On April 17, the Professional Numismatists Guild membership voted
to adopt a definition, below, for “coin doctoring,” or the changing of
the appearance of a collectible coin by various processes.
“Coin doctoring refers to the alteration of any portion of a coin,
when that process includes any of the following:
“1) Movement, addition to, or otherwise altering of metal, so that
a coin appears to be in a better state of preservation, or more
valuable than it otherwise would be. A few examples are plugging,
whizzing, polishing, engraving, ‘lasering’ and adding or removing mint marks.
“2) Addition of any substance to a coin so that it appears to be
in a better state of preservation or more valuable than it otherwise
would be. The use of solvents and/or commercially available dilute
acids, such as Jeweluster, by qualified professionals is not
considered coin doctoring.
“3) Intentional exposure of a coin to any chemicals, substances,
or processes which impart toning, such that the coin appears to be in
a better state of preservation or more valuable than it otherwise
would be. Naturally occurring toning imparted during long-term storage
using established/traditional methods, such as coin albums, rolls,
flips, or envelopes, does not constitute coin doctoring.”
In my opinion, this is a good start. However, it is dangerous to
make too many rules lest those making them be trapped in a corner.
“Long-term storage” is mentioned, but how long is long? And, what
about “short-term storage”?
In my December 2010 column, I mentioned that I had just received a
newly-struck silver medal and was looking at it in my office when a
visitor came in. I opened a drawer on a recently purchased oak side
table, placed the medal there, and closed the drawer and forgot about
it. A month or so later I opened the drawer to see the most beautiful
electric blue toning imaginable. Was this artificial toning? What do
Old-timers know that silver coins kept in cardboard Raymond
“National” or Meghrig holders tend to tone inward over a period of
time. This is due to the presence of sulfur in the cardboard. “Album
toning” or “halo toning,” as it is sometimes called, can add great
value to a coin. Realizing this a dealer told me that he took bright
silver coins, mounted them in such holders, then put them in an oven
set at a temperature somewhat over 100 degrees. Beautiful rainbow
toning resulted after a short “baking.” Was this artificial toning?
What do you think?
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, email@example.com,
or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.