Instructions on how to remove grime from your Roman coinage

Posted on the January 28th, 2013 under Uncategorized by

So, you’ve got your nice new shiny Roman coin off eBay? Oh, wait. It’s dirty and full of grime. Not to worry! The following instructions should help you obtain coins that will retain their value. If you need additional help, make sure to visit Roman Money as you’ll get plenty of specialised information there.

Do not scrub with a random detergent! 

I know it’s tempting to get that dirt of your new coins straight away. Don’t do this. It’s only going to damage them and they won’t be worth anything. The name of this particular game is patience. You’re going to have to practice this virtue, otherwise you might as well quit now.

Buy the right Roman coins 

You must (it’s important) buy coins that are worth salvaging. Some coins are just completely past it and no matter what you do, they’re not coming back. Unfortunately, these are duds and are pretty much worthless. You will need to be very careful when you look at that “sounds too good to be true” deal you’ve just seen online. It’s likely that the seller knows that these coins are simply not worth trying to clean. You will get to know the small details as you gain experience, so don’t worry too much if you make a couple of mistakes along the way. Check out for more info.

Ready to go? Water is the key

Water is the key to cleaning your Roman coins, but the regular variety will not do. You will need special distilled water. Buy it from somewhere like Walmart. Put your Roman money in the water for a minimum of one full day. You can do it for a bit longer if you are the patient kind. Plenty of samples will actually be completely clean (or at least as clean as they will get) by the time the 24 hours have gone by. It works extremely well.

Still not completely clean? Take a toothbrush and remove any loose grime from your coins. Replace the water and repeat the step. Do this for another week. Keep separating your coins into groups, sorted by the severity of the grime still left on them.

Oilve Oil: The special secret weapon! 

Olive oil is going to be your best friend in this process. The Romans loved the stuff and you will too. It should be enough for most coins. Those that are not cleaned by olive oil are almost not even worth working on any further. They’re probably not salvageable coins.

Use the regular kind of olive oil, none of this virgin or extra virgin crap. So did you remember to sort your Roman coins into batches? Hope so! The first batch will need to be covered with olive oil in a container. Add a tea spoon of lemon juice to give it that extra cleansing kick. The second batch will need 2x the amount of juice. Now comes the boring part. You will need to keep your coins in there for a minimum of one long month. However, don’t be too discouraged. Your Roman coins should come out super clean after this point. Most of the time the grime will just slide off. The stubborn bits you can remove with your trusty toothbrush. Use a pick to get rid of anything else.

Repeat this step for up to half a year and this should be enough. I know it seems like a long time but these coins have lasted hundreds and thousands of years, so they need a little bit of extra care otherwise the Roman coins will be damaged.

Extra Super tip 1

roman-moneyUse modern technology to your advantage. In this case, I’m talking about electrolysis. Yes, it’s a little extreme but if half a year of olive oil soaks haven’t worked then you need to bring out the big guns. This might damage your coins beyond repair but if you’ve come to this point it’s likely that they’ll either be cleaned or your Roman coins will just not budge. You might as well go for it with this one and see what happens. I’ve managed to salvage some samples that have ended up being worth a lot of money, so it’s worth giving it a try with your Roman money for sure.

Extra Super tip 2

Don’t be cheap and buy bad tools for your Roman coins. Remember, this is the stuff that ran the Roman Empire and your coins deserve the best treatment! Buy the good stuff or you will just end up damaging your precious items. Remember, this is a hobby as well as an investment.