I recently received a couple of penny books for collecting pennies. Pennies aren't good for a whole lot else these days, so I dug out my jar of change (there weren't a ton of pennies as we have pretty much stopped paying cash for things these days and spent our change stash on a penny war fundraiser at husband's work a few years back). They were mostly pretty dirty, and I didn't want to put them in the book that way, so I set out to clean and sort my penny stash. I thought some of you might be interested in how I did it.
First I poured the whole jar of pennies into a cereal bowl and covered it with vinegar. Then I added some salt to the top. The pennies changed color instantly. It's awfully satisfying. Since I had them all stacked on top of each other, I knew they wouldn't all be clean, so I swished them around and rinsed them off in clean water. It's important to rinse the pennies because the salt and vinegar will lead to oxidation if left and your pennies will turn even darker than they were before.
After I cleaned the whole batch of pennies with a good rinse, I filled my cereal bowl with just enough vinegar to cover a layer of pennies. I also grabbed a second cereal bowl and filled it with some plain water so I could rinse without having to go to the sink. I put a small handful of pennies into the cereal bowl with vinegar and sprinkled it with table salt again. I swished them around, rinsed them off and then rubbed them dry with a sack cloth dish drying towel (though you may leave dark marks on your towels so pick some of your older dish towels to use).
The newer pennies came clean in the vinegar. The older pennies usually came clean after a bit of scrubbing with the soft towel. The right side of the penny above has been polished and the right side hasn't. I filled my new penny books as I cleaned the pennies. I still have a lot of pennies to find to fill my collection!