All collections are valuable for any collector, whether they can rake in a lot of cash or simply tickle their fancy. As such, proper storage and maintenance are crucial to keep them in the best condition. But it can be challenging when your collection has grown so large.
You can store coins in bulk by properly sorting them based on composition and value. Ensure the coins are clean and dry before placing them in their respective cases. You can then store low-value coins in albums and put valuable ones in safety deposit vaults at home or in the local bank.
If you want to keep your coins for a long time and possibly pass them down to your children, you must store them using appropriate methods and materials. In the rest of the article, I’ll discuss the steps and options in more detail so you can choose which one works best for you.
1. Group Together The Same Coins
As a collector, you may have coins from different countries in your collection. If so, research the composition of each unit to ensure that they’re grouped together with similar coins.
The first step when storing coins in bulk is to group together the same items. This step will help you prevent coins made from various metals from interacting and undergoing unwanted chemical reactions, resulting in the degradation of the coins or significant changes to their appearance.
For instance, old coins coated with aluminum will likely corrode when grouped together with copper or nickel-plated coins due to chemical reactions or exposure to moisture and oxides in the air.
Although copper or nickel-plated coins won’t corrode from the interaction, they’d likely be covered with a film from the corrosion of the aluminum. That’s why some countries (like Brazil) recommend separating coins made from different metals to preserve them.
It’s also best to avoid stacking coins directly atop each other (whether similar or not). Although minimal, there’s still the risk of the coins scraping against each other, damaging the surface.
Ultimately, this process will help it easier to organize your coins and decide how and where to place them.
2. Sort the Coins by Value
There are several ways to choose from when it comes to sorting coins, including the following:
- By origin (country or state)
- By year (in chronological order)
- By color
- By face value
However, I recommend organizing your coins by grade or value, especially if you’re looking for future profits. In that case, you can sort them into three categories:
- Low Value: These coins typically don’t sell for much and are primarily gathered to complete a collection. For instance, they’re placed in albums to exhibit the chronological order from when a particular country started minting coins. Interestingly, some collectors don’t mind buying counterfeit coins to complete their collection, as they don’t intend to sell them anyway. Still, purchasing fake coins is considered illegal.
- Average Value: Coins that can be sold for their precious metal component, such as gold and silver, are considered of moderate value. As the price of these metals appreciates, so does the worth of the coins.
- High Value: Under this category are rare coins that can be worth thousands to millions of dollars. Therefore, they should be stored more discreetly and often with added high level of security.
Storing precious coins requires thorough care and attention to keep them in mint condition and maximize their profitability when you decide to sell them. Some rare coins may even require insurance in case of theft or damage by flood or fire.
In contrast, low-value coins also need adequate care, but you can choose more affordable storage options.
3. Clean and Dry the Coins Properly
Suppose you don’t have any experience with washing or cleaning coins. In that case, it’s best to avoid cleaning them before getting them appraised. You wouldn’t want to risk devaluing the coins before you figure out how much they’re worth.
If the coins turn out to be of high value, you’ll have to be extra careful when cleaning them. Here are some key points to take into consideration:
Use Distilled Water
The first thing to remember when cleaning collectible coins is to use distilled water. It is void of minerals and contaminants, making it safe for your collection. In contrast, minerals in regular tap water, such as chlorine and fluorine, can corrode the metals in coins.
Although the concentration of these minerals in tap water is generally kept low to prevent the corrosion of pipes, it’s worth noting that the treatment methods can vary depending on your community.
Some communities have water sources heavily contaminated with fertilizers and other contaminants, requiring more intense treatment methods. So there’s no guarantee that the mineral levels are safe for your precious coins.
Therefore, there’s always the risk of tap water damaging your coins. This is especially true when using warm water to rinse them. Higher temperatures can trigger chemical reactions between the metals and the water’s minerals, sometimes resulting in irreversible damage.
The bottom line is that you should always use distilled water when cleaning your coins, especially the highly valuable ones.
Use Mild Liquid Detergent
Avoid using chemical cleaners, as they might damage the coins. Instead, add a few drops of mild liquid detergent to a bowl of warm water (around 86 °F or 30 °C).
Clean the coins individually by rubbing them between your fingers under soapy water. If there’s stubborn dirt and grime, soak the coins in water for five minutes, making sure they’re not sitting atop each other.
After five minutes, you can rub the coins individually again to remove the remaining dirt.
Avoid Using a Brush
It can be tempting to scrub the coins with a brush to remove dirt more quickly. However, doing so will damage the surface of the coins, potentially reducing their value.
You can get away with a few scratches on less valuable coins. However, you must avoid using a brush and patiently clean each precious coin between your fingers until they’re clean.
Dry the Coins Thoroughly
Use an absorbent, lint-free piece of cloth to dab the coins dry. Don’t wipe them dry, as it can leave scratches on the coins’ surface. Just wrap them in the fabric and pat them lightly until all the water spots are gone.
Air-dry the coins in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight and has a humidity level below 55%.
Handle the Coins Properly
Rubbing the coins with your fingers when cleaning them with soapy water is okay because the liquid detergent can break down the oil from your hands and prevent them from sticking to the coins.
However, once the coins are dry, use cotton gloves to handle them and hold them only along the edges. The moisture, oil, or contaminants on your hands might stick to the coin and damage it while in storage.
4. Choose PVC-Free and Acid-Free Cases
When using cardboard or paper coin packets for coin storage, choose acid-free materials. Alternatively, select plastic materials that don’t contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Otherwise, your coins might corrode or become discolored during storage.
When buying materials online, check the product specifications. Go for those that clearly say acid-free and PVC-free. Also, check the consumer reviews to confirm the product’s effectiveness in preserving coins.
5. Keep Coins in Individual Cases
To prevent the coins from rubbing against one another, you must keep them in individual cases.
Due to the high number of coin enthusiasts, there are several readily available coin packets or holders specially designed for various coin sizes, so they’re relatively easy to find in online stores.
You can find rectangular or circular coin packets made from metal-safe and moisture-free plastic materials. Some are soft, while others are hard, depending on how you want to store your coins.
If you plan to put your coins on display, you can use soft and clear plastic cases and place them in an album. The circular ones are suitable for regular rounded coins. Other coins with unusual shapes, such as hexagons or octagons, are best stored in rectangular packets.
On the other hand, if you want to store your bulk of coins in a safe place, you can use rigid cases. They can protect your coins from impact in case of accidents when moving them or stacking cases on top of one another.
Average-value and high-value coins might be best stored in coin slabs. The slab is typically hard plastic that protects the coin from dents and scratches, while the front is clear to keep it visible.
One drawback with coin slabs is that they can take up so much space in storage as each slab accommodates only one coin.
6. Place Identical Coins in A Coin Tube
Meanwhile, if you have large numbers of identical low-value coins, you can store them in a coin tube. Although there aren’t partitions in the tube, its cylindrical shape is so compact that the coins won’t move much or rub against each other.
Choose a coin tube that can keep the coins snug and prevent horizontal movement. Also, fill it to the brim so the coins won’t jiggle up and down. Coin tubes come in different heights and diameters, so you can find one that matches your needs.
Alternatively, you can find coin tubes with individual slots to prevent contact between the coins. Choose one that fits the coins snuggly so they don’t fall out of the slot and scratch the others. The only downside is that you might need a lot of them to store a large collection.
7. Store Low-Value Coins in Albums or Frames
Collectors often gather low-value coins for their historical significance. For instance, you can collect coins based on the year they were released in circulation and organize them to show the changes or progress over time.
In that case, you can store them in plastic albums or frames with hard plastic or glass covers. You can then display them in your home for guests to enjoy.
When storing multiple identical coins in one large frame, you may be able to find coin mounts with pre-cut holes for a specific design and shape. In that case, you won’t need to place the coins in individual cases, as the extra width of the case won’t fit in the hole.
In addition, the spaces between the pre-cut holes should be enough to prevent the coins from getting in contact with one another.
On the other hand, if you intend to store multiple coins of different shapes and sizes, you may create your own mount using acid-free cardboard pieces. Use one layer for the holes and another layer for the back.
It is an excellent alternative that allows you to customize your frame and accommodate various coins in your collection.
8. Choose Low Humidity Areas
Whether you’re setting up your coin collection for display or storing them in a cabinet, ensure that the room has low humidity. Avoid areas with humidity levels over 55%, as the moisture can settle on your collection.
Coins stored in airtight cases might be safe, but cardboard frames will likely trap moisture from the air and eventually damage your collection.
9. Avoid Areas with High Heat and Direct Sunlight
In addition to moisture, high temperatures and direct sunlight can trigger oxidation reactions that can discolor or damage the coin’s metal surface. Oxides, chlorides, and sulfides in the air can react with the copper in coins, potentially tarnishing or corroding them.
Therefore, I recommend keeping the indoor temperature around 68 °F (20 °C) to avoid heat damage.
On the other hand, low temperatures can also be dangerous for the coins because the vapor can condense on the metal surface. Although you try your best to dry the coins before storage, some moisture might still be trapped in the cases or frames, which can condense and damage the coins.
To prevent this, store your coins in a temperature-controlled room, far from heating or cooling vents.
10. Keep Precious Coins in A Safety Vault
If you’re an investor keeping numerous average-value or high-value coins at home, it helps to invest in a high-quality safety vault. Choose one that is fire-proof and waterproof to protect your coins effectively.
It’s also crucial to keep the coins individually packed in coin slabs or in coin tubes with aptly spaced slots to prevent movement. Although your safety vault is snugly mounted on your wall, earthquakes can happen and devalue your coin collection from the impact.
Here are some tips when storing precious coins:
Avoid Keeping Them All in One Place
If you have numerous coins, you might think about storing them in one place to make them accessible and easier to find. After all, there might not be many rooms in your home that meet the humidity and temperature requirements.
However, storing your coins (low-value and high-value ones) in the same room or vault will make them equally accessible in case of theft.
Safety vaults are designed to keep valuables safe. Unfortunately, they’re also attractive to burglars, who naturally think all your valuables are there. Therefore, it’s always best to place your precious coins in different — but equally secure — locations.
Purchase Insurance for Your Coins
If you’re an established collectible coin investor, you must consider purchasing insurance for your precious coin collection. Choose one that covers theft and fire or water damage. It might be costly, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.
Also, you may consult a tax advisor, as insurance on coin collections can be tax deductible.
11. Store Precious Coins in A Bank’s Safety Deposit Box
If you don’t feel comfortable storing your precious coins at home, you can keep them in a bank’s safety deposit box. Most modern banks have weather-proof deposit boxes that can protect your valuable coins, but you must still pack your coins individually for an extra layer of protection.
However, if you have a large number of coins, keep in mind that most deposit boxes are only up to 10 by 10 inches (25 by 25 cm). Some can even be as small as 2 by 5 inches (5 by 12.7 cm).
Also, the cost of using one can vary depending on the size of the box, with larger ones reaching up to several hundred dollars annually.
More importantly, the bank’s insurance is unlikely to cover the worth of the coins in case of theft. So it’s still crucial to purchase separate insurance for them.
All these extra costs involved in collecting coins can make any potential collector wonder whether it’s really worth it. I’ve covered this topic in depth in my other article: Is Starting A Coin Collection Worth It? How to Decide
If you’re a coin collector with an overwhelming collection, it can be challenging to attend to them properly and keep them in excellent condition.
The first step is to sort them according to kind and value. It’s also crucial to clean and dry them thoroughly before placing them in appropriate packets, slabs, or tubes. Then, decide whether to keep them in a cabinet or a safety vault at home, or a bank’s deposit box.
Various coins require different types and levels of care, so it helps to organize your coins and plan the storage process carefully.