Monday, March 3, 2014

To Clean or Not To Clean: A Diatribe by Brandon Rison

I love it when the phone rings here at Oddfellow's. Usually it means I either get to sell something or, even better, buy something. We love buying stuff, we were collectors long before we were dealers and collectors drool over new stuff. Unless, of course, that stuff is damaged:  scuffed leather, torn bindings, bent coins, or, worst of all, cleaned ANYTHING!

"What?" You say, "I saved you time and cleaned it for you. You should thank me."

Awwww yeah...... look at the fine patina on this little lady.
I have heard this and many other reasons for sellers cleaning their items. Sadly, all their time and effort is wasted because cleaning ALWAYS lowers value.

A cleaned coin may be shiny but most cleaning methods leave tiny scratches over the surface of the coin that will leave the coin looking dull as it builds a new layer of tarnish. Tarnish and oxidation are present on any handled silver and part of what makes circulated silver coins beautiful. Removing the tarnish may provide shine, but it takes away character and character is part of the value in any collectible. While there are chemicals and methods that can "properly" clean a coin most collectors will only see a coin that is too shiny for its grade, know it has been cleaned, and move on to the next coin. Bottom line is, don't clean your coins. No matter what you read on the internet or what the Dip-o-Matic Coin Shiner 9000 bottle says there is no proper way to clean a coin.
Click for a larger image.  This is an example of what cleaning your coins can do.  No No NO!!!
Books are a different subject. They must be dusted and leather bound books that are not frequently handled need the occasional application of leather conditioner. While these may sound like simple tasks, they are often the causes of damage to books. When dusting do not use any chemicals (e.g. Pledge, Windex, etc.) and dust with clean, dry paint brush or a synthetic feather duster that has not been used to clean anything but books. As for leather conditioning, there are products available for leather bound books but the best, and cheapest, way to protect leather books is simply to handle them often (and properly). The oils in your skin will protect and soften the leather as well as anything you can buy. That is all the cleaning required. Do not try to erase anything, wipe anything off, or use water to clean your book. While the water may seem obvious I am amazed by the number of wet books that come through the door. Fight the urge, don't clean.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your clear statement on cleaning coins - a cleaned coin is a damaged coin. Period.