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Coin Toning Occurs Naturally Over Time

A natural reaction of the untrained eye to coin toning is that they appear to be in poor condition as compared to a nice shiny coin which appears to have been polished and has a glistening silver color. However this is actually going to be a red-flag for anyone who is using the appearance of a coin like this as part of a valuation process. Coin toning is something which affects the surface of the coin naturally over many years. This is an occurrence which you can see on other items which are made from silver as well.

Rainbow Colored Toning of Antique Silver

Shown here is a photo of an early 1900s silver dish and you can see how the natural toning appears to have a virtual rainbow of colors. This coloration of the silver has occurred over many decades and if you find silver coins which have such an extreme amount of natural toning then their value will be reflected with a higher price and likely grade higher too.

People often refer to this phenomenon as presenting a tarnished look yet it is not a good idea to get out the polish and wipe away this superficial layer on the surface in an effort to make the item shine with luster. Others may refer to this as the patina which many collectors will actually see as far more interesting than an item which has been carefully polished. So what does toning have to do with the overall value of silver coins?

There are different kinds of toning and it can take a well trained eye to spot some of the natural vs. some of the fake toned coins you will find out there. If you think about the most valuable condition that silver dollars can be in, they are those which are in uncirculated condition and they have not been altered or worn from use either. The reason why they will be graded so highly is because they are a perfect representation of how they looked when they were first minted. So with that in mind you can see how any coin which has been unnaturally toned will not be as valuable as one which has attained its toning naturally over the course of time. The coin may actually look worse than one which has been cleaned and polished. It will not have the luster which polished silver presents either.

Natural Edge Toning on an 1879 Morgan Dollar

As a matter of fact naturally toned coins can look really bad because of their unbalanced discoloration. They may look like they have been heavily used and in need of a good cleaning. This is the point which you should stop and do not clean the coin because by wiping away the natural patina or toning you can significantly reduce the value of the coin.

Even minor darkening and slight discolorations like what is shown in this photo of an 1879 Morgan silver dollar can bring additional appeal to the coin collector. The toning is mostly around the edges here and it is not all that unusual. However it is completely natural and that is what is so important. Also very important is the fact that this coin has never been cleaned.

So why would the appeal of these naturally darkened and discolored looking coins have such a strong interest to collectors? Beyond the fact that they represent a pure, unaltered and well aged condition they also bring about a uniqueness which separates them from any other coin in the world. Toning can be very slight simply around the edge of the coin or it can be utterly stunning with a deep rainbow of color over the entire surface of the coin. It is this uniqueness which can make a fairly common silver dollar like a Morgan or Peace dollar which in not of any significant key date and make it notably more valuable than others of the same date.