When you first start collecting, figuring out how to keep your coins can be challenging. The metal reacts to its environment, so it’s important to store them properly. So, what things should you never store coins in?
You should never store coins in cardboard, plastic flips or holders, or paper envelopes. You also shouldn’t display it in glass cases, on open surfaces, or store it in fabric bags. The safest ways to store your coins are Mylar albums, or, if you’re on a budget, coin folders made for collectors.
This article will explore the above storage methods in detail and the effects of the materials on the coins’ metal. It will also explain how they can damage your coins and bring down their value, so read on!
It may be tempting to create your own storage solution out of cardboard. After all, it’s cheap and fun to use. But if you do so, you may accelerate your coins’ aging.
Cardboard contains large amounts of sulfur and releases more as it breaks down. Exposure to sulfur will cause your coins to tarnish faster. While tarnishing is also known as toning and can be desirable on some coins, such as Morgan Silver Dollars, this is not true in all cases.
In addition, artificial toning via the use of bleach or cardboard is unethical. If your coin dealer or appraiser finds out you’re storing your coins in cardboard to give them a desirable iridescent sheen, it may hurt your coin’s value or even get you banned from the venue.
No one likes someone who engineers value on a collector’s item. Authenticity is extremely important in coin collecting, and if others learn you’re artificially aging coins, they may take drastic measures to ensure your altered coins stay off the market.
Most people aren’t going to try and do this on purpose, but it’s best to keep an eye out for methods used by less-than-reputable people and avoid them. Otherwise, you’ll wind up being lumped in with bad actors and lose your reputation in the community.
2. Plastic Flips
Plastic is one of the most durable and cheap materials known to man. So, it’s only natural to believe that storing your coins in plastic flips will protect them. However, doing so will damage your coins.
Plastic flips often contain PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride, and like cardboard, PVC breaks down over time. The byproducts of this process will interact with your coins, causing them to turn green.
Some people have even noticed their plastic flips creating slime on the metal’s surface, which can be difficult to clean up.
This green slime can damage your coins permanently. If appraisers see it, they’ll know that you haven’t stored your coins properly, and they’ll be less valuable due to the damage done by the chemical process. Some appraisers might also think less of you for it, believing you don’t know what you’re doing.
It’s hard to know which plastic products contain PVC, as they don’t always come with ingredient listings. So it’s best to avoid plastic products entirely when storing your coins, except Mylar, which is considered one of the safest materials to store your coins in.
3. Paper Envelopes
For centuries, it was common to store coins in paper envelopes. But in the modern day, few people store their collections in envelopes. Paper is no longer used because it damages coins instead of protecting them.
Just like cardboard, paper products break down over time. When this happens, paper envelopes release acids that react with your coins’ surface, causing them to become spotted or discolored. It can also artificially tone your coins, which for the reasons listed above, isn’t a good idea.
While there’s always the option of choosing acid-free paper products, they’re not very protective, either. All paper products will break down and grow mold when exposed to humidity, so if you use them anyway, make sure you store your collection in a dry place with lots of ventilation.
4. Plastic Holders
Plastic holders tend to be made of harder plastic, making them less likely to be made of PVC. But they’re still not entirely safe.
If you’re not careful, these holders will trap humidity that gets inside them, and they’re not immune to breaking down and creating gasses that may damage your coins, either. They also might not fit properly or have defects that press down into your coin when you close them, damaging it.
There’s also their ability to harbor bacteria, mold and mildew, and other things that may damage the surface of your coins. Since they’re an enclosed space, the possibilities are endless unless they’ve been professionally sealed before being shipped out into the world.
While the holders that come with commemorative coins are safer and shouldn’t be removed because it lessens their value, it’s best to avoid store-bought holders that open easily.
They look attractive and protective and are relatively cheap, but they harm your coins in the long run, so avoid them. Remember that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
5. In Glass Display Cases
Many collectors dream of having a clear glass display case in their home to display their collection in its full glory for any visitor. However, this isn’t a good idea in the case of coins.
Glass display cases also trap humidity and host other environmental factors that may damage or prematurely age your coins. They’re also rarely upholstered in materials that protect coins and may break down in their own ways.
Moreover, once inside the case, your coins will essentially be unsecured and open to the air. If your case is bumped, they could fall and get damaged or lost, and while it’s extremely poor manners, interested visitors might also open your case and handle your coins, which damages and degrades them.
As with any valuable collector’s item, it’s best to keep your coins out of sight when you’re not perusing them to protect them from damage and unknowing hands.
6. On Open Surfaces
Most collectors wouldn’t dare do this but keeping your coin collection out on an open surface for display isn’t a good idea.
They are more exposed to the elements than they would be inside a display case. Additionally, it’s very easy for unsecured coins to be brushed or bumped and knocked underneath furniture or other objects. You could lose or damage your coins without even realizing it.
You should always try to secure your coins so they don’t move about on their own accord and protect them from environmental factors such as humidity. Coins are made of metal, so they look durable, but like any collector’s item, they’re much more fragile than they appear. It’s important to protect them.
7. In Fabric Bags
Some people may wish to store their coins in fabric or paper bags. Paper ones aren’t a good idea for the reasons listed above, but in some cases, fabric bags can be even worse.
Fabric is absorbent and can collect and hold moisture. The resulting high humidity and mold or mildew can easily damage your coins. They also won’t protect your coins from being struck or stepped on or any other dangerous interactions with people, animals, and their environment.
There’s also the fact that coins stored in a bag will rub together. The signs appraisers look for to judge if a coin is damaged include wear and scratches. Friction from rubbing together over time will cause both pretty quickly, and the resulting wear and tear can hurt your coins’ value.
8. In Anything Other Than Mylar Albums or Coin Folders
There are many ways you can store coins, but in truth, there are only two that will truly protect your coins.
The best way to store and protect your coins is in a Mylar album. Mylar is a plastic product that’s often used for packaging foods because it doesn’t break down in such a damaging way as other plastics. This makes it safe for storing coins in, as well.
Albums made specifically for storing coins will have protective hard covers and will contain pages upon pages of clear Mylar pockets that you can slip your coins into, allowing you to see both sides just by turning the page. These albums make it much easier to manage and protect your collection from the elements.
While Mylar albums are wonderful, they can be expensive, especially for a beginner. If you’re on a budget or don’t have many valuable coins in your collection yet, coin folders or a coin board may be a better fit for you.
Instead of having windows, coin folders and boards have pre-cut circles you can stick your coins into to keep them from moving around. They’re also made of materials that won’t degrade in harmful ways to your coins.
When buying Mylar albums or coin folders, ensure you’re not buying knockoffs that may contain cheap materials. Otherwise, you may end up damaging your precious coins. You should also read my comprehensive guide on how albums can damage your coins: Do Coin Albums Damage Coins? What You Need to Know