Part of what makes precious metals so precious is that they have different qualities than many other metals. As such, gold, silver, and other precious metals should be handled with particular care to keep them in the best possible condition. Some collectors—especially new collectors—may not be aware of what can damage bullion coins and bars.
In looking at what not to do with precious metal bullion, we learn what we can and should do. Below are five things you should never do to your bullion coins.
#1: Never Clean Bullion Coins
As coins age, it’s natural for the metal to oxidize or tone. You may notice your coins becoming discolored and less lustrous than when you first acquired them. But do not make the mistake of cleaning your coins! Even if your goal is simply to maintain their sheen, cleaning or polishing coins does more harm than good. Many types of cleaning solutions will damage coins by removing its natural toning, and possibly some metal content. This is irreversible damage that can seriously devalue your coins. The natural toning of coins is part of their allure and therefore, toned coins retain more value than stripped coins.
#2: Never Directly Handle Bullion Coins
Our skin contains oils, along with particles of dirt and grime, that can adhere to coins and cause damages like discoloration and minor scratches. Proof and other higher grade coins are especially susceptible to these types of damages. You should never directly handle your coins with your bare hands. Rather, wash your hands and then slip on a pair of cotton gloves before touching your coin collection. You should only grab coins by their edges to help preserve the face details.
#3: Never Store Bullion Coins Using Unsafe Materials
Some storage materials contain chemicals that can cause discoloration, spotting, and other damages to your coins. The primary culprit is any paper product that contains acid. Paper breaks down over time and acid can be released. Always be sure to buy specific acid-free versions of any paper, envelopes, or cardboard that you use to store coins. Another culprit is any plastic product containing PVC. This chemical byproduct can eventually leave a slimy green film on the surface of your coins, which can cause permanent damage. Be sure to use PVC-free flips, tubes, capsules, and boxes.
#4: Never Expose Bullion Coins to the Elements
Extreme temperatures, humidity, sunlight, and other elements can promote the oxidation of precious metals. Coins (along with storage materials like plastic flips and tubes) that are exposed to the elements may face permanent damages. Paper and cardboard storage materials are particularly susceptible to elemental damages. It’s best to store your bullion coins in a dark, temperature-controlled environment like a safe, coin cabinet, or bank safety deposit box. This greatly reduces the chances of damages to your bullion stash.
#5: Never Remove Bullion Coins From Holders
Any coins that come in plastic holders—such as graded coins from NGC or PCGS—have been sealed inside to preserve their condition. Cracking open these holders could result in damages to the coins, which is why cracked or broken holders will diminish their value. Similarly, coins that come in mint-issued capsules or boxes should remain inside for protection, as well as preserving the value of the item. Any certificates or literature that come with these coins should be kept in excellent condition as well, without folds, tears, or water damage. Keeping these items in mint condition will help preserve their integrity and collector’s value over the years.
Precious metals are an investment in the financial wellbeing of you and your family. Taking good care of your bullion coins helps ensure that they remain in excellent condition and retain their value. We’ve provided some tips to help you protect your metals. What tips do you have to offer fellow stackers? Let us know in the comments section below.
Can I store coins in a ziplock bag in the plastic covers that come from the dealer?
Also what do I do with coins that are getting brown spots or milking?
So long as coins are protected by PVC-free plastic covers, they should be okay in ziplock bags. However, we’d recommend a more suitable material such as a canvas bag or a box made of safe materials.
Unfortunately, brown or milk spots on coins are typically permanent. Small blemishes do not damage the metal value, though they do mar the aesthetic appeal. The best way to prevent these spots is safe storage. Best of luck!
If I buy a tube of coins should I open it and put the coins in airtites or leave the mint tube sealed and unopened?
A great question, Matt! Your coins will remain safe in mint-issued tubes so long as they aren’t rattling around inside. If there is rattling, you can open the tube and stuff in some acid-free paper to secure them. Air-Tites are another good option, especially if you enjoy handling and looking at your coins.
Travis Shulenburger says
Should I leave my bars in the soft plastic they come in when I order them? Does this plastic contain the materials that will break down over time and damage my coins? I have left my bars in the plastic and they look great, but I have some stackables that were not sealed in the plastic and they have discolored.
Most mint-sealed bars come in safe materials. But if you’re concerned, you can buy plastic tubes that are designed to protect bullion bars.
The F'n Ernie says
A reminder….dirty cotton gloves, just like dirty gym socks that smell like your feet, will do NOTHING to protect your metals from your fingerprints.
A very good tip! Clean cotton gloves are essential.
Big Dang Diesel says
These aren’t actual coins we are talking about. We stack silver and good for the metal content. If they are 99.9 fine and you want shiny bullion, shine them up. No retailer that buys and sells silver or gold will look at your bullion and give you more than the current melt if it is nicely toned. You will hear that with actual government minted coins that hold some sort of numismatic value above price per Troy oz. But as investment or value if the dollar ever fails, straight bullion will be worth whatever the market says it is worth whether it is shined or toned.
That’s true. People who are purely interested in investing for the value of the metal may handle coins differently than people who collect coins for numismatic value.
Thank you for addressing the handling issue- I think most everyone’s goal is to preserve the value of the merchandise For years to come
My Uncle keeps his American Eagles in the plastic tube they came in from mint. Is that a good idea?
Yes, storing ASEs and other bullion coins in mint-issued tubes is a safe method of storage. It’s also a great way to authenticate coins because the tubes comes with a seal across the top and so long as that seal is unbroken, you know the coins inside came directly from the mint.
So, when you purchase silver and gold from customers, how do you check their authenticity. Do yo leave them in their graded coin capsules? Do you not count the coins in tubes? What do you suggest for your customers to check the authenticity and the number of coins after they receive them? What about monster boxes?
The methods we use to check authenticity depend on the product, but we have a team of experts in our warehouse to handle the job. In the least, each item is weighed, counted, and tested for composition. Slabs are handled differently than monster boxes or coins in tubes.
As far as customer comfort goes, you are free to do whatever gives you assurance after receiving products. But keep in mind that some testing methods may damage bullion products and have the potential to diminish resale value (acid tests, filing, assays, etc.). To ensure authenticity, we recommend always buying from reputable sources. At Provident, we guarantee the authenticity of all products we sell and ship.
im surprised you didnt mention rubber bands. happened to me years ago, had a bunch of 1oz bars in plastic seal, rubberbanded them together, it left dark “burn” marks on the bars.
lesson learned; steer clear of rubber bands
Oh no! We appreciate you sharing your tip so hopefully others can avoid rubber bands as well.
These are all great points. As a seasoned bullion investor, it is important to spread awareness on how to handle coins.