes out of moist ground and is covered in alkali or is corroded, etc?

2. I have been told that coins are exempt from the 50 year-old artifact law! Is this true for all coins, or just coins produced in the last 50 years?

3. What is the best current publication for finding out the value and history of coins that I may come across on this adventure?

4. Is it okay to just keep coins and relics together in one place (after the find)? Or should I look into purchasing coin collecting books to separate each coin individually?

5. Same question as #3, but this time in regards to relics?

Thank you for any and all replies.


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Hey Chris,

Regarding the cleaning on the silvers. I’ve never rubbed them. Most times I’ll wrap the Barbs, Seats, Walking dirt and all in something until I get back to the car. I may give them a light rinse to bring out the date but no rubbing. If it’s just going to grade out at “Good”, I’ll just throw those together. If it appears to in really good shape or a key date, I take some extra care keeping them separated, wrapping them, etc. I usually use a good ultrsonic jewelry cleaner to do the rest on all the white ones. Sometimes I put them in a sleeve and date it, where found, stuff. Others I throw into a coin tube. Depends on what it is. The Indians, wheats, don’t do much with those. I just check to see if it’s a key date then wheats in one jar, Indians in another dirt and all. Dug several mason jars full over the years. I have buffed a couple of Indians and wheats for show with a brass suede brush because they were just good anyway. I don’t buff anything else and its something I rarely do. It just for show anyway.  Don’t know about the corroded though. If it’s one of the rotted zincs; I suppose the bank will take them. But I’ve rarely found one corroded here in the Midwest. Pretty careful on recovery too so I don't scratch them with the tool.

Regarding the artifact law. Don’t know on that and have never run into the issue. I hit old house yards mostly and have done really well over the years. Sometimes I show the owners and sometimes I just keep my mouth shut. Ran into situations being too honest. I do show the owners at times and most times they don't care; even gave them a coin or two. I've heard some folks have a written agreement, not me. I believe asking some one to sign an agreement for just hunting their yard sends up red flags and scares them off being too formal. I just go up and knock on the door and get permission 90% of the time.

Regarding value, I have some old pubs but if I find a key date or a coin that is EX Fine, Uncirculated, etc. but anymore I just look it up on the internet. Found some dropped fresh from the mint and they are just as nice as the day they were dropped. Any more I just look them up on the internet.

I chase coins mostly, not much in artifacts. But if the opportunity arises to hunt artifacts, I’ll do that. I usually compartmentalize eveything but do keep certain things seperate. If you’re ever up near Omaha, NE stop by for a dig. BTW> We have some gold in SE Nebraska. Flour, flake, but its yellow. Hope this helps some.

Cheers!! Mike

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