Collecting coins is more than just a hobby. For many collectors, coins are a serious investment that deserve special care and consideration. While metal coins may feel durable, the truth is that they’re prone to damage from a variety of sources — and that damage can seriously reduce the value of your coins. Check out these basics to learn more about the best ways to store and care for your coin collection.
Why Your Coin Collection Needs Protection
Most coins are made of copper or silver — two of the most chemically reactive metals. According to The Spruce Crafts, coins may be damaged by humidity, temperature fluctuations, acids from standard paper and cardboard, cooking vapors, chlorine (particularly from PVC in coin flips), air pollution, and improper handling. Yes: Just touching your coins with your bare fingers can damage them. Even a little damage can greatly reduce the value of coins, especially uncirculated ones.
The Best Storage Options for Your Collectible Coins
A 5-gallon jug may be a great place to toss your loose change, but your precious collectible coins deserve — and indeed, require — better treatment. Coin collectors use a variety of types of storage boxes, envelopes, and cases to protect their coins from damage from light, moisture, dust, and chemical contaminants. Your choice will depend on your coins and your needs.
Types of Coin Collection Storage
Coin albums may be the best-known type of storage for collectible coins. Many collectors of a certain age can date their interest in coins to the cardboard folders distributed by the U.S. Mint. Each folder had slots to hold pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters; one for each year. Today’s equivalent is the America the Beautiful Quarters Album. Beyond albums, though, there is a wealth of types of storage for collectible coins.
- Coin Albums: Coin albums are generally best for short-term storage or for transporting coin collections from one place to another. Most are similar to three-ring binders, with pages of coin envelopes to hold one coin each.
- Coin Flips — Cardboard Holders: The most-common storage option for most coins is cardboard holders called coin flips. These wrap around the coin to protect it from accidental nicks and scratches. The best options are made from archival, acid-free cardboard. The flips may be stored in albums or coin boxes.
- Coin Cases and Coin Storage Boxes: If your collection is more valuable, you may opt for hard-plastic display cases. Each little case is designed to hold one coin, protecting it from moisture and other environmental contaminants — including the oil and acids on your fingers. One of the benefits of these cases is that, unlike cardboard flips, they don’t provide the ability to view your coins from all sides.
Where to Store Your Coin Collection at Home
If you choose to keep your coin collection at home, you’ll need to carefully consider the best place for it. You’ll want to choose a room that’s climate-controlled, at least to some extent. Generally, if the room is comfortable for a human, it’s probably safe for your coins. There are a few exceptions, though. You and your guests may absolutely love your kitchen, for example, but the cooking oils and other vapors are definitely not good for your coin collection. Skip the basement and attic, too — extremes of hot, cold, and humidity aren’t kind to copper and silver. Generally, your den or bedroom are good choices.
Safe Deposit Box vs. Home Safe
The other concern you may have about keeping your coin collection safe is basic security — as in, keeping the collection safe from thieves. Obviously, your best option for protecting your valuables is a safety deposit box in a bank — but that can be a pricey option that doesn’t give you easy access to your coins. Your other option is to buy a safe for your home. If you choose to store your coin collection in a safe, it’s important to remember that safes are made of a material that naturally emits a water vapor that holds the temperature down in case of fire. Keep a fresh silica gel packet in your safe to absorb moisture that could damage your coins.
When and How to Clean Your Coins
The answer to the question “How should I clean my coins?” is nearly always that you shouldn’t. Every coin expert has horror stories about novice collectors who ruined rare coins by cleaning them. The Spruce Craft notes one exception: if you’re starting a coin collection from coins that have been in circulation; that is, if you’re raiding your tip jar looking for coins. In that case, you’ll want to gently clean away the dirt and germs that money tends to collect. Here’s how to do it.
- Set up two plastic containers. Fill one with tap water and the other with distilled water.
- Add gentle dishwashing liquid to the tap water.
- Lay out a soft, folded towel.
- One at a time, dip each coin in the soapy water and gently clean it with your fingertips.
- Rinse the coin under running water.
- Give it a final rinse in the distilled water.
- Lay the coin on the towel to dry.
- When the coins are completely dry, put them in your choice of storage containers.
Holding a coin is like holding a piece of history. Whether your collection consists of valuable rare coins or coins that mean something special to you, caring for them properly will preserve them and their value for years and generations to come.
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer who specializes in home, education, and lifestyle topics. She draws on her experiences as a teacher, mother, grandmother, and all-around creative spirit to help others achieve their own goals.