Whether you’re just getting started in the world of commemorative coins, or you’re a seasoned collector with years of experience, one of the most important skills you’ll learn is how to clean and care for your coins. Proper care and maintenance not only keeps your coins looking sharp, but also helps preserve the monetary value of your collection. After all, a coin that maintains its original sheen and luster is worth far more than a coin that is stained and spotted.
Do you have a coin or two that you aren’t certain how to store and care for? Don’t leave the condition of your collection up to guesswork. Improper storage and handling can cost you significantly, as the value of coins often depend heavily upon their state and condition. To help you preserve the beauty and worth of your collection, we’ve provided an in-depth guide to caring for your commemorative coins. Follow these simple tips, and you’ll guarantee the longevity of your collection.
How Should You Handle Your Coins?
One of the best ways to preserve commemorative coins is simply to handle them as little as possible. Our skin naturally produces oils and sediments that can wear away the surface of coins over time. Accordingly, strive to handle your coins as little as possible.
If you must touch your coins, whether to store, clean, or move them, hold the coin by its edges, between your thumb and forefinger. Never grasp a coin by either of its faces, as you’ll risk damaging the image stamped there. As an additional precaution, we recommend wearing soft cotton gloves or using a soft cloth to handle your coins whenever possible. This will prevent the naturally occurring oils on your hands and fingertips from transferring onto the surface of the coin.
How Should You Store Your Coins?
Preserving your collection is all about storing your coins correctly, in a way that won’t damage or diminish their value in any way. Most of us know not to just toss our coins into the junk drawer, but what does proper storage actually look like? Here’s how to store your coins in a way that keeps them safe and protected.
1. Store Them Someplace Secure
While some collect coins for their personal or sentimental value, more in-depth collections of genuinely rare coins can be worth significant amounts of money. Because of this, it may be a good idea to store your coins outside of your home. A safe deposit box at your bank can provide security and confidence that your coins will be safe from any theft or natural disaster.
If you do decide to store your coins at home, consider investing in a home safe. If this isn’t an option, we recommend at least making sure your home insurance covers the full cost of your collection, in case it comes to harm in your home.
2. Save Your Documentation
Accompanying documentation is especially vital when it comes to preserving the full value of commemorative and uncirculated coins. Make sure to store certificates of authenticity and any related documents with your coins to ensure they remain with your collection.
3. Choose a Cool, Dry Environment
Abrupt changes in temperature and humidity can lead to the tarnishing and spotting of your coins. Constant exposure to high temperatures and elevatedhumidity levels can also damage your coinsover time. Thus, basements and attics are poor choices for coin storage. Instead, try to find a cool, dark space to store your coins.Storing your coins in a safe deposit box or personal safe are sound options, particularly if you don’t have any form of climate control in your home.
4. Keep Using the Original Holders
Mints are well-versed in the art of coin protection and storage. Commemorative coins released by mints are packaged in a case or container that has been specifically designed to keep the coin safe and undamaged. When you purchase a coin directly from a mint, it’s a good idea to keep the coin in the case it comes in. This way, you won’t need to buy any additional coin holders, and you can prove that the coin has never been removed from its original packaging.
5. Explore Alternative Storage Options
If the original packaging is not available for your coins — commemorative or otherwise — here are some alternative storage options to consider:
· Coin flips — for storing a coin with its label for display.
· 2” by 2” square cardboard folders.
· Plastic tubes — for storing coin rolls.
· Hard plastic holders — for storing rare and valuable coins.
· Polyethylene sleeves — only appropriate for short-term storage.
· Paper envelopes — ensure they are intended for coin storage, as ordinary envelopes may damage your coins.
· Foldout albums — only appropriate for low-grade coins in short-term storage.
· Sonically-sealed plastic holders — the best option for long-term storage of individual valuable coins.
When moving coins in and out of their storage container, remember to wear soft cotton gloves and avoid touching the coins with your bare hands. Additionally, try to avoid scraping or bumping the coin against the edge of the packaging during the removal process. Instead, gently “bow” the package by squeezing it from the sides as you reach in to gently remove the coin. Have a soft surface ready, such as a cloth or towel, to rest the coin on.
How Do You Clean Commemorative Coins?
One of the best ways to care for your coins, particularly commemorative coins, is not to clean them at all. Ideally, your coins will remain in their original cases, and you’ll never need to clean them at all. This is the best way to their preserve their appearance and value.
It might be tempting to clean and polish your collection, but don’t be so quick to jump in with harsh chemicals and abrasive tools. Even the smallest amount of the most common household cleaning supplies can permanently damage and devalue your coins. Even if your coins are out of their original packaging, you should almost always leave them untouched and unbothered. Coins age naturally and develop a tone over time, as a result of being exposed to air. This tone can actually increase the value of coins over time.
There are some situations in which it is necessary to clean a coin, such as a smudge or stain from a foreign substance. If you feel you must clean your coin, use a lint-free cloth, clean water, and very gentle dishwashing soap. Once you’ve finished cleaning it, don’t rub it dry. Rinse the coin in distilled water to remove any remaining soap or sediments, and then pat it dry before letting it air dry on a soft surface, such as a clean towel.
What Are the Best Ways to Preserve a Coin’s Value?
Ensuring your coins are safely stored in the appropriate packaging and environment is an excellent ways to keep their value intact. Avoiding frequently handling and cleaning your coins will also help preserve their value. With that in mind, here are additional way to protect your investments:
1. Avoid Blunt Trauma
Blunt force is one of the easiest ways to damage your coins. Unfortunately, it’s extremely easy to cause by accident, whether it’s by bumping the coin against a hard object, or accidentally dropping it on the floor or table. Avoid this by taking extra care and precaution when handling or carrying your coins. Similarly, if you’re moving coins from one storage container to another, or working with them over a table, lay down a cloth or towel over your work-surface. This way, even if you drop a coin, its fall will be cushioned.
2. Avoid Speaking Over Them
If you’re speaking, or even breathing directly over the top of your coins, tiny droplets of moisture can collect on the surface of a coin, leading to discoloration and spotting that’s nearly impossible to remove. Thus, take precautions tokeep your coin away from any source of moisture and humidity, even one as seemingly insignificant as your own breath.
3. Do Nothing
The more contact a coin has with anything but its original packaging, the more likely it is that the coin will become damaged and lose some of its value. As counterintuitive as it may sound, the best way to preserve your coins is usually to do nothing at all. Ensure proper storage, and then do your best to leave them alone as much as possible. This will help ensure their sustained value more than all the cleaning and polishing in the world.
What Are the Best Ways to Ruin the Value of a Coin?
Sometimes, when trying to figure out how to clean and preserve coins, the best way to learn is to ask yourself the opposite question. What are the best ways to ruin a coin’s value? In learning these, you learn which behaviors to avoid. With this in mind, here are some of the fastest and easiest ways to lower the value of your commemorative coins.
1. Handle Your Coins Frequently
Handling your coins is the easiest way to devalue them. Not only does this transfer all the oils and dirt from your hands onto the coin, but any contact can also fade the design itself over time. No matter how clean your hands are, they can still damage your coins; be especially careful not to touch the faces of the coin. If you do need to handle your coins, always wear gloves and only handle the rims of the coin. This way, your coins will maintain their value.
2. Clean Your Coins
If a coin has been around for a while, then it should look its age. A hundred-year-old coin that’s gleaming like a freshly minted penny is a glaring red flag for any coin dealer or collector. Trained eyes can easily tell when a coin has been scrubbed of its natural toning. Unless you’ve just spilled something on your coins, or they’ve somehow gotten very dirty, never clean your coins. If you must clean them, never scrub them or use any harsh cleaners.
3. Break the Coin Cases
If a commemorative coin remains sealed in its original case, and has clearly never been removed, this provides proof that the coin is still in its original condition, thus preserving its value. If a commemorative coin is taken outside of its original case, it will lose value, regardless of its condition.
4. Expose Them to the Elements
We’ve already discussed how important it is to keep your coins safe from heat, cold, and high levels of moisture. This extends to things like chemicals, acids, and cleaning solutions. To preserve the value of your coins, you’ll need to keep them away from anything that might damage, stain, or mark them permanently.
Be wary of common items that contain might harmful chemicals! For example, using PVC-based coin holders can result a green slime building up on your coins. Many paper materials — such as envelopes or folders — can release acid onto your coins, staining them permanently. Always research any packaging or storage materials before using them to ensure they’re safe for your coins.
5. Damage Them
Perhaps the most obvious and noticeable way to devalue your coins is to physically damage them. This could mean dropping them or smashing them into counters, containers, or walls. More subtle forms of damage, such as scraping the coin against the edges of its container, can also devalue your collection. Any time a coin’s faces are brought into contact with a surface, damage occurs. Sometimes the damage is immediately evident, but often, it’s too small to be detected with the naked or untrained eye. However, any experienced dealer, appraiser, or collector will know what to look for. To keep your coin’s value intact, simply protect the coin from physical damage.
Shop Commemorative Coins Today
Now that you know how to care for your commemorative coins, you’ll be able to preserve the value of your collection. If you’re looking to shop for commemorative coins, we invite you to browse our selection at American Mint. We offer frequent online discounts, a broad selection of products, and even a money-back guarantee — if you aren’t satisfied, you can easily return your purchase within 20 days of receipt.Browse our commemorative coins today and start hunting for that next great coin for your collection.