What Is Rainbow Coin Toning?


When you begin collecting coins, one of the terms you will run into over and over again when reading coin descriptions is toning. We have discussed toning and how it affects coin value previously. In this blog we will discuss a specific type of toning – rainbow coin toning – and why it makes some coins more valuable. 

What Is Toning? 

Toning is more commonly called tarnishing. It’s a chemical process that occurs naturally over time, causing metal to become discolored. Toning is primarily caused by oxygen or sulfur reacting with the metal of coins. This can be accelerated or amplified by the presence of heat, humidity, or the presence of other chemicals, such as those found in certain types of paper or in the oils of your skin. What results can make a coin more attractive or quite ugly, even corroded. 

What Is Rainbow Coin Toning? 

Silver is very vulnerable to tarnishing. When trace amounts of sulfur or other chemicals come into contact with silver coins over a long period of time, a specific type of chemical reaction can result. The colors the metal can take on range from blue to vivid red to green. Sometimes toning produces a stunning rainbow-like effect on a coin. 

Morgan dollars are one of the most common series of coins that people collect for their toning. This is because many of these coins were stored in the United States Treasury vaults for over 100 years in canvas bags. Under the conditions in the vaults, the reaction between the chemicals in the canvas bags and the silver resulted in many coins with wonderful rainbow coin toning. 

The Value of Toning

Under the right circumstances, toning can add an extra layer of eye appeal to a coin that many coin collectors seek out for their collections. They will pay over and above the graded value of the same untoned coin because the coin is truly one of a kind. 

However, not every collector appreciates toning or rainbow toning. Some collectors view toning as damage and shun them completely. It can be hard to predict what the ultimate effect toning will have on the coin, whether it will continue in its current state, become more beautiful over time, or turn a tarnished black or brown. There is a risk in collecting toned coins.

Ultimately, it really is a matter of collector preference. Generally speaking, brighter colors are preferred over darker toning, but there is a collector for nearly every kind of toning, whether pale, vibrant, muted, or darker. Toned coins can be incorporated into specific coin sets or acquired just for their own unique look. 

Currently, the market for toned coins is hot, and rainbow coin toning is in particular demand. The greater the number of colors on the coin, the greater its value will be. Even a low-value coin with rainbow toning can become a rare collectible. 

Rainbow toning happens to coins by chance under the “right” conditions. It can also be artificially manufactured by people who want to create toning and pass it off as natural. Since toned coins are often sold at a higher price, unscrupulous people try to create the same effect to make a higher profit. A professional coin dealer will be able to tell if a coin’s toning is natural or not or if it was added to hide imperfections with the coin. If in doubt about a coin’s value, consult a coin dealer or a third-party grading service before purchasing. 

If you are intrigued by rainbow coin toning, we at Grand Rapids Coins would be happy to help you pursue specific coins or answer questions about coin sets or coin values. Call us anytime with your questions or make an appointment to have your coins evaluated

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