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Caring for your Lead, Coins & Medals

Lead

Lead toy soldiers, 1902. Museum no. Misc.39-1969

Lead toy soldiers, 1902. Museum no. Misc.39-1969

Lead is very susceptible to acids and acid vapours, such as those given off by wood. Serious damage can occur when storing lead items in wooden cabinets. Lead can develop a soft, white, fuzzy and poisonous corrosion product. If you have lead objects with this type of corrosion, leave them alone and consult a conservator.

Please read the Basic Guidelines page before attempting to clean your object.

Lead pieces can be gently dusted with a soft natural bristle brush. For removing grimy build-up, wipe lightly with a swab dampened with white spirit. Remember to always test a small area before cleaning painted surfaces with a solvent. Any further treatment should be left to a conservator.

Outdoor lead objects may, over a period of decades, start to 'sag'. If this happens, consult a conservator who may be able to reshape the object or support it using armatures.

Coins & medals

These can be made of a variety of metals, commonly copper alloy, silver and gold, but also lead. With medals, surface patination is very important, but unfortunately the surface is where the coin or medal will suffer damage from wear, and also chemical attack from corrosion processes. Do not use harsh chemical dips - these have been used in the past and as the surface is stripped, valuable detail is often lost. In extreme cases, this treatment leaves behind a blank disc of metal, without historical or monetary value.

Patinated bronze medal, Lynn Chadwick, 1984. Museum no. A.30-1984

Patinated bronze medal, Lynn Chadwick, 1984. Museum no. A.30-1984

Roman medal with patina, 105 AD. Museum no. A.708-1910

Roman medal with patina, 105 AD. Museum no. A.708-1910

Cleaning coins and medals

Please read the Basic Guidelines page before attempting to clean your object.

  • Clean all coins and medals very carefully.
  • If there are any crumbly powdery-looking corrosion products on the surface, take them to a conservator.
  • If they are dirty or dusty, brush them with a soft brush and
    rub gently with a cloth
  • Store them in dry conditions, preferably in metal drawers, not in wooden trays or cabinets, or on woollen materials such as felt, which may give off damaging vapours.
  • After handling them, rub them with a soft cloth to remove potentially damaging fingerprints.

A gift in your will

You may not have thought of including a gift to a museum in your will, but the V&A is a charity and legacies form an important source of funding for our work. It is not just the great collectors and the wealthy who leave legacies to the V&A. Legacies of all sizes, large and small, make a real difference to what we can do and your support can help ensure that future generations enjoy the V&A as much as you have.

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