How to Properly Store Coins
If you’ve been a coin collector for a few years, you probably know a thing or two about how to store a coin collection. You most likely have a system all worked out and keep your coins tucked away in a space where nothing will hurt them. But there’s always more to learn. Maybe you know to keep your coins safe from little hands and pets, but did you know that you also have to keep them safe from harmful atmospheric conditions?
If you’re just starting out as a coin collector, all this information might be new to you. Even if you didn't know there were specific ways to store coins at all, much less the best ways to store them, you'll be able to succeed in no time. If you’re going to make your new coin collection a success, however, learning this is a crucial step.
Today, we’re going to spend some time covering the best way to store old coins. If you're completely new to the topic, consider this your starter course. And if you already know a little bit about it, we hope you’ll find out something new here today. Learning the correct care and keeping of coins is essential to collecting, so let's get started!
What Can Cause Damage to Your Coins?
Although coins are made of metal, a material we might think of as highly durable and difficult to damage, they’re a lot more fragile than you might guess. To exacerbate this problem, most coins that are highly prized by collectors are old, which makes them even more delicate and prone to wear and tear.
Even if you knew nothing else about coins, you would probably be able to guess that dropping them or exposing them to harsh chemicals might cause severe damage. But there are plenty of other ways your coins might be damaged, and some of them are a lot more subtle.
Here are just a few of the potential hazards you’ll need to protect your coins from.
Humidity is possibly the single largest threat to your coin collection because coins are made out of metals — particular metals like silver and copper. Both of these metals will experience chemical reactions when they’re exposed to water. While it’s easy to keep your coins away from water, it’s a little harder to protect them from water vapor.
Water vapor exists in the air all around us at all times — we just call it humidity. And the problem with humidity is that it’s capable of seeping into almost anything, no matter how well-sealed. This capability makes it extremely difficult to completely protect your coins from every ounce of humidity in the air.
2. Heat and Cold
By itself, heat has no effect on coins unless it’s hot enough to melt the metal. In most non-extreme cases, however, the heat of a typical summer day will not damage your coins. What heat can do, however, is reduce the length of time it takes for secondary environmental factors such as acids, humidity and pollution to damage your coin.
Similarly, cold will not inherently harm your coins. Instead, it will cause the humidity in the air to turn back into water. The water droplets will then collect on the delicate surface of your coins and eventually cause damage.
There are many different types of acids that come from a variety of different sources. The most common source of acid that might be cause for concern is in certain coin-collecting supplies themselves. Some of these supplies are constructed from cardboard and paper, and acid was used during the construction process. Traces of these acids remain in the supplies and can leach out onto the coins over time. Prolonged contact with this acid can cause tarnishing, especially on silver and copper.
Acids can also come from any number of other sources, such as cleaning materials, cooking fumes, wood furniture and common packaging materials.
The problem with chlorine is that it causes a negative chemical reaction when it comes into contact with the metal of your coins. This reaction can manifest itself by inducing corrosion, toning blemishes or obvious pits across the surface of the coin.
The most common sources of chlorine that pertain to your coins are coin flips made out of plastic that contains polyvinyl chloride. Other potential sources are vapors from a nearby hot tub or swimming pool.
5. Air Pollution
We all know that air pollution causes health problems for people, but you may not have known that it’s also hazardous to your coin collection. The good news is that if you live in the country or even in a suburban area, air pollution isn’t likely to be a problem for you. You’re likely to notice damage from air pollution only in a crowded urban area, where vehicle fumes and other gases are heavy enough to accumulate and drift into buildings.
Air pollution is less of a problem than it has been in the past now that environmental initiatives are working to correct it. Still, it's a hazard to be aware of.
6. Incorrect Handling
Finally, the last potential cause of damage to your coin collection is you. No matter how good your intentions and how carefully you treat your collection, it’s entirely possible that you could damage it without meaning to. You might even damage it without ever realizing you were doing something wrong.
Touching a coin directly on the surface with your bare hands might seem like an innocent thing to do. In reality, you could be depositing oils and acids from your hands onto the coin. These oils will then damage the coin's fragile surface. You might also damage your coin by dropping it or placing it down on a hard surface too harshly. It can certainly be damaged if you keep it carelessly in a coat pocket where it rubs up against your keys, phone, and other items.
The Best Places to Store Your Coin Collection
Whether you’re storing gold, silver, or copper coins, the principles remain largely the same. You’ll need to find a space that’s safe from any hands that don’t know how to properly handle them. In addition, think about a spot where they won’t get accidentally knocked around or fall on the floor.
You’ll also need to be aware of all the different environmental factors we mentioned here. With these two major concerns in mind, here are the top locations for storing your coins.
1. An Album, Folder or Holder
Because coins need to be stored in such specific ways, the numismatic industry has responded by creating a variety of different storage options in the form of albums , folders, and holders . If you’ve been a coin collector for a while, you know what these are. If you’re new to coin collecting, think of the ready-made folders you might have seen as a kid — with spaces for each of the Lincoln pennies — or a similar collection.
Of course, some folders and holders are designed to house specific collections and come pre-labeled. Others are more generic, have no labels, and are simply designed to safely hold your coin collection and keep it from coming into contact with anything that might harm it. Sometimes, these albums can even take the form of display cases.
One of the benefits of these types of albums is that they aren’t just for keeping your coins safe . They’re also for organizing your collection. Many models have space for you to record any relevant information about your coins like dates, mint marks and so on. Using these products, you can keep your coins safe at the same time that you get organized.
However, there’s also a lot of variety in the types of holders available. Detailed albums are one option, but if you want a simpler solution, very plain cardboard, Mylar or plastic holders are available too. Whatever your needs are, there’s a type of holder or folder that will be perfect for you.
2. Coin Tubes
This option is attractive because it offers a practical means of storage when you have hundreds of a certain kind of coin. It isn’t a high-grade option, and it won’t provide a lot of protection, but it’s extremely convenient if you simply need a place to store an enormous volume of coins.
These coin tubes are almost exactly what they sound like. They’re small, plastic tubes that are the perfect size to store coins in. They also typically include a lid that easily screws on and off.
3. An Environmentally Safe Location
Since we know different atmospheric conditions can harm your coins, the next most critical part of storing your coins is finding a place where they’ll be protected from these conditions. It's best to start by avoiding extremes. A good rule of thumb to remember is that if the conditions are relatively comfortable for you, they’ll probably be safe for your coins. If you’re uncomfortably hot or cold, it might be best to avoid storing your coins there.
This situation also means that it’s best to avoid extreme locations in your house. Hot, stuffy attics are out, and cold, damp basements are also a poor choice. Additionally, it’s best to avoid storing coins too close to the kitchen, where cooking vapors and fumes might damage your collection.
A bedroom, living room or similar location that’s on the first or second floor of your house and well away from the kitchen might be the best choice to store your collection.
4. A Safe Deposit Box
This selection is a definite possibility, and it might even be the recommended option, especially if your coin collection is extremely valuable. If you feel that no place in your house is secure enough to keep your coins protected, a safe deposit box might be the right choice for you.
However, there are a few drawbacks to this option. The first is that a safe deposit box is an expensive choice. If money is no object, though, it won’t pose much of a problem.
The second drawback has to do with the way safe deposit boxes are constructed. They’re designed to be fire-resistant, meaning that they’re built from a material that allows water vapor inside the box. This quality offers a good way to protect against fire, but it means that humidity levels inside the box might be an issue. You can correct it by storing a silica gel packet inside the box to absorb water vapor, but you’ll need to remember to change it out several times a year.
5. A Home Safe
If you’re drawn to the idea of storing your valuable coins in a locked box but find the price of a safety deposit box to be too high, you might also consider using a safe in your home or office. You'll have to pay for the safe, but once it’s paid for, there will be no recurring annual fees.
Remember that a home safe will have the humidity concern that a safe deposit box has. You’ll need to keep it stocked with silica gel packets to prevent water vapor from collecting in the safe.
6. A Metal Shelf or Cabinet
If you’re less worried about a secure, locked place to store your coins and more concerned about just finding a place to set them where they’ll be safe from harm, a standard metal shelf, bookcase or cabinet is a good choice.
Metal tends to be a better choice for this type of shelf than wood since wooden furniture can sometimes emit chemicals and acids that will harm your coins. Metal has its drawbacks too, however, as it tends to attract moisture. Silica gel packets can help correct this situation.
For an extra security measure, consider using a locking metal cabinet. This option will not be quite as secure as a safe, but it will be safer than an open shelf. It'll be especially helpful if you’re simply trying to deter the prying hands of children or other curious household members who might accidentally damage the coins by handling them.
Browse Our Collection of Coin Accessories
Now that you have a good sense of the options available regarding coin storage, it’s time to think about what will work best for you.
The best way to start is to think about what’s most important to you. Are you interested in a storage solution that optimizes organization while also protecting your coins? An album might be a good choice. Perhaps you’re most concerned about security at all costs. If so, consider using a safe deposit box. And if you’re just looking for a way to keep all your coins in one place without a lot of added frills, you might be best off using a simple cardboard holder.
At American Mint, we offer a wide variety of storage solutions, from the simplest to the most elegant. No matter what level of security and care you’re looking for, we have an option that will be right for you. And if you’re in any way dissatisfied with your purchase, we’ll take it back within 20 days of receipt.
Shop our full selection of accessories today and find the perfect storage solution for your collection.