Do Quarters Rust

I Found a Rusty Quarter (Do Quarters Rust?)

One of the most common things I find when I’m out metal detecting is rusty quarters. Some of the quarters I was able to dig are still in circulation. However, the rust on their surfaces makes them look not spendable. But then I remember that copper and nickel make up a quarter. So, how do quarters rust when they do not contain iron?

In this article, I will help you determine if quarters really rust and what you should do if you find a rusty quarter.

Quarters do not rust as they contain copper and nickel, which are both non-ferrous. The discoloration on a quarter’s surface is due to copper and nickel oxidation. A quarter’s exposure to the soil for a long period also results in discoloration.

What Does a Rusty Quarter Look Like?

Rusting happens when the coin’s material reacts with oxygen and other chemicals it comes in contact with. Discoloration can also occur due to moisture exposure and weathering. Soil has a high amount of moisture, which is why you may find a rusty quarter when metal detecting.

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Rusty Quarters: What Do They Look Like?

When you hear the word “rust,” the first thing that will probably come to your mind is an orange discoloration that covers the surface of metals. However, the commonly seen corroded quarters do not have an orange tint. Instead, it is either green or dark brown.

This brown or green discoloration is called patina, which intensifies the longer a quarter exposes to conditions that tarnish it. If you find a dull-looking quarter while metal detecting, chances are the coin is not yet buried in the soil for a long time. The longer the coin is exposed to sulfur, moisture, chemicals, and weathering, the darker the patina covering it will be. (source)

Back of Rusty Quarter
Back of Rusty Quarter

How to Clean Rust Off a Quarter?

Rusty coins do not mean you cannot use them anymore. Most of the rusty coins you will find today are still in circulation. Instead of keeping rusty coins in a jar at home, you can clean them and spend them the next time you need to purchase something.

There are two effective cleaning agents that you can use to clean rust off a quarter. You can find both of these materials in your kitchen, so you will not have to buy anything to clean your rusty quarter. You can clean the rust off your coin with baking soda and vinegar.

Using Vinegar as a Cleaning Agent

You will need the following:

  • vinegar
  • a jar or bottle with a lid
  • a toothbrush
  • your quarters

1. Fill your jar or bottle with enough vinegar to soak the rusty quarters. The jar should be non-corrosive. It is also ideal to use a glass jar so you can easily see the progress of the coins you are cleaning.

2. Place the coin inside the container and let it soak in the vinegar overnight.

3. The vinegar will loosen the patina on the coins’ surface. After soaking the coins, brush them one by one until the rust comes off.

4. Rinse the quarters with running water and let them dry.

Vinegar contains acetic acid, which is highly effective in removing stains, lime scales, and rust. Alternatively, you can use any acid that you will find in your kitchen, such as lemon or orange juice. The stronger the acid you use, the more effective it will be in cleaning a rusty quarter. (source)

Using Baking Soda


  • water
  • baking soda
  • toothbrush

1. Wet both sides of the coins thoroughly to help the baking soda stick.

2. Coat each coin with baking soda and let them sit for a few minutes.

3. Scrub each coin with a toothbrush to remove the rust. The baking soda and toothbrush are abrasive, so they are effective in chipping away the patina buildup on the coins. Still, they are not abrasive enough to scratch the surface of the coins.

4. Rinse the coins and let them dry.

Baking soda can dissolve organic compounds. Its particles also act as a gentle abrasive material. For this reason, it can remove rust from coins without scratching their surface. (source)

Cleaning Rusty Quarters with Mineral Oil

Materials needed:

  • mineral oil
  • cup
  • soap and water

1. Fill a cup with mineral oil. Make sure that the oil you will use will cover all the coins you need to clean.

2. Allow the coins to soak into the mineral oil until the rust comes off the coins’ surface. Take note that this method can take more than a week. For this reason, this method is ideal if you need to clean many quarters.

3. Once the coins are free of rust, clean the mineral off the coins using soap and water.

4. Let the quarters dry before spending them. You can also use a cloth to dry the coins to ensure that the water will not cause rust again.

Mineral oil can penetrate through metals, such as quarters. As the oil penetrates the coin, it softens and loosens rust, making it easier to remove. Mineral oil also forms a protective barrier for these coins. As a result, moisture and humidity cannot get into the coins, preventing rust from developing again. (source)

Can Quarters Rust? (Does It Have Iron)

The metals used for making quarters are non-ferrous metals, so they will not rust when exposed to oxygen, moisture, or humidity.

For that reason, quarters do not rust. Instead of rusting, quarters tarnish, resulting in patina – the green and brown discoloration on their surface.

Moreover, quarters do not have iron. A quarter’s core consists of copper, while its outer part is a mixture of copper and nickel plating. These layers allow the coins to last a long time without easily deforming and acquiring any forms of damage. (source)

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Are Rusty Quarters Worth Anything?

Rusty coins are simply discolored. Discoloration does not affect the value of the coins, but it makes them look less presentable. This is the reason why some people keep rusty coins in their pockets instead of spending them. That said, rusty quarters are still money that you can spend. They are legal tender unless they are counterfeit.

For that reason, ensure you keep the rusty coins you find when metal detecting. Simply clean the coins once you get home, and you can spend them like a regular quarter.

In God we rust quarter
“In God We Rust” quarter – 2005 Kansas Quarter with a broken stamping die. Worth about $6.00

Can A Rusty Coin Be Worth More Than Their Currency?

Suppose you were able to find a quarter with visible mistakes and differences from today’s regular quarters. In that case, they might be worth more than just $0.25. For instance, Washington Quarters made anywhere between 1932 to 1964 can be worth $4 to $6. One reason is that these quarters are 90 percent silver. If the coin has minting, it may have a higher numismatic value. (source)

One More Sweep For Treasure

Rusty quarters are one of the most common finds for metal detector enthusiasts. While these coins no longer look valuable, you can still save them from rust. Rusty coins that are still in general circulation are legal tender.

Moreover, the rust that you see on the surface of quarters is not actually rust. The reason is that quarters do not have iron, so no ferrous material will develop corrosion. Instead, the discoloration on the surface of the coins is patina. This tarnish occurs when the copper reacts with moisture, weathering, and chemicals.

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David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.

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  1. Sap. “What Causes Toning, Spots Or Discoloration?” Coin Community. January 5, 2020. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  2. Chris Koehler and Doris Torkelson. Creative Cleaning: Back to Basics. Pullman, Washington: Washington State University. Extension. 1993. Accessed  September 28, 2022.
  3. Ananhd, O.N., Malik, V.P., Neemla, K.D. and Kumar, V. (1986), “Sulphonates As Rust Inhibitors,” Anti-Corrosion Methods And Materials, Vol. 33 No. 7. Accessed  September 28, 2022.
  4. Meg Schader. “Changing Coin Compositions.” Metal Composition of Coins. January 18, 2022. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  5. Paul Saganski. “I Have Two Quarters. A Black One And A Brown One. Are They Worth Anything?” Quora. Accessed September 28, 2022.
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