Something I see on a regular basis that absolutely drives me crazy is watching people run their fingers across silver coins to remove dirt. I’ve been hunted with people who have been metal detecting for 20 plus years who will rub the dirt off a silver coin, it makes me cringe! The majority of YouTube videos I’ve seen shows somebody wiping a silver coin with their fingers, some with many years of experience who should know better!
I have seen an attempts to do better at not scratching freshly dug coins. I’m sure you’ve seen the popularity of spray bottles and I applaud the efforts but time and time again I still see detectorists wiping the mud off that the water didn’t remove. It is so easy to scratch silver and just because you don’t see scratches doesn’t mean you didn’t scratch it. Something that is very important to know is if you do ever send a coin off to be graded they will be looking at your coin through a microscope! The grading company will see every scratch and grade accordingly.
When I’ve asked people why they do it I usually get answers like “well it’s just a mercury dime” or “just a Washington quarter” and this makes me sick! Would you do it if it was a 1932 D or S quarter than could potentially bring over a 100 dollars? Of course you wouldn’t because you could literally make that coin worth nothing now! Or what about a 1916 D mercury dime that can fetch thousands of dollars?
So you’ve got lucky (I guess) and haven’t found any key date silver. Another thing I’ve heard that I find disturbing is “I’m not going to sell them anyway I’m going to just give them to my kids someday” which makes no better sense to me at all.
One of my best silver years I found right at 120 silver coins. Out of those coins one is worth about 20 dollars, another I had a guy offer me 125 for it and the rest were pretty plain. Let’s say the average melt price is 2.00 dollars for the common coins. I understand it’s not going to hurt melt price but for those who will keep them and pass them down to kids, these coins will only go up in value UNLESS you’ve scratched them to death with your fingers. Do you want to pass something down to your kids that have the potential to go up significantly in price in their lifetime or a bunch of scrap coins? As far as the 20 dollar coin and 125 dollar coin, it’s hard to say how much value they would have lost scratched up by my fingers but I’ve heard some say half and even more of the value would be gone.
For those of you who think you will never find a valuable silver coin I just have to say I didn’t think I would either until I found my 1916 D mercury dime valued at almost 3,000 dollars. If you want to hand a bunch of scrap silver coins down to your kids I guess that’s your choice but with a little patience and proper cleaning techniques you have the potential to hand down a really nice collection.
I know this article sounds harsh and for that I apologize but do yourself, your kids and the hobby a favor and learn not to rub your fingers across your coins. Put them safely away and soak them in water. Slowly and gently let the water remove the mud and dirt from your coin. A slightly discolored, dirty coin doesn’t take away the value but a cleaned/scratched coin does. At most I will take a Q-tip and lightly dab at the soil stained areas of the coin. If this article helps even one person stop making this horrible mistake it will make this detectorist a happy guy!