One of the first concepts any amateur coin collector must become familiar with is toning. Toning is a natural and almost inevitable process that occurs as metals age and begin to corrode, gradually replacing shiny metal with a more tarnished surface. Depending on the extent of the corrosion and how it impacts the appearance of the coin, toning can either add to or detract from its worth. Learning to identify valuable toning while also being able to avoid fakes can help you significantly improve the profile of your antique coin collection.
Understanding the Toning Process
Coins are not made to remain in circulation for more than a few decades, which is why they are typically not cast with corrosion in mind. Antique coins, however, will tarnish much like old jewelry, particularly coins made from the most vulnerable metals. Rather than trying to fight the law of physics, coin collectors accept toning as a fact of life, but not every coin ages equally. While some toning actually enhances the appearance of a coin, other patterns can disfigure it to the point of worthlessness.
Identifying the Unique Toning Patterns of Different Metals
Silver dollars are one of the coins most frequently collected specifically for their toning. This is because silver often tarnishes to a rainbow sheen, greatly increasing the beauty of the coin. Meanwhile, you may have seen old pennies that have corroded to be nearly black and lost their defining features as a consequence. In both cases, toning changes the value of the coin for better or worse. Gold coins tend to become brown or reddish, while nickel usually fades to a washed-out gray.
Determining the Value of a Toned Coin
When evaluating a toned coin, your initial reaction to it is often a good indicator of its worth. A radiant silver coin with halos of bronze and rainbow may sell for significantly more than its book price, while an identical, smudged and blackened one will sell for less. Visit your local coin dealer, like American Precious Metals Inc, and examine specimens online to become more familiar with toning patterns and the price variations you could expect from them in your area.
Spotting Artificially Toned Coins
Because a beautifully toned coin can be worth quite a bit of money, many coin sellers resort to artificial methods to achieve the same look. These faked coins are worth very little due to this interference, but they can be difficult to spot if you are not a professional. When in doubt, take any ungraded coin you are considering purchasing to a coin dealer to have it evaluated and examined for signs of forgery. By relying on the expertise of your local coin dealer, you can ensure the integrity of your collection and hopefully walk away with a unique and authentic antique in your pocket.