Your Ultimate Guide to Military Coin Cleaning

Hoth User - Sep 23, 2019
Your Ultimate Guide to Military Coin Cleaning

Most likely, you've heard that you should never clean coins. This is true if you're a collector of old, circulated coins, such as Indian head nickels or Mercury dimes.

If you clean these types of vintage coins, you wash away the natural patina, which decreases their value.

But this doesn't apply to your military coin collection. You can clean these collectibles, keeping them shiny and looking new. The key thing to remember when you're coin cleaning is never to use abrasive solutions or materials.

Do you have military coins you'd like to clean without damaging them?

Read this guide on cleaning your military coins using the safest and most effective methods.

Run Under Cold Water

If you're just trying to remove dust, you can run your coins under cold water. This will wash away dust particles. Let them air dry on a soft cloth or gently pat them with the cloth to remove water droplets.

Wash in Warm Soapy Water

Add a small amount of mild, non-acidic dish soap to a plastic container of warm water. Avoid using a clay or metal container since they can scratch your coins.

Wash one coin at a time in the plastic container, so they don't rub against each other. Shake the container gently back and forth to loosen dirt and grime.

You can rub the coin with your fingers if the dirt isn't washing off your coins.

Soak in Distilled Water

For more persistent gunk stuck on your coins, try dipping them into distilled water. It's a non-abrasive way to remove dirt without harming the color of your coins.

Just place your military coins in a container of distilled water. Add each coin one at a time so they don't touch each other. Let them sit in the distilled water for 24 hours.

When you take them out, use a soft toothbrush to remove any leftover gunk. Do this slowly and gently. Let your coins soak for another day if they're still not clean.

Make a Baking Soda and Water Solution

Cleaning coins with a baking soda solution works best on copper, silver and brass coins. When you mix baking soda and water together for cleaning your coins, you want it to be a liquid solution. The last thing you want is a baking soda paste that you'll have to clean off later.

You can make the solution by placing about two tablespoons of baking soda in an aluminum foil-lined bowl. Add boiling water to the bowl. Place your coins in a single layer into the bowl.

Leave the coins soaking until the water cools to room temperature. Remove your coins and rinse them in cold water. You can let them air dry.

Soak in Olive Oil

The olive oil cleaning method is one of the ways to clean old coins. This is the method many numismatists use to clean ancient coins with caked-on dirt.

Olive oil saturates the dirt, which loosens it for easier removal without damaging the coin. You use this method for your dirtiest coins. Some ancient coins have to soak in olive oil for as much as six months before they're clean.

Military coins should only take a few days of soaking. All you have to do is place your coins in olive oil and let them soak. Once the dirt comes loose, remove your coins and rinse them using the warm soapy water method.

Give them an Acetone Bath

Some coin collectors bathe their coins in isopropyl alcohol and water, but acetone is a better solution. Acetone's vapor pressure is higher than the alcohol's so it evaporates off your coins quicker. Also, isopropyl alcohol can leave a whitish film on your coins.

Acetone is effective for removing grease, adhesive and fingerprints. It's also great as a final rinse for all your military coins because it removes any deposits from soap, water, and other contaminants.

Should You Clean Old Coins?

If you're wondering whether you should clean old coins, it all depends on if you're a serious collector. Are you collecting old coins to retain their value? If so, don't clean your old coins.

Keep in mind that old circulated coins tarnish, tone and develop patina at different rates. If you clean old coins, you'll get a splotchy, altered coin surface.

Your coins will lose 90 percent of their value if you clean them. Not only that, it's easy to ruin your coins if you don't clean them properly.

When you try to trade or sell your old coins after cleaning them, the expert numismatists will be able to see the surface scratches and damage to the coins.

The lesson to be learned is that it's almost never a good idea to clean a circulated coin. Once you clean off the original patina, what you're left with is a coin that looks cleaned.

Consider Leaving Coin Cleaning to the Professionals

If your military coins have an emotional or monetary value for you, consider playing it safe. Bring your coins to a professional coin cleaner for safe, damage-free coin cleaning.

Professional cleaners use several ways to clean coins with chemicals like xylene. These are dangerous and could cause personal harm or damage to your coins if you try to use them yourself. To keep your coins in heirloom condition, bring them to a professional for cleaning.

It's Okay to Clean Collectible Military Coins

Although you don't want to clean old, circulated coins, it's perfectly fine to clean your military challenge coins. It's important to preserve your challenge coins in case you want to give them as signs of achievement or to thank first responders and military personnel for their service.

You don't have to be in the military to collect military coins. In fact, if you collect military challenge coins, you might want to participate in coin check games. Always keep your coins clean and in good shape in case someone initiates a coin check when you're in the room.

This coin cleaning guide can help you keep your military coins in tip-top shape.

Contact us for military challenge coins from all branches of the military. You can also design your own challenge coins with the help of our professional graphic artists.