Rolly’s Coin Cleaning Tip

9th March 2017 — 15 Comments

My recent post about coin cleaning reminded Roland (Swiss Rolly) about an incident when he was a schoolboy in Hertfordshire. The technique he describes certainly cleaned the coins but isn’t recommended for your precious detecting finds … this is a delightful story from childhood.

“When I was at junior school, the building was an old Victorian construction made of relatively soft red bricks. Don’t ask me how but someone discovered that it you scraped a coin against the brick, a very fine abrasive like powder came off. If you rubbed this into the coin for ten seconds or so, it was miraculously cleaned and pennies came out as clean as the day they were minted.

In fairness the Victorian, Edward VII and George V coins required a bit more elbow grease, but George VI came up like new. Clearly we were all oblivious to the tiny scratch marks we made on the coin but who cares when they looked pristine to our eyes. Anyway, this craze soon caught on and everyone started to clean his or her coins. I’m sure they must have been puzzled in the school tuck shop as to why all those ultra clean coins were turning up.

As the term went on the coin clean craze seemed to hit new heights. A game developed out of who could clean the most during a break time. The demand to clean coins increased and new walls were found for scraping. It soon came to an abrupt halt when in one assembly we had the ‘this has got to stop and stop now’ speech.  Evidently some teacher inquisitive to why large groups of pupils looked as if praying at the Wailing Wall soon clocked what we were doing and all hell broke lose.

What we had done was effectively wear the bricks away. We had gouged out deep penny sized holes in the wall as we twisted our coins to get out the precious red powder. Basically we had ruined rows and rows of bricks on a number of walls. Some had almost disappeared.

© Roland

And that was the end of that, until your article had triggered this memory. I was curious to see what had happen of our brick sculpturing. By coincidence I was driving past my old school, stopped to look, and couldn’t believe my eyes. Fifty years later some of our handiwork still survives. You can clearly see from the picture the penny sized bullet holes we created. It was actually far worse than that and it is clear from the picture, extensive brickwork on the right had to be replaced.

I wonder how much our cleaning exploits eventually cost. Hey, but it was great fun while it lasted. After summer holidays it was all forgotten as the conker season was soon on its way.”

Well, some of you may say, that’s a novelty for a start! But imagine archaeologists coming across the remains of that wall in an excavation many years hence. I wonder what interpretation they would put on the condition of the bricks and the reason for the uniform indentations. Knowing the real story – wouldn’t it be fun to listen? I bet that they could be as equally entertaining as the imaginative and wonderfully evocative theories many archaeologists spin today.


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15 responses to Rolly’s Coin Cleaning Tip

  1. May not see the scratch marks, but if it was a valuable coin the value would have been diminished a lot

  2. I am almost ashamed to say it john… but I used sandpaper in coins.. I suspect that there were more than a few quite scarce ones too…

    • I invited Mr. Barford to comment. He made an appearance, missed his cue, but mentioned you on his toxic blog, Micheal. His comment was totally out of context as per usual and he manipulates what we got up to as children to his own advantage.

      He fails to realise that you are Canadian but still manages to make a sideswipe at PAS and ‘partners’ in passing. Is this guy non-human or just devoid of humour? What a loser!

  3. Coca cola and the wire brush on Dads emery wheel made my coins shiny again.

  4. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 9th March 2017 at 3:21 AM

    I am often amazed at the claims archeologists come up with, so I agree it would be great to see them thinking up something for the penny wall.

    It was the conkers that got my attention.

    My dad would make them for us with chestnuts and skate laces, but later you could buy them from the store.

    We would call the real ones conkers, and the fake ones clackers.

  5. Try using a fine brass jewellery cleaning brush.

    NOT on your really valuable finds, but ideal for the run of the mill ones.

    Happy Hunting and Cleaning,Jerry.

  6. That reminds me of my father’s tale of his method for getting woodbine cigarette packs out of the ciggie machines – he and his schoolboy pals would rub ha’pennies along the school wall and rub them down until they would fit the machine then hey presto – cheap fags!

    Little sod!


  7. A great blog John lovely story, evoking memories of infant and junior school days in the summer sun lol. Things seemed to be so much different and happier then, and then you grow up !!

  8. Daniel Spencer 9th March 2017 at 2:33 PM

    I have tried many methods of cleaning coins and also making patterns with coins… Still today the garden wall shows signs of a misspent youth… Markings in form of a hashtag (noughts & crosses)…!

    Great post John!

  9. One must remember that this guest post isn’t about how to clean coins, but more about (to quote Roland), ‘those lost innocence days of childhood’.

  10. Interesting story. Thanks for sharing.
    Was this a pastime for kids in just your school or area?
    I live in Somerset.. It makes me want to look closely at a similarly aged red brick school building in my area and see if there are any similar markings.
    Of course I suppose it would be entirely dependant on the type of brick, but I’ll keep an eye out.

  11. Hi All

    Many thanks for your comments regarding this post. Also big thanks to John for posting
    Looking back on it now, it was terrible the damage that was done to the wall. But back in summer term in 1967 when you are seven you did not quite think like that. Since writing this I had never really considered how someone actually discovered this coin cleaning method in the first place. I am sure we were all inventive children but I cannot believe someone would come up with such an original idea. Therefore my belief is this was knowledge handed down from parents or even grandparents. I think to discover such a method must have emanated from boredom. People with a lot of time on their hands and nothing much else to do. Romantically I would like to think it was something done by the troops in the trenches, or wardens on night watch duty filling in time. More than likely it comes from convicts doing porridge. If anyone knows or has done similar (not porridge that is) it would be great to know.

    I mentioned this to my brother who went to the same school. He had also completely forgotten about the clean coin craze. In discussion about the ‘good old days’ he reminded me of something else that was peculiar to our school. They ran a fundraising scheme called Rupert Tickets. The way it worked was you bought a little crimped/sealed ticket for 3d. There were two ways to win. Upon opening you might be lucky, and the ticket would state IOU 6d, IOU 1/-or IOU 2/6 which was an instant win and you would collect your prize from the school office. But that was just a distraction to the main event, the possibility to win £50. Printed inside the ticket were 3 big letters. To win the £50 those three letters had to match the first letter of the first, second and third words of the text that appeared as part of the Rupert Bear cartoon in The Daily Express. So if you had RJU and the story started Rupert jumps up, the £50 would be yours. Honest!

    There was always the rumour that somebody knew somebody who won £50 once but this was never ever substantiated. At the time this just seemed part of everyday school life but looking back now you think how utterly utterly bizarre!



  12. Many thanks to Roland for a great addition to my blog.

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