5 ways to maintain your coin collection

July 29, 2015

Ever popular collectibles, coins represent fascinating little bits of history. Here's how to keep your collection in tip top condition.

5 ways to maintain your coin collection

1. Store your coins safely

Coins exposed to the air are susceptible to tarnish and more serious damage. Fortunately, you have a wide range of choices when it comes to storing them — all readily available from local and online stores that cater to coin collectors:

  • Many collectors prefer to simply keep their same-sized coins in clear styrene coin tubes.
  • Another choice is flexible transparent holders called coin flips. Look for flips made of polyester or Mylar (avoid vinyl or PVC). Most flips are designed with two pockets — one for the coin and another that can be used to hold a piece of paper with information about the coin. They are available in a variety of sizes.
  • You can also place coins in individual cardboard holders lined with Mylar, which are usually less expensive and easier to find than flips. Coins are positioned in the middle of the holder, on the Mylar window, and held in place when the cardboard is folded over. The holders are usually stapled on three sides to keep coins from slipping out. (Use a pair of pliers to flatten the staples against the card so that they can't scratch other coins.)
  • Keep your oldest and most valuable coins in hard plastic holders. They are more expensive than other coin holders, but they offer good protection against scratches and other damage. You can get plastic holders for individual coins or for small sets of coins.

2. Hold coins by their edges

  • Always handle coins by their edges and, if possible, wear cotton or polyethylene (but not latex) gloves.
  • Gloves protect the metal from corrosive oils and acids on your hands.
  • This is particularly important with proof coins, which have a mirror-like surface.
  • Any mark on them can disfigure the coin and lessen its value.

3. Lay coins on cushioned surfaces

  • When it's necessary to set a coin down outside its holder, always place it on a clean, soft surface.
  • A velvet pad is an ideal surface and can be an invaluable asset when you regularly need to handle valuable coins.
  • A clean, soft cloth or a blank piece of paper is usually sufficient for less valuable items.
  • Never drag coins across any hard surface, because you are likely to scratch or damage the raised areas.

4. Don't polish old coins

  • You can use a gum eraser to shine up those pennies in your pocket before giving them to your children or grandchildren, but most numismatists advise against such intensive cleaning of rare or old coins.
  • Certain kinds of light tarnishing, called toning, are considered part of a coin's value, and removing it can diminish its worth.

5. Gently wash a dirty coin

  • Removing surface dirt from a coin is about the only cleaning that should be done.
  • To remove surface dirt, gently wash the coin using a mild liquid soap in lukewarm distilled water. (Don't use tap water; it contains chlorine, which can cause corrosion.)
  • Rinse off any remaining soap with a cotton ball dipped in distilled water.
  • After cleaning, use another cotton ball dipped in acetone to remove any grease that may remain on the surface.
  • Use acetone — like all solvents — only in a well-ventilated area. Air-dry the coins on a paper towel.
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