My Experiences Buying Lots of Uncleaned Ancient Coins

-Like some coin oriented Nostradamus I can predict what YOU will find in any given group of ancient uncleaned coins.

When I was a kid I watched the National Geographic Video Atocha - Quest for treasure, and ever since I have wanted to find some treasure trove myself. Unfortunately this will never happen, but with the purchase of a group of "Uncleaned and Unsearched Ancients" I'm not just buying the coins but also a feeling of discovery. That is... after they arrive as I'm opening the package... who knows what's inside! Whatever the reason for purchase how is a numismatist supposed to resist the temptation of purchasing a hoard of coins? I can help with this temptation, but if you do break down and order some "uncleaneds" the next couple paragraphs will explain what you will find.

Now back to earth. If you didn't purchase the coins on the street at some bazaar in Bulgaria then I can give you a fairly good idea of what you will find. People auctioning lots of coins on Ebay are generally like casino owners, there is a chance that you will find something rare and valuable but the odds are in favor of the house. Don't despair completely though. It's very likely that you will find a couple of interesting coins to satisfy your treasure hunting zeal. (You can check out some of my interesting finds here).

How can that be you might ask? Grab a cup a tea and crumpet (or a Twinkie) and I'll fill you in. Most of this info is from my own personal experience and from various websites and mailing lists, Joviel's ancient coin cleaning website ( being my favorite.

First off I would like to say I've had my best luck purchasing large amounts of coins as cleaned coins sold unidentified as group. Usually these are higher quality than coins sold as uncleaned. I suspect that these coins have been identified as potentials for cleaning in a large uncleaned lot and then cleaned. Once it was realized they weren't anything special they're sold as a group of unidentified cleaned ancient coins. Identifying coins is time consuming! Of course any good coins found during cleaning are sold individually. The remaining lower quality coins are not cleaned and sold as uncleaned coins. This is done because of the economics of running a business. Everyone is trying to make money! If they sold you all of their best coins uncleaned they'd be flushing their profits down the shitter. How can somebody only clean high quality coins and leave the lesser quality uncleaned? In time anybody can develop an eye for spotting high quality uncleaned coins. And most of the time it doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine the best coins in a group. (Some pictures to follow of good and not so good example)

  • Uncleaned Roman Imperial Coins- The vast majority of uncleaned coins for sale are roman imperial with a smattering of other coins added. Lets say you purchase a lot of 1,000 uncleaned roman coins. First, there will be NO gold. If you find a gold coin it is just gold colored. If you find a gold colored coin, and have it tested and it proves to be gold the element and not just gold the color then go out and buy a lottery ticket. Oh and send me a picture and the name of the person you bought the coins from.
  • There should be a couple silvers which may have been thrown in to keep people buying. One or all of these silvers will probably prove to be fourees with cores corroded enough to obscure the silver coating. Another likely silver to find is a low silver content Antoninianus. For example I have found a Valerian Antoninianus like Sear RCV 2897 (4th ed.)
  • The large coins will either be provincial or SC type aes of Augustus, Claudius and probably some later Follis.
  • The majority of coins will be 3rd century AE3s and 4s. I'll bet there's going to be a lot of soldiers spearing falling horseman, victories and soldiers and standards for reverses.
  • The best chance of finding a rare coin is with very encrusted coins. Most likely even these coins have even been scratched on one edge to make sure it isn't silver or gold. The right type of encrustation will protect the surface of the coin. Electrolysis will break this heavy encrustation off the coin in about 10 minutes. A smaller coin could turn out to be a rare later emporer like Johannes (pic). Don't count on it though.
  • A Smattering of random coins, a button and maybe even a modern coin. (Coming soon: Interesting coins I have found)

  • Lots of Uncleaned Greek Coins: I have always found uncleaned greeks hard to clean. They often seem to be in worse condition than uncleaned romans. Good Luck with these!

  • Uncleaned roman provincial: If you can find these give them a shot. There are usually some interesting finds. I figure this is because provincials are harder to identify and sometimes sellers just don't have the time.

    The bottom line is: These coins have been picked over. The only coins left have been identified as not valuable by the seller or sellers. If by some stroke of luck you do find something rare it will likely be something that at first glance appears common. For example you might find a Hanniballianus or some other later rare bronze that could look like a Constantius II AE4.
  • Check out my Ebay auctions!