I have recently started making and selling hair barrettes on etsy and elsewhere. I also happen to have a small coin collection, mostly modern coins that aren’t really valuable, and I have a lot of duplicates I received in the big bags of miscellaneous coins I got from ebay to form the collection, so I was thinking that some of those extra coins might make good barrette decorations.
However, as they are circulated coins that underwent regular use as money, they are pretty dirty. Googling “cleaning coins” yields a lot of flailing about not cleaning your coins because it will make them worth less in coin collecting circles, but not much good advice about how to clean them if you don’t care about that.
I’m not looking to scrub them/strip them until they’re all bright and shiny, necessarily – just make them not grimy anymore.
Go to a hardware store and pick up something called “Brasso”. Follow the directions on the can. You can’t get anything better for the purpose. You can make them bright and shiny with not much effort. Have fun!
These are all 20th century coins, mostly 50 or less years old. A lot of British coins (old and newer denominations), French, German, and Italian coins, as well as lot of coins from Asia, especially Hong Kong. A lot of them are copper, some are aluminum and a lot are silver-colored metal (similar to a U.S. quarter).
My suggestion would be to get them clean, bright and shiny . . . then use something called “Dellers Darkener” to give them more of a darker, antique look. But before you do anything, be very, very sure that the coins aren’t valuable. Whatever you do to them will ruin their value as collectibles.
Since they’re mostly less than 50 years old, they’re not silver. They also have very little value.
Your copper coins, if you use something like Brasso(abrasive), will become rather pink and shiny. The others, which are aluminum and copper nickel, will also become shiny, but not as altered as the copper ones.
If you realy don’t want them to be so shiny, then clean the copper coins with a light oil (3 in 1) but don’t rub them to death. If they’re badly corroded, not much will help.
The aluminum ones and the copper nickel–rub them gently with a little baking soda and water, making a diluted paste. While it’s midly abrasive, it won’t scour them the way Brasso will. Gentle is the word.
Using an acidic household substance such as ketchup, cola, etc will clean coins, but it will leave the surface pitted and rough. The ‘clean copper with HP sauce(or whatever)’ tip that seems to be everywhere is an interesting party trick, but it’s not really useful for cleaning things you want to look nice afterwards.
If you can get hold of it, Duraglit is good stuff - it’s a non-abrasive polish-impregnated wadding, you pull a tuft of it out of the tin and rub it on the item, then polish with a soft cloth. Because it’s just the right amount of polish on the wadding, it doesn’t leave residue in the corners and crevices, and if used sparingly, will not polish every last bit of tarnish out of the less accessible bits - which creates a sort of polished antique look.