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Cleaning Has Different Interpretations in Grading
By Harry Miller, Coins Magazine
April 01, 2013

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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I have received some email inquiries in recent weeks that I answer here as matters of general interest.

• When something is listed with ANACS papers, what does that mean?

Long before slabs, the American Numismatic Association Certification Service certified coins with a photo certificate that pictured both obverse and reverse of a coin giving a grade to each side. They would also add any qualifying remarks.

• I have always understood grading services to not grade coins that have been cleaned. Is my thought process wrong?

Generally they do not grade cleaned coins. The word cleaned covers a very broad spectrum and means different things to different people. A dipped coin (tarnish removed chemically) is not considered cleaned unless the treatment destroys the original surface. Any abrasion is considered cleaning; washing in soapy water is usually not. Removing PVC chemically is usually not considered cleaning.

All that being said, the rarer and older a coin is the more is allowable before it is called cleaned. I know this is as clear as mud, but as you gain experience it will make more sense.

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• How does letting a coin sit on a window sill for a year improve the grade of the coin especially if it has been previously cleaned?

The coin was very mildly cleaned and had About Uncirculated detail so the natural toning that occurred on the window sill with the help of the sun restored the eye appeal. Also note that the coin was somewhat net-graded by PCGS as Extremely Fine-45 instead of the old AU-50/AU-50 designated by ANACS.

While current reputable grading services make claims about cleaning they will sometimes allow for it with a net grade somewhat lower than the actual detail. Think of it as, “This is a really nice coin with sharp detail and nice eye appeal even though it is not 100 percent original. So let’s grade it five points less because it is still very desirable.”

• A hoard of $7.4 million in gold coins was found in a garage. It contained thousands of gold coins from Austria, Mexico and the United States. If placed in the marketplace all at once, what effect will this have on the price of gold?

This is a relatively small amount in relation to the gold bullion market; there is more than one major marketer that does that much in a normal active day.

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