A toned coin has a lot of appeal to some collectors. There are several ways to artificially tone a silver coin, with one of the most popular being an egg treatment. When done correctly, toning silver coins with eggs can make a coin look older with a rich tone and vibrant colors.
9 easy steps to tone silver coins with eggs are:
- Boil an egg until it is cooked thoroughly
- Once boiled, mash the egg in a bowl
- Place your silver coin in the bowl with the egg
- Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap
- Leave the bowl in a warm place
- Check on the bowl after 30 minutes
- Let the coin sit in the egg for 2 days
- Flip the coin and let it sit for another two days
- Check the coin and repeat step 8 if necessary
Before you start throwing your coins in with hard boiled eggs, you should think about one thing. This is a lot of effort to get a look that you may not like, while reducing the collectible value of your coin significantly. Below, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of toning and the egg-toning method.
Should You Tone Your Silver Coins With Eggs?
That really is the question when you are talking about toning coins with eggs, or any other method of artificial toning. Many collectors will tell you never to do so and most dealers can spot artificial toning, and it may reduce the coin’s value. So, why do it?
Some people feel that toned coins look better. That sentiment is shared across coin collectors who often pay more for a coin that looks like it has “lived a little” than one that looks fresh out of a dealer’s box. For coins that are in circulation, it’s almost a requirement with some collectors that coins look like they have been in use.
This is particularly true for collectors who buy specific coins over buying coins in bulk. The collector that goes after a specific denomination or year and doesn’t want uncirculated or proof coins will generally want the coin to look different than if it was packaged as soon as it was minted and shipped out to a dealer.
Because of that, some less reputable dealers will artificially tone their coins. The fact that they will go to that length is a testimony to the power of a toned coin over one that looks fresh and unused. The only difference between the dealer or seller that does that and the average collector that just likes the way it looks is in the methodology.
It does need to be mentioned that almost all collectors would rather have a “clean” coin than one that has been artificially toned. So, only choose to artificially tone your coin if you like the way toned coins look or you want to sell to people who don’t mind artificial toning.
Toned coins look better to some people because the coins have more character. While artificial toning might diminish the collectible value of a coin, some collectors might prefer it. If the coin will never be sold but just enjoyed by the person that owns it, artificially toning a silver coin is one way to give it character while not exposing it to the rough life of a coin in circulation.
When the owner of a silver coin is somewhat patient and applies the toning method evenly, the tone of the coin can vary from a darker, dull tarnishing to colorful toning that resembles a rainbow. There is no denying that a well-toned coin is much better looking than one that came straight from the mint.
How Toning Silver Coins Works
Many people do not fully understand what toning is. The short version is that toning on a coin is the process of the metal of a coin reacting to its surroundings. That is why many people think a toned coin looks like it has “lived,” and plenty of collectors out there prefer this look.
When a coin tones, a thin layer of silver sulfide builds on the coin surface when the coin is exposed to oxygen or hydrogen sulfide. Both are naturally present in air, which is why any silver, from silverware to coins, tarnish over time. Heat and humidity quicken the process.
Over time, the thin layer of silver sulfide will build and produce several colors in what is known as the “Thin Film Interference Effect.” This effect, which is produced by light striking a toning coin, can yield several colors that reside on the coin. That type of coloration is what many collectors are trying to achieve when they try to artificially tone a coin.
Does Toning Lower A Coin’s Value?
Toning a coin can lower a coin’s value, but not always. It’s largely down to the methodology used to tone the coin. While they go through the same oxidation process, natural and artificial toning can lead to different values. Naturally toned coins are often worth more than artificially toned coins.
For example, most silver coins left out in the air will, over time, attain a natural toning color that can resemble anything from a black to grey coating all the way to the multiple colors as is found in the Thin Film Interference Effect. With a little tinkering, using all natural ingredients and processes, the coin can be toned quicker, although not usually as uniformly as if just left alone.
Would exposing that coin, as this article covers, to an egg to capitalize on an egg’s high sulfur content going too far in the realm of artificially coating a coin? That depends on who is doing it and why. Just about everyone would agree that someone doing an egg treatment to try and fool a buyer is wrong.
If, though, someone is only doing it for their own enjoyment, or to sell to other collectors who don’t mind artificial toning, there really is nothing wrong with it, as long as the coin is never be sold as “naturally toned.” Artificially toned coins can have value, but not as high as one with natural tone.
Are There Benefits To Artificially Toning A Coin?
The benefit of artificially toning a coin is purely for your aesthetic and viewing enjoyment. A toned coin is certainly more eye catching than a static, sterile silver coin in a plastic pouch, and your enjoyment of coin collecting will benefit from toning. It usually won’t increase the coin’s value.
There is also the commercial benefit. A toned coin does attract buyers if the toning looks natural. A grading company will highlight a coin as particularly attractive based on the depth and consistency of its toning. That coin will sell for a higher value than one that is identical except for the degree of toning.
Most coin collectors will advise newcomers to avoid cleaning coins. Even coins that look over-toned are to be left alone because of the collectible value. The collectible value is what the market, or a collector, is willing to pay to own a specific coin. Collectors are willing to pay more for an attractively toned coin.
Toning Silver Coins With Eggs
Just about everyone agrees that toning a coin naturally is cool, and if your silver coins tarnish naturally, it only adds to the character of the coin. If you ever decided to part ways with it, a silver coin that is naturally tarnished will usually get a higher price than one that is bright and shiny and looks like it has spent its life in a plastic sleeve.
This section is also assuming that, for whatever reason, you have gotten over the debate of whether you should tone your coins artificially or let it happen naturally. The thing is, even if you go the route of natural toning, you do not have to wait years to get the look you are after. It’s also good to know these methods as it can shed some light on what to watch out for with egg-toning.
Naturally Toning Coins (With Some Help)
While a natural toning process will happen slowly over time, the process can be accelerated by a few different influences. In every case, the chemical reaction on the coin from the environment is the same, but the methodology and time it takes to occur are different.
In a natural toning process, coins tone at their own rate. In an artificial process, coins are forced into a toning environment that works much quicker than the natural process. When that environment is artificially enhanced, it accelerates the toning process even more.
How Sulfur Tones Coins
Sulfur occurs naturally and when combined with moisture, it accelerates toning. A good source of sulfur is cigarette or cigar smoke, or anything that runs on natural gas. Leaving a coin in proximity of these will accelerate the toning process quite quickly.
That is also why the egg method works so well. Eggs have a high sulfur content. When you expose a coin to that high sulfur content, the toning process accelerates. If you can confine the gases, put off by an egg or another method, the process of toning goes even faster. That is also why, when you choose to tone a coin in this manner, you need to keep an eye on it.
Over-exposure can produce a tone that is very unattractive. The tone can be uneven or stuck in a yellowish state. It also can appear as though the coin was dropped in a substance and stained. The balance you are striving for is to handle the coins enough to prevent over-exposure, but not so much that the toning process gets delayed.
A coin can also be contaminated by many different surface ingredients. That contamination in some cases can lead to a coin toning. Handling coins to expose them to your body’s oils and then spraying them with water are two ways to speed up the toning process. The longer a coin is exposed, the quicker and more deeply the coin will tarnish.
It’s important to remember, though, that toning is thwarted if you over-handle the coin. After you place it on a surface to let the toning process work, do not touch the coin if you can help it for several weeks. Much like cleaned silverware, if left alone, it will begin tarnishing. If the coin is handled daily, the tarnishing will still happen, but it will take much longer.
Heat And Humidity
A coin exposed to high temperatures in very humid conditions will tone as well. This method will also build on other methods to accelerate toning even more. A coin exposed to an egg, for instance, will tone over time, but that process will dramatically speed up if the exposure is accompanied by heat. It will tone even more if high humidity is present.
Heat and humidity have such an effect that if you are using the egg method or any other form of artificial toning, you should attempt to expose the coin to both during the toning process. For example, if you use the egg method, exposing it to sunlight can enhance the toning. If you are leaving it in the open air, running a humidifier in the room is a good idea.
The Common Denominator
No matter how you tone your coins, the vital ingredient to the process is hydrogen sulfide. Your coins must be exposed to hydrogen sulfide for this to work. Just about any contact with high levels of hydrogen sulfide can speed up the toning process and create the desired effect.
A Word Of Caution
Whether you use the slow processes or try the egg method below, you must make sure you only use low amounts of hydrogen sulfide. Try your method out first on lower value coins and perfect your process first. If you overexpose a coin, you can cause it to turn black and then it loses all its value and looks awful.
Because of that, you should try the egg method a few times on coins you do not care about to get a sense of how it works and what you need to be on the lookout for. Wrecking a few coins that are not worth much to you, but learning why, is an easy way to avoid damaging a valuable coin that you treasure.
Before toning one coin with an egg, you should understand that this method can “over-tone” a coin and create a very undesirable look. If done properly, it can make a coin look amazing and bring in more in a sale, which is why some dealers love the method. An over-exposed tone, however, can come out as a dull black or brown. Let’s now go through how to properly tone silver coins with eggs.
9 Easy Steps To Tone Silver Coins With Eggs
1. Boil An Egg Until It Is Cooked Thoroughly
One egg should be enough, just make sure it’s hard boiled.
2. Once Boiled, Mash The Egg In A Bowl
Mash the egg up, keeping the shells in the bowl too.
3. Place Your Silver Coin In The Bowl With The Egg
Once your egg (plus shell) is mashed up, place your coin in the bowl.
4. Cover The Bowl With A Lid Or Plastic Wrap
Anything will do here, but it’s probably best to keep it airtight to keep the smell in the bowl!
5. Leave The Bowl In A Warm Place
A sunlit windowsill is a good idea.
6. Check On The Bowl After 30 Minutes
You should see the coin starting to tone. What is happening is that the sulfur in the eggs has started to react with the silver in the coin. The more exposure the coin has to the egg, the greater the toning effect.
7. Let The Coin Sit In The Egg For 2 Days
Check it again. The toning should be much more dramatic.
8. Flip The Coin And Let It Sit For Another Two Days
Flip the coin, cover it again, and leave it for another two days.
9. Check The Coin And Repeat Step 8 If Necessary
After two more days have passed, check the coin again to see if further toning is required.
What You Should See When You Tone Silver Coins With Eggs
The silver coin should havea toned appearance, although it may not be even. The egg toning method is as much of an art as it is a science, so it may take a few tries to get it right. The colors you should see range from rainbow to brownish shades.
If the toning is not even, you may want to go through the process again. If the coin is close to finished, you might want to consider taking what you have and then exposing the coin to air rather than risk over-toning the coin with another egg treatment. With air toning, you can add things like heat and humidity to speed up the process.
If you do try the egg method again, you should reduce the overall exposure to the egg by half. In other words, only let it set for day before you flip it. If the exposure after a day is still not where you want it, leave it in with the egg the original amount of time (one extra day).
The toning process will happen more quickly the second time. This is not necessarily because the coin tones more quickly, but because the toning is building on prior toning. By checking it after a day, you are giving yourself the chance to stop the toning process before it exceeds your toning goal. You also can stop the process before the toning becomes ugly.
If You Do Not Like The Results
If the toning on the coin is not to your liking, you can clean the silver coin with any standard method to remove tarnish from silver. Be aware, though, that if the coin had natural toning before you exposed it to egg, that natural toning will come off when you remove the toning created by the egg method as well.
Whether you should tone your coins artificially is a call only you can make. If you do, the egg method is a good process to use, although it may take some tinkering to get it right. An artificially toned coin can look great, but it may reduce the resale value, so tone your silver coins with eggs with caution!