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The first colors in the natural thin film
toning progression are various shades of gold. In my
classification system, I refer to them as light gold (class
A), medium gold (class B), and amber (class C) to russet
(class D). These are "first cycle" colors. Further along in
the progression, we return to some colors that are more
*yellow*. In my system, these include lemon yellow (class
I), sunset yellow (class J), to orange (class K); these are
"second cycle" colors. The point of the class designations
is to show you where these colors fall in the progression.
There is also a thrid cycle gold (class S) which is much
more rare, and has an altogether different appearance.
It is possible to have a coin toned almost entirely in one
color class. That essentially means that the toning layer is
extremely uniform in thickness. This is much more likely on
a small diameter coin; almost all larger colorfully toned
coins will tend to exhibit multiple color classes. One way
to achieve an extremely uniform coloration is through
artificial toning - specifically, by heating in air to a
controlled temperature, and allowing the coin to oxidize
uniformly. However, it is also possible (although generally
quite uncommon) to have uniform colors through natural
toning. Usually in the natural toning, there will be some
non-uniformities, e.g. in the recessses or at the perimeter.
The heat-toned coins are usually too obvious - way too
uniform and perfect.
Here are examples of first cycle gold
colors, classes A & B (1895-O dollar), and class C (1887-O
Contrast the above with the more yellow
second cycle colors (classes I, J) in these coins (I don't
have any where it covers the entire coin, but it is
theoretically possible, and much more likely on a smaller
This one ranges from sunset yellow through
orange (class K) and beyond:
Here are two coins with a nice amount of the
rare third cycle gold, which comes after emerald green in
Finally, here are some banded rainbow toners
that show the first cycle gold/amber (next to the untoned
silver area) and second cycle yellows, in the context of a
more complete spectrum of toning:
Anyway, I hope this helps to show the different kinds of
golds and yellows that are possible with natural (or
artificial) toning. The natural toning will always show some
gradations in color, even if subtle.
Arguments and Rebuttals:
<<That 1st coin appears to have the
classic dip stain toning. Just not fully rinsed after it was
dipped. But still attractive, probably took many years to
get that way.
The others are probably AT, I have learned to steer very
clear of those one sided toners, the tone boys are getting
particularly good at the one sided AT.>>
Sorry but you are completely mistaken. The gem 1895-O dollar
is pedigreed to the Norweb collection and appears never to
have been dipped (unlike some of the other Norweb coins,
such as the 1893-S, which sadly suffered a different fate
after the Norwebs sold it). Dip stain toning tends to be
streaky, as one would expect from a liquid residue pattern,
very different from the radially symmetric target
distribution of the toning on this 1895-O (i.e. the toning
clings concentrically to the perimeter). This coin has a
pedigree back to 1908, when the Holdens bought it from J.W.
Scott, and is believed to have been purchased directly from
the New Orleans Mint by J.W. Scott in the year of issue, and
held by him until 1908. (That is Dave Bowers' theory, not
mine.) We can be sure that it has not been dipped, at least
since 1908, if ever. The coin has acquired slightly more
color since the Norweb Sale.
As for the other coins, they are not even remotely AT. A
better familiarity with the history of Morgan dollars and
their unique rainbow bag toning would lead you to a
different and more accurate conclusion.
However, I do very much agree that it is wise to avoid
collecting areas that you are less familiar with.
<<I've had some loose 2005 bison nickels
sitting in a brown Nike shoebox since 2005 and they have
turned a bright gold color. What in the shoebox could have
caused the golden color? >>
BBN, the colors in toning are caused by the thin film
interference effect, which I have written about in other
threads. If the environment in your shoebox caused the
copper-nickel surfaces of your coins to develop an
oxide-sulfide surface film (through natural chemical
reactions), and if the film has the right thicknesses to
produce yellow or gold toning, then you get gold-toned coins
as a result.
The point of this article is to demonstrate that yellows and
gold do occur throughout the natural toning color
progression that results from the thin film interference
effect. There are 1st cycle gold and amber colors, 2nd cycle
yellow and orange colors, and the unique 3rd cycle gold
color which is more rare, and beautiful. This can happen on
nickels just as on silver coins. Wild colors are seen more
often on Morgans only because of their unique specific
Article by: Doug Kurz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Compiled and Edited by Brandon Kelley (email@example.com)
Edited and reprinted here from Doug Kurz's
Article on the PCGS message boards with the permission of