It’s common to see regular circulation coins with scratches, minor corrosion, and other signs of wear. After all, they clink around in pockets for years. But when it comes to your collectible and precious metal coins, you’ll want to take extra care to protect them from damage. The condition of your coins will directly impact their value.
Your skin produces natural oils that can cause permanent damage to the surface of coins within minutes; not to mention, dirt, food particles, sweat, grease, and other contaminants that may be present on your hands. Before handling valuable coins, always wash your hands well. It’s also recommended that you wear a pair of lintless cotton gloves before touching or picking up your coins.
You can further protect your coins through proper handling. Touching the face of a coin, even with clean hands and gloves, could possibly lead to small damages like micro scratches or discoloration due to contamination. You can help prevent similar damages by always holding coins by the edge, never the face. Use your thumb and forefinger to cradle the coin’s edges, leaving both faces free for you to admire. For extra protection, place a velvet pad or soft cloth underneath the coins you’re working with to prevent damages from accidental drops or slips. Always avoid handling coins near food, drinks, and pets.
Most coin collectors and industry professionals will warn against cleaning your bullion coins, or any other rare or valuable coin. Any amount of rubbing or polishing can damage the surface of your coins, which can only be made worse by using abrasives, acids, and some other types of cleaners. The best method of coin cleaning is to take them to a professional who can remove contaminants without damaging the coins.
If you do not have access to such a professional, you can clean your coins at home if you take great care (though this is not the recommended course of action). First off, always use distilled water when rinsing or cleaning coins. Tap water contains chlorine, which can discolor coins. Make a solution of distilled water and a mild soap (not a detergent). Allow coins to briefly soak in this solution one at a time to prevent them from clinking against each other. Once grime has been lifted, rinse the coins with distilled water. Place coins on a soft cloth to air dry. You can also gently pat them dry, but never rub them. Even soft cloths can leave behind hairline scratches.
Note that, though we do not recommend cleaning any bullion coins, it is especially unsafe to clean upper grade uncirculated coins, proof coins, or copper alloy coins. Always seek professional help concerning your valuable coins.
Another aspect of caring for your coins is how you store them, especially when it comes to long-term storage. You’ll want to find a location that is dark and cool with low humidity, since light, heat, and moisture can all lead to damage over time. This may be a safe within your home, a safety deposit box at a bank, or a vault at a depository. You can read more about options for storage locations here.
Apart from selecting a good storage location, you’ll also need to decide on the best way to protect your coins during storage. There are many options, ranging from moderate protection to high-level protection. Most coin and hobby stores will have items like coin folders and boards, which offer the least protection and often leave coins semi-exposed to the air. Coin albums are the next step up, holding coins between two mylar sheets. Though the mylar can leave “slide marks” when inserting or removing coins.
2x2s and plastic flips offer storage for individual coins with a similar concept. 2x2s are made of cardboard and are single-use items only, while plastic flips can be used over and over. Any flips that do not explicitly state “PVC-free” are not suitable for long-term storage. You can also use plastic Air-Tite capsules to store individual coins, which allow you to handle them safely as well.
All certified coins will come sealed in a plastic slab to keep the coin in the condition in which it was graded. You can purchase slotted boxes that are designed to safely hold mulitple slabbed coins.
Coins made of precious metals, along with rare or old coins, are highly susceptible to various damages that stem from handling and atmospheric conditions. Making every effort to protect the condition of your coins will help ensure that they retain their value, which is important if you later decide to sell some or all of your collection.
Have a question or want to share some of your coin handling/storage tips? Leave a comment for us and fellow coin enthusiasts below!