This week, in a way, has been a colourful week really that kick-started with Holi. As the entire nation indulges in fun and frolic that the festivities invite, we thought of touching upon a colourful topic in numismatics as well – Toned coins.
Toning in coins is caused due to a chemical reaction or corrosion that occurs between the surface of coins and the air or environment around it. It can take months and in some cases, several years together for toning to occur. Many-a-times, the result is spectacular but as they say, beauty is sometimes very relative. Many coin collectors, on the other hand, do not like it if coins are toned. They would prefer keeping their coins safe from any kind of moisture to avoid oxidation. The chemical process can also increase or decrease the intrinsic value of a coin.
The air around us contains oxygen along with many other chemicals. When they come in contact with the surface of your coin, discoloration occurs or a light patina is formed. This oxidation can cause toning at different levels depending upon the metal – silver, gold, copper, nickel, etc. During the initial stages, toning is mild and it can take almost a century for them to become extremely dark and ugly. Beautifully toned coins in shades of yellow, orange, golden, brown, violet and blue are often highly desirable among collectors.
In numismatics, there is a big different between toned coins and tarnished coins. Tarnished coins are the ones that are toned using an artificial process. One should be extremely careful about these artificially toned coins as they do not have a market value at all. Coins are tarnished by coin doctors artificially to not only make them look like naturally toned coins but also to hide existing imperfections. You need to have the eye for details and a good experience in collecting toned coins. It is always better to consult a trusted expert before you shell out a lot of money on a toned coin. If you still have doubts then it is always preferable to go for coins that are graded by trusted third party grading companies.
If you are looking to buy toned coins, firstly consider the visual impact that it creates. Then see if the coin is rare. Coins that are rarer but are not as beautifully toned might have a better market value. Similarly, coins that are beautifully toned and rare as well will fetch you a lot of money! Even then, the audience for toned coins is very niche, which is why perfectly struck lustrous coins will be more desirable in the market than toned coins. But then, collectors also dislike artificially cleaned coins. All in all, naturally good looking coins are the ones which fare well.
You will see a shiny lustrous coin every day but is not too often that you will come across a beautifully toned coin. Apart from that, each one of them is unique and peculiar as each one exhibits a different shade, colour or pattern.
Metals like copper and silver react more easily when exposed to air. Older coins will show more variations in toning due to multiple and less pure metal “blends”.
Copper coins will generally feature orange, reddish-brown to full brown to nearly black toning. Silverish to musty grey toning will appear on Nickel coins. Silver coins can sometimes depict a rainbow-style toning, making them more valuable. Gold coins feature bright yellow to orange toning. They can also have a reddish tinge sometimes. Shown above are three toned coins of India like a quarter anna of 1941, a George V coin and a 1 Pice coin of 1945.
So go ahead, celebrate this Holi week by adding some beautifully toned coins to your collection!