Does PCGS Grade Cleaned Coins?

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Written By Rudi
A passionate collector of both currency and Hot Wheels. Rudi has been collecting currency and Hot Wheels from around the world since he was a young boy.

So does PCGS Grade Cleaned Coins? It is widely accepted that PCGS sets the industry standard for coin grading. As a result, they are highly respected by collectors and dealers alike. It is also generally understood that PCGS adheres to the Sheldon Scale in its grading of coins, with 70 being the ideal grade for any given coin.

When it comes to its reputation for having strict standards, PCGS does not shy away from it. They proudly tout their reputation on their website: “The PCGS Guarantee of Grade and Authenticity is fundamental to our concept of third-party grading. The cash-back policy ensures the accuracy of the grade assigned to any PCGS coin as long as it remains in its tamper-evident holder.”

Does PCGS Grade Cleaned Coins?

does pcgs grade cleaned coins

No PCGS will not grade a cleaned coin, and the coin will be labeled as “No Grade” by PCGS. This is because cleaned coins have no numismatic value in the marketplace. If a coin is once cleaned, it is always considered to have been cleaned, and it will never be worth more than a standard example of that particular date and mintmark.

What Does PCGS Use to Clean Coins?

They don’t, and they don’t grade cleaned coins. So the coin will be under the ‘No Great’ coin category. PCGS does not grade coins that have been cleaned. This is what PCGS said about what is term as cleaning: “Cleaned” covers a wide range of appearances, from a grossly polished coin to one where faint hairlines can be seen only at a particular angle or in only one area on an otherwise perfectly normal coin.

When experts inspect a coin at PCGS, cleaning signs can appear in many forms. Some cleaning methods leave the coin with hairlines and discrepancies in the metal that may only be seen under the proper lighting and magnification. PCGS experts are trained to recognize the difference between cleaning and wear on coins, using their extensive knowledge and experience in just this kind of analysis.

PCGS Has A Coin Restoration Service

what does pcgs use to clean coins

If you are unsure what to do with your coin, you can send it to PCGS Restoration Service, where the pros will get it restored, graded, and back to its natural condition. PCGS Restoration is a service that helps collectors improve and preserve their coin collections from environmental defects. One thing to note is that submitting your coin for PCGS Restoration in no way guarantees the upgrade of your coin. Your coin will go through 3 steps:

  1. Evaluation
  2. It will be restored and graded if your coin passes the evaluation stage. 
  3. The PCGS Guarantee of Grade and Authenticity will cover your coin.

What Makes a Coin “Cleaned”?

To put it simply, cleaning a coin may result in an immediate decrease in that coin’s value. However, cleaning can also cause damage to the coin by removing portions of the surface.  There are many different ways people attempt to clean their coins. However, here are some of the most common cleaning methods:

does pcgs grade cleaned coins
  • Chemical dips
  • Ultrasonic cleaners
  • Hard scrubbing with brushes or polyester brushes (Scotch-Brite)
  • Machine tumbling (rotary tumblers) with abrasive such as corncob or stainless steel shot and any soap, detergent, or other chemical solution
  • Cleaning can also be accomplished with soap and water.

These cleaning methods may result in metal removal or significant dulling of luster. For example, so-called “coin shiners” can strip metal away from a coin’s surface and leave it with a dull appearance. In some cases, these tools will leave hairline scratches perpendicular to the device’s direction of travel when pulled across the surface of a raw (un-slabbed) coin — not unlike stripping paint from wood furniture with steel wool or sandpaper. The definition used by PCGS for “cleaned” covers a wide range of appearances, from a coin with hairlines that can be seen from a specific angle to cleaned and polished coins.

Cleaning A Coin Can Cause Damages To The Coin

You may have heard that cleaning a coin can remove the beautiful, natural patina that develops over time. It’s true. You may not know that cleaning a coin can also cause damage.

Not only does cleaning risk removing the toning and patina, but it also risks removing the original mint luster and causing scratches or abrasions—especially if you use an abrasive cleanser on your coins. Sometimes, a coin may come out of the process looking worse than when it went in!

Don’t Clean Your Coins!

Yes, you heard us correctly—don’t clean your coins. When I say “don’t clean your coins,” I don’t mean that you should only occasionally clean them—I mean NEVER. Cleaning your coins is not worth the risk of severely damaging their value.


All you need to do is follow the submission guidelines of whichever grading service you use. No reputable third-party grader will knowingly grade a cleaned coin. I think it’s important to remember that no matter which grading service you choose, they all have been in this business long enough to know when a coin is dipped or cleaned.

They will do their best to protect numismatics by not allowing bad coins into the holder, regardless of whether or not the submitter has disclosed their treatment. So does PCGS grade cleaned coins? Unfortunately, not only PCGS doesn’t grade cleaned coins, and all other graders don’t grade cleaned coins. 

Before you go…

The bottom line: If your coin has been dipped, cleaned, or otherwise tampered with, do not submit your coin to PCGS or any other grading services unless you have disclosed that your coin has been cleaned.

Check out my next article: “Coin Collecting Grading Terms.”

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3 thoughts on “Does PCGS Grade Cleaned Coins?”

  1. Having PCGS Restore my coins, will it say on the protector “CLEANSED” or CLEANSED BY PCGS!”

    I avoid coins that have “CLEANSED” on it. I like my coins to be as authentic as possible.

    Yolanda R

  2. damnit! if i could determine IF my coin was previously cleaned, then i wouldn’t need pcgs to grade it either. i’d be the expert.


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