Mail Bag – Using Coffee to Clean Coins

Today’s Mail Bag question is one that has come up a few times. Is coffee safe to use to clean coins? The specific question came from Abe who asked…

I have some old coins and I want to clean them. I’ve heard from a friend that I can use coffee to clean them and it won’t hurt the coin. Is that true?



The short answer Abe is no. An emphatic no!

Coffee, like many foods, contains acids. While it will attack the dirt and grime on the coin, it will also attach the coin itself. That means you could permanently damage the coin itself, severely impacting its value.

As a general rule, you shouldn’t clean coins. Cleaning of coins was popular in 1940s through to the 1960s when a clean coin was considered more valuable than one that was “dirty” or had toning. That, of course, has changed. As I put in another Mail Bag article, we’ve come full circle in that some unscrupulous coin dealers will actually artificially tone coins to get the value of them up!

If you have to clean a coin – say you found it while metal detecting – use very mild cleaners and brushes to do so. I personally use Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo with a baby toothbrush. I use gentle circular motions to clean the dirt off but I don’t have to worry about the brush being too course and scratching the coin. Nor do I have to worry about acidity in the shampoo – it’s designed for babies after all!

Cleaning of coins should be reserved for those that have dirt on them, not necessarily to clean up the natural brown or other toning that has happened to the coin because of circulation.

I hope this answers your question Abe.

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