Alan V. Weinberg writes:
My in-depth experience in numismatics goes back to 1958. In those days and perhaps for as much as a decade later, natural toning was in disfavor
and dipping / removing natural color was highly recommended - the brighter the better. That is not to say that harsh abrasive cleaning was the way to
go. But "bright was better". Even today, a judicious and limited dipping to remove unattractive toning is not considered
"cleaning" but I understand a number of very valuable , early US high end silver coins have been ruined by dipping. Typically, early
American silver returning from England with its dark irregular toning brought on by their damp cold weather does not dip out well.
I have always felt that the entire concept of doctoring and conservation is a bit too much of a "black box" for my liking. The industry claims
that conservation is an extremely tricky subject matter, however it can't be that complex or the extremely large hoards and shipwrecks recently found
would be taking many decades to conserve. Like most things in life, where there is mystery – there is margin. Coin collectors comprise all walks of
life, including many in the sciences or of a scientific bent who could successfully replicate conservation techniques if they were not shrouded in
This mystery is a money maker for the experts. I would love to have the means to conduct a study whereby coins conserved by company A are graded
by company B and vice versa. Would the grading companies consider their competitor's conservation to be best practice or "cleaning"? There is little
written concerning the "standard" method to conserve a coin and acceptable results versus conservation failures. My great concern with conservation
is that without a written and accepted standard, that conserved coins will become the next pariah as demand for middle grade coins wane with the
contraction in the collector population. The experts keep methods so secret that who can say with certainty that future generations will accept this
as good stewardship.
At the end of the day, I think our discussion should focus on what are acceptable conservation methods (in detail). I know there is an argument
that a collector will destroy a mildly valuable coin by botching a conservation - but let's be honest here, in this day and age with the internet –
if someone decides to try conservation by themselves, they probably would have just cleaned that coin without any guidance. At least full disclosure
and transparency would make sure that everyone considering conservation understood exactly what they were doing to their collections.
I liken this very much to a technical trade. Just because I understand how a computer works or how to repair my car's engine doesn't mean I want
to do either of those. What it does provide me is the ability to understand what is valuable labor and what is overcharging for a menial task.