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How to Clean an Indian Head Penny

Indian head pennies were minted in the United States in the 19th century.
Indian Coins image by Sujit Mahapatra from Fotolia.com

The Indian Head Penny has a lady wearing a feathered headdress on its face. Most Indian Head pennies are worth at least a dollar if the date can be read, and those in good condition are worth as much as $5. While cleaning an Indian Head Penny is not advised, especially for old coins or those that have been inherited, there is a way to clean the penny using mild dishwashing detergent.

Wash hand with soap to remove oils and dirt from your fingers. Then place the penny on a towel.

Make a bowl of soapy water using a small amount of mild dishwashing detergent. The best containers are plastic, as glass and metals may damage the surface of the coin.

Prepare a rinse bowl using another plastic container. Fill the container with distilled water. If you don't have distilled water, warm tap water will do. Distilled water will help the coin dry free of spots because the water is free of minerals and other impurities.

Place the penny in the soapy water and gently rub on both sides of the coin. Try to work outward, pushing any dirt or grit to the edge of the coin. If you have more than one coin, only wash one at a time.

Allow the coin to dry completely and store in a plastic container. When handling, try to only pick up on the edges.

Things You'll Need:

  • Two containers
  • Dish detergent
  • Towel
  • Distilled water


Some coins may be worth more with natural oxidation (referred to as toning). Polishing and/or chemical detergent can damage the surface of the coin and remove natural oxidation.

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