Many Penny questions...

I have a little penny side biz selling a kit that allows you to make a portrait of Abe Lincoln out of old pennies. (I'm pleased to announce the U.S. mint just started selling them in their gift shops and both Philly and Denver have a completed portrait on display. How cool is that!)

I have two nagging questions about pennies.

  1. I have a lot of 1943 steelies that are in bad shape. (Maybe 2000 or so...) I'm not sure what to do with them. I've tried cleaning a few and they look great for a while, but then they get a rusty bloom on them and they are worse than when they started.

Somebody somewhere must clean and reprocess these as I've come across batches of reprocessed steel cents on occasion. Does anyone know who does that or where one can get it done?

  1. I'm looking for a homemade way to darken pennies. As my kit relies on people gathering pennies of various shades, it is sometimes hard for folks to acquire darker pennies in the wild. It's easy enough to shine pennies up using ketchup, vinegar, etc. but I'd love if there were an equally efficient way to darken them. (I've heard of Deller's Darkener, but I don't want my customers to have to buy something else. Would be more in the spirit of the project if they could use materials they found around the home to darken some pennies. Anyway, I threw a $50 challenge up on my blog if anyone has any ideas.

https://pennyportrait.com/2018/11/01/science-fair-challenge-50-prize/

Thanks for any advice/feedback. I realize I'm not your typical coin enthusiast but appreciate the chance to post here all the same.

Create a portrait of Abe Lincoln out of pennies! www.PennyPortrait.com

Comments

  • SmudgeSmudge Posts: 4,007 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Uh, black spray paint.

  • Aspie_RoccoAspie_Rocco Posts: 2,283 ✭✭✭✭✭

    If you instruct them to go to a local bank and get a few rolls of cents they should be able to get enough darker coins. I do not know of a way to darken cents safely or without chemicals.

  • TurboSnailTurboSnail Posts: 1,291 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November 2, 2018 5:35AM

    How about burn one tea bag and smoke them in a pot with lid? It is the process people use to make smoked duck etc. If it is safe, to eat then it's safe to touch.

  • So it's a chemical process that happens in nature that makes them dark, I'm just hoping to speed up that process. The more I'm reading online, it appears exposure to sulfur and oxygen over time is what causes it. Trying to "safely" figure out a way to speed that process up with household supplies people might have lying around.

    Create a portrait of Abe Lincoln out of pennies! www.PennyPortrait.com
  • rickoricko Posts: 67,868 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @PennyPortrait .... Welcome aboard.... perhaps after a while, your association with cents might make you a collector....Completing an album date series is fun and interesting. I have not done this, but you might try putting some cents in a jar with a crushed, hard boiled egg yolk and put the cap on... do not put the cents in contact with the yolk. See what happens. Cheers, RickO

  • @ricko Ha, I was just suggesting this to my wife not 5 minutes ago. (She thinks I'm crazy btw...) That said, apparently the whites of an egg have far more sulfur than the yolks, so I think I'll try with an entire crushed up hard boiled egg in a jar and see what happens over time. (Honestly, this would be a really cool science fair experiment for a kid, so I was hoping to pawn off the labor on someone who was tired of making baking soda volcanoes... ha!)

    I'm a bit of a coin collector as well... As I've had to buy a lot of old pennies to create a few of these portraits over the years and we dig through the wheats and add those to our book. My goal is to have a completed penny collection one of these days! Ironically, I have so many steel pennies that my kids think those are a pretty normal thing.

    Create a portrait of Abe Lincoln out of pennies! www.PennyPortrait.com
  • RittenhouseRittenhouse Posts: 561 ✭✭✭

    Why don't you sell the cents needed for the portrait too? You can buy bags of wheat cents all with dark colors.

    Alternately, just get a commercial bronzing solution.

  • rickoricko Posts: 67,868 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The whites of eggs contain very little sulfur...they are mostly protein....Cheers, RickO

  • carabonnaircarabonnair Posts: 905 ✭✭✭✭✭


    You can get sulfur ointment at the pharmacy.

  • @carabonnair Holy cow, that looks basically like the stuff they sell to darken copper, but you can pick it up at your local Walmart. I think you might be onto something here... Off to the lab!

    @ricko I was just going off the Livestrong site, they might be wrong. They state, "Eggs are not only a rich source of protein, they're high in sulfur, with the white, or albumen, containing the majority. Each egg yolk contains 0.016 milligram of sulfur, and the white contains 0.195 milligram, according to B. Srilakshmi, author of "Food Science." "

    Create a portrait of Abe Lincoln out of pennies! www.PennyPortrait.com
  • bobsrbobsr Posts: 354 ✭✭✭

    Cut a slit in a potato , stick the penny in, make sure it is in contact with the potato, and stick it in the oven bake at 350. check every half hour till you reach the right shade you're looking for. Don't forget what you're doing and eat the potato by mistake.
    Bob Sr CEO Fieldtechs

  • bobsrbobsr Posts: 354 ✭✭✭

    For the 1943 steels, a few years ago, I soaked a bunch in MS70, It made them look brand new some the corrosion came right off, others soaked for several days before it separated. Have to keep changing the solution. Not sure if it was worth it but I did find a D/D.
    Bob Sr CEO Fieldtechs

  • @bobsr Is D/D stand for Double Die? (I'm still learning this coin lingo...) Also after you soaked them in MS70, what did you do to keep them from corroding again? (They are basically worthless now as they are so corroded, so not worrying too much about cleaning/coating them. I'm just giving them out as basically a novelty item.)

    Create a portrait of Abe Lincoln out of pennies! www.PennyPortrait.com
  • bobsrbobsr Posts: 354 ✭✭✭

    I didn't keep them for long. I put them in round plastic holder with black ring (air-tight) that absorbs moisture and sold them. The D/D was D mint mark over D mint mark. Basically the D broke off the die and when they fixed it they left a shadow of the original D causing a double image. There is a chemical (conserve) on the market that preserves the surfaces of coins, apparently, the TPG'S accept this as it doesn't alter surfaces. Been awhile since I've used it, but TPGS are in constant evolution so I would check with them before I did anything to any coin of value.
    Bob Sr CEO Fieldtechs

  • bobsrbobsr Posts: 354 ✭✭✭

    Steel pennies are zinc coated. This zinc is what corroded. Depends on how much you want to spend on them to get them bright and shiny which ruins their collectability . Any metal plating company can acid dip them to remove corrosion and replate them with zinc. They will look like new but not to collectors or dealers. Zinc will corrode naturally over time and moisture look at any German WE II coins and you will get a good idea of what happens to zinc.
    If you want to protect copper pennies from corroding and don't care about future collectability, an old timers trick was to coat them in lacquer. Keeps the copper from aging, but by modern standards makes them worthless for collecting. I once used varying degree of tarnished copper cents to make an American flag on a bar-top in my basement and lacquered the surface, when I moved 30 years later, that top looked just like it did when I made it.
    By the way, I don't encourage any type of cleaning of any coin no matter the value. Just my old age values kicking in.
    Bob Sr CEO Fieldtechs

  • BlindedByEgoBlindedByEgo Posts: 10,750 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Have your customers experiment with simple things like cents in a box with a few rubber bands. Put them near a mild heat source (sunny windowsill, steam radiator) and experiment with different lengths of time.

    I would imagine this as a family project for many - nice tie-in for STEM teaching for home-schoolers, or just a way for parents to engage with their kids.

    For the more adventurous/ motivated, try sodium bisulfite - it's inexpensive, pretty innocuous in small quantities and will naturally give off small amounts of sulfur dioxide with any humidity/ warmth. A small amount in a damp paper towel, put the cents in a sealed Tupperware on the windowsill, and voila! Tarnished cents!

    Just make sure you open outside - otherwise, blame the rotten egg smell on Grandpa.

  • Namvet69Namvet69 Posts: 2,602 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Interesting topic, gonna try bobsr potato bake tip on a whizzed IHC I found in a junk box at the flea market. Peace Roy

  • gonzergonzer Posts: 2,391 ✭✭✭

    @TurboSnail said:
    How about burn one tea bag and smoke them in a pot with lid? It is the process people use to make smoked duck etc. If it is safe, to eat then it's safe to touch.

    Mmm, someone's dating themselves.

  • mustangmanbobmustangmanbob Posts: 1,602 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November 4, 2018 7:36AM

    If you need the 1943's reprocessed, let me know. I can have them stripped of all the crud, and then rezinc'd so they look "new". I can also have regular copper ones turned into a golden color or darkened down to a blackish color. Bob

  • @mustangmanbob Bob, would be very interested in this. I have SO many worthless steelies sitting here that if recoated would be ideal for my purposes. (I'm essentially giving away a rezinced steelie with each kit as a novelty item more than a collector's item. Just a way to show folks that coin collecting is a fun and unique pastime and give them a little history.)

    Feel free to e-mail me as I'd likely be interested in a bid on what that might cost. [email protected]

    Create a portrait of Abe Lincoln out of pennies! www.PennyPortrait.com
  • CameonutCameonut Posts: 6,139 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I'd recommend reprocessing the 43s as @mustangmanbob suggested. I'd also take him up on his offer.
    If you would rather do it yourself, see if there is a plating shop near you. These are simple if they plate zinc and getting the crud off is normally part of the process. You might not like the cost from a commercial plater.

    “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." - Thomas Jefferson

    My digital cameo album 1950-64 Cameos - take a look!

  • COCollectorCOCollector Posts: 850 ✭✭✭✭

    Do-it-yourself zinc coating:

    Zinc Sulfate is widely available in garden shops (fertilizer), pharmacies (food supplement), and laboratory supply stores (reagent grade). Amazon, Walmart, FisherScientific, you-name-it.

    I've never tried the fertilizer, but it's the cheapest per-pound.

  • 1Mike11Mike1 Posts: 3,556 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Just a reminder that too much zinc can harm your pets. They are like babies, they think everything is to eat. :)

    "If you truly love rare coins then you might feel like I do...which is...F the doctors!" homerunhall

    "A dog breaks your heart only one time and that is when they pass on". Unknown
  • Musky1011Musky1011 Posts: 3,789 ✭✭✭

    Take those old coins to a park where they metal detect often.. like sledding hills.. throw those old steel cents off the top of the hill to random places.. someone would be thrilled to dig them up

    Pilgrim Clock and Gift Shop.. Expert clock repair since 1844

    Menomonee Falls Wisconsin USA

    http://www.pcgs.com/SetRegistr...dset.aspx?s=68269&ac=1">Musky 1861 Mint Set
  • @Cameonut said:
    I'd recommend reprocessing the 43s as @mustangmanbob suggested. I'd also take him up on his offer.
    If you would rather do it yourself, see if there is a plating shop near you. These are simple if they plate zinc and getting the crud off is normally part of the process. You might not like the cost from a commercial plater.

    Yeah, I seem to recall looking into this here in Austin, but none of the electroplating shops would deal with me. They were pretty commercial in nature.

    Create a portrait of Abe Lincoln out of pennies! www.PennyPortrait.com
  • au58au58 Posts: 1,278 ✭✭✭

    Do a search on high school electroplating experiments and maybe you can do it your self.

  • mustangmanbobmustangmanbob Posts: 1,602 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Sent you a message.

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