How Does Toning Affect the Value of Collectible Coins?


Grand Rapids Coins recommends to our clients that they not clean their coins. Cleaning coins decreases their value. Generally speaking, every time a coin is improperly handled or used, its value goes down. Coin collectors prefer to have coins in as close to mint condition as possible. However, there are a few coin alterations that can positively affect a coin’s value. One of these is toning. 

What Is Toning? 

Toning is coloring that occurs on the surface of a coin as a result of it interacting chemically with its environment. We often see coin toning that is beautiful and has a spectrum of colors like a rainbow. Not all toning is pretty, however. Sometimes it can be a dark color that obscures the images on the coin and makes the coin look pitted or ugly. How a coin tones depends on the chemical composition of the coin and what it has interacted with. 

Any coin can tone, but the coins that are most susceptible to toning are silver and copper coins. Gold coins are not very susceptible to toning, but since they do contain some copper, they can tone as they age too.

Morgan dollars can be fun to collect for the variety of toning available. Many Morgan dollars were stored for over a century in canvas bags at the U.S. Treasury. The chemicals in them reacted with the chemicals in the cotton canvas bags slowly over time. These silver dollars often have gorgeous rainbow toning as a result. 

Because there is a demand for toning, some unscrupulous coin sellers choose to deliberately modify the surface of older coins to make them look like they toned over decades. Fake toning can be accomplished quickly by exposing the coins to bright sunlight, humidity, or chemicals like sulphur or bleach. For this reason, we recommend that customers who collect toned coins consult a professional coin dealer or grading company before they spend a lot of money on a collection of toned coins. A professional will be able to tell whether the toning occurred naturally and gradually or if it’s artificial. 

How Does Toning Affect Coin Value? 

There isn’t a simple answer to this question because coin collectors have different opinions about toning and whether even attractive looking toning adds value to coins. Some collectors love the variety of colors toning can produce. They collect coins for their toning differences and will pay a premium above the value of an untoned coin. Others think toning is just another form of damage. 

Among coin collectors who appreciate toning, there is also a difference of opinion on what constitutes beauty. Rainbow toning in a crescent or target pattern is generally considered good while darker black, brown, or green toning that is mottled or uneven is considered ugly. Collectors who collect modern coins from the 20th century such as Franklin half dollars or Roosevelt dimes tend to prefer them new and clean looking. On older 19th century coins, though, toning can be a real selling point. Much depends on a coin’s eye appeal.

Right now there is a demand for coins with toning among collectors. This means they are more valuable, especially if they have an eye catching appeal or very vivid colors. Lower value coins with interesting looking toning can fetch higher prices, and a rare coin with striking toning can garner a fortune at auction. While there are general guidelines, coin values can be difficult to predict because people’s preferences and perceptions of beauty regularly change when it comes to coins and everything else. 

If you have toned coins and would like to see what they are worth, please make an appointment with us. We will be happy to look over your coins and consult with you on their value. If you are looking for coins with beautiful toning, call us! At Grand Rapids Coins we are always ready to help our clients locate what they are seeking for their collections. 

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