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Here's Why You Shouldn't Clean Coins
September 13, 2011

Copper-coated zinc cents and corrosion go hand in hand, collectors know.

I have seen some pretty seriously wrecked cents in the last 29 years.

Readers occasionally play “Can you top this?” and send in cents so badly corroded that it is a wonder the coin can still be considered a cent.

Games aside, the heightened awareness of terror threats that occurred nationwide in advance of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack put people on edge.

When people are on edge, they can overreact.

A reader sent in this real beaut from in or near Rochester, N.Y.

There in early September bank employees called police about a suspicious substance on cents.

Once that is done public officials need to follow the procedures outlined in their emergency response plans.

So the area was blocked off. The corroded cents were investigated and it turned out that a teller trying to be helpful had sprayed a cleaner on them and this then initiated a chemical reaction.

What’s the moral of the story?

Well, collectors are told never to clean their coins.

I guess that advice applies to bank tellers, too.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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