Coin collections can be very valuable, and what you store them in depends on whether or not they stay valuable. For example, if you store them in a coin album, do you know that they can damage your investment?
Coin albums damage coins if the albums are made of PVC or paper. Both break down over time, creating gasses and acids that can cause discoloration and tarnish. When you purchase a coin album, make sure that it’s made of mylar, which will protect your coins without breaking down.
In this article, I will go over which materials in coin albums damage coins, how to tell if your album is doing so, and which albums won’t destroy your collection. I’ll talk about the benefits of mylar coins albums, too, before finally explaining why damaged coins can’t be restored.
Album Materials to Watch Out For
Coin albums made of PVC, paper, or those that contain sulfur will damage your coins. PVC creates gasses that can tarnish your coins, and paper decomposes into acids that cause discoloration. Sulfur, on the other hand, can turn your coins black.
You should avoid albums that contain these substances.
Not all products are created equal, and a manufacturer might spring for a cheaper material than its peers, which in coin collecting, can result in your collection coming into prolonged contact with substances that can damage it. Paying more for a coin album can actually be cheaper in the long run, as it won’t damage your coin investment.
Materials in products can change over time, too, so it’s essential not only to check what your album is made of when you initially buy it but to keep inspecting the product as you buy more.
An album that might be safe one year might not be the next. If in doubt, look to other coin collectors or coin dealers for help. They may be able to recommend a good alternative, and perhaps even tell you where to purchase it.
Why PVC, Paper, and Sulfur Are Dangerous to Coins
What happens when they come into contact with your coins?
PVC, paper, and sulfur are dangerous to coins because they break down over time and cause a chemical reaction on the coins’ surface. This process is exacerbated by humidity, dust, and other environmental factors and can deeply affect a coin’s quality.
Coins are made of metal, which reacts to other substances and their environment in a myriad of ways. Rust is one example, while the green slime that results from contact with PVC is another. Electrons are transferred from one coin to another, and substances change into other substances, creating byproducts.
PVC creates green slime, but it can also create a hazy, milk-like coating or cause your coins to simply tarnish. Paper, on the other hand, will create acids and sulfur that will corrode your coins.
You might see spotting, discoloration, or even little holes appear on your coins, which can de-value your coin investment.
While tarnish is sometimes desirable depending on the coin, other forms of damage are not, and the entire process as a whole should be avoided. Some coins can be extremely valuable, and it’s important to safeguard their quality as best you can.
Signs of Damage
If your coin album contains paper or plastic products that aren’t specifically listed as mylar, you can safely assume it will damage your collection. Using a mylar album is the safest way to store your coins, so if you aren’t using one, you should purchase one to replace your current album.
Another way to tell is by looking for the byproducts or damage specific to these substances. For PVC, it’s hazing, green slime, and tarnish. Tarnishing also happens with paper, but it’ll also cause spotting and discoloration.
If you see these signs on your coins, it’s possible that your coin album is the cause.
In essence, it comes down to observation. You should inspect your album for dangerous materials while observing your coins over time for any signs of accumulating damage. If you catch it quickly enough, you can replace the album before its effects become impossible to ignore.
How to Prevent Further Damage
So, you inspected your coin album, and it contains PVC or paper. Is there anything you can do to stop it from causing damage besides replacing it?
You can’t stop a coin album made of PVC or paper from causing damage to your collection. In order to do so, you’d need to strip the album of its materials, which would make it completely nonfunctional and likely reduce it to trash.
If you want to protect your coins, you should replace your album.
Paper might be in your album’s covers, both lining their outside and making up their cores, while PVC might be its entire contents except for its rings. If you tear all this out, you’re left with only the parts of the book that are metal or fabric. It’s simply not feasible.
This is why I say that the only solution for a dangerous coin album is to replace it.
You can’t really refurbish an album, especially if it’s cheap, and you’ll have a better experience overall if you just replace it with a better one.
It might be different if your album is a binder that allows you to swap out the PVC pages for mylar ones, but that’s assuming their covers don’t contain paper or cardboard, which is a high expectation.
Don’t be fooled into thinking an album is safe just because it’s a binder.
Alternatively, you can also consider making an album yourself. If this sounds interesting, check out my detailed guide on making a coin collection book: How to Make Your Own Coin Collection Book
A Safe Material for Coin Collections
Coin albums made of mylar won’t damage your collection, as it’s extremely durable and doesn’t break down into dangerous gasses. It won’t damage your coins like other plastics will, and while some mylar albums can be expensive, they’re worth purchasing if you care about your collection.
Mylar is a durable plastic that’s often used for food containers.
In such situations, plastic breaking down can harm customers’ health, so mylar was created to fill the void. It’s also become very popular in coin collecting because it’s durable, protective, and doesn’t create the gasses that damage coins.
A mylar coin album will not only fill your storage needs perfectly, but it comes with many other benefits.
Other Reasons To Use Mylar
Mylar albums are preferable for a variety of reasons:
- Mylar albums have clear windows to make viewing and managing your collection easy.
- They protect your coins from dust and humidity.
- They also can be bought as lone pages and slipped into a binder, making your album expandable.
When your collection grows, and you possess a lot of coins, managing your collection can be somewhat difficult. You’re left to either remove them from their storage or dump many holders out onto a table for inspection.
You might even have to take coins out of containers and then put them back in.
Mylar coin albums don’t have this problem, as they feature clear windows, so you can simply flip the page to look at both the front and back of a coin. Going through your entire collection is as easy as flipping through a paperback novel.
They can also be bought outside of an album in bundles of pages, allowing you to create your album and making extending your album easy. You can simply buy a binder made of acid-free materials and then slip the pages through the rings as you would a regular binder.
This is only a small portion of what mylar albums are good for. Should you choose to purchase one, you’ll likely find more.
Coins already damaged by a coin album cannot be restored. Cleaning coins damages them further and decreases their value, and while gentle solutions such as witch hazel exist, they won’t remove corrosion caused by acids from decomposing paper.
You have to live with the results.
Cleaning coins is not recommended, as doing so damages them and lessens their value. Most collectors suggest that you avoid even gentle solutions such as wood hazel. So while you may be able to soak your coins in water and gently brush any slimes or coatings off, anything that remains will be there to stay.
Coin albums can damage coins if they contain PVC or paper, as these materials break down into gasses and acids which cause a chemical reaction. If your album contains these substances, you should replace it with a mylar album as soon as possible because damaged coins can’t be restored.