Letter Re: Cleaning/Polishing Silver Coins?

I hear that silver spiked again today. I’m very glad I took your advice and bought a half-bag of junk silver last month! It was as easy as you say. I just called the local coin dealer with the biggest ad in the yellow pages. Their price was about $200 cheaper than Swiss America’s.

Would it be worth the bother to clean the coins? Virtually all of the coins are quite dirty. My main purpose in storing these coins will be for future barter, if necessary. I’m guessing they would be more attractive for barter if cleaned up.

If I were to clean them, I would just use one of the commercial liquid cleaners commonly available at the local kitchen store for cleaning sterling silver. Any advice on which ones would be safe for junk silver? Maybe some of your readers have already figured out the cheapest and safest method.

Also, one observation. Even though I live in a large metropolitan area (Los Angeles) with millions of people, the dealer was confused at first at what I wanted, so I had to be very specific. This tells me virtually no one in my area is looking for junk silver. It kind of implies junk silver is still not on the public’s radar, or worse, no one is really preparing for anything.

And finally, yes, I’m leaving Los Angeles as soon as I can!

Always Learning More, – Rookie

JWR Replies:  Coin collectors almost universally frown on polishing, chemical dipping, or buffing coins. (The latter is called “whizzing” by numismatists.) I recognize that “junk” silver coins currently have little, if any, collector’s value. But consider the following. First:  You never know what coins have been overlooked before any given bag is run the coin counting machine.  There might be a scarce coin (mint date, mint mark, or unusual strike.)  Second: In a few generations, the consensus view of what constitutes “junk” may change considerably.  So for the sake of your grandkids, it is best not to polish or dip your coins.  Third:  You stand to gain virtually nothing by polishing coins if your intended use is barter based on their silver bullion content.  They are supposed to look old. In the eyes of most potential traders, “old and grungy” means genuine. (New/shiny looking coins might be more suspect as counterfeit.)