By Steve Roach
To some, rich
color on silver coins is beautiful toning, while
to others it represents unsightly tarnish.
Silver coins can acquire a range of colors, from
muddled browns and grays to vibrant jewel tones.
Rainbow toned Morgan dollars represent, perhaps,
the apex of the toned coin market and the area
where there is the most connoisseurship and
market premium assigned to top examples.
Where normal Mint State 63 Morgans can be
readily purchased for $45, one with a sliver of
rainbow tone can cost $100, while a
magnificently toned example can command $300 to
$500, or even more. Gorgeous MS-65 dollars with
magnificent rainbows can achieve prices
One of the fun things about collecting toned
coins is that beauty is in the eye of the
beholder. The same coin presented in three
different sales venues will likely achieve
widely different prices depending on the
bidders' concepts of what constitutes pretty.
It is an area that is ripe for cherrypicking and
finding good values, if you know what you're
looking for. The best way to develop an eye for
toning is to look at many coins and get a sense
of how coins tone naturally.
Generally, toned obverses command more than
toned reverses, and deep, vibrant colors that
are clearly defined in rich jewel tones are
desirable. One can request that grading services
holder coins with the reverse side up to
showcase a fantastic reverse. Symmetry,
important in smaller silver coins that often
tone in patterns of concentric circles, is less
important than vibrancy in Morgan dollars.
Of course, with toned coins selling for hearty
premiums, numerous individuals try to accelerate
the process. This can be accomplished through
gradual processes that replicate how coins
traditionally tone, such as placing a coin in an
old album made of paper with a high sulfur
content and putting it in a window for months or
years, or through faster artificial means such
as exposing a coin to chemicals and heat.
Remember that a coin's presence in a slab does
not mean that the toning is original – only that
the toning is considered acceptable in the
market by the coin grading service.