This subject ignites sparks of conversation whenever it’s brought up. Before the word conserve was introduced to the hobby and its use became routine in conversation about grading coins, there were many presentations on cleaning coins in the hobby. Conservation was considered the way to remove contamination on a coin without chemically altering its surface. Cleaning usually has negative connotations, especially as to value and desirability, as the coin’s surface is almost always altered.
It can be difficult to determine if you clean a coin or conserve a coin. However, and probably more importantly, one should be comfortable with what you do and not try to deceive anyone. There are many materials and methods to do both clean and conserve, and the hobbyist should do their homework before trying anything. For instance, you might use Xylol, cotton swabs, Care, and ultrasonic methods in attempting to conserve a coin. There are many other options to consider.
No one person is right and no one person is wrong in this type of discussion, as everyone is responsible for drawing their own conclusions. As knowledge is power in numismatics (and many other places), be comfortable with your decision and enjoy the hobby. After all, it’s supposed to be fun!
You would not want to throw away good money on expensive coins, so you might find yourself with several standards of conduct for dealing with coins. Webster’s Dictionary does not or cannot assign any quantity or quality metrics to the definitions of conserve or clean. That’s the rub (no pun intended)! That is what has got us to where we are now! What are your thoughts? You may contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.