For the collector, it is just as important to know how to safely store your coins as it is to know which coins to purchase. Careless handling or environmental damage can rob your collection of its value and beauty. Obviously, valuable collections can run the risk of theft.
We’ll go over some of the most important considerations, threats and storage methods for coin collections. The collector’s goal is to protect physical integrity, retain value and prevent theft.
1. Protecting Yourself Before You Buy
A quick word about protecting your collection before you actually own it:
Collectable coins are often small and, particularly with malleable precious metals, can be easily damaged. If you are purchasing coins in person, never rely on just your eyes to evaluate the quality of a coin. When purchasing online, be sure to purchase from reputable sellers / dealers who can remedy any issues resolved with receiving damaged product.
Microscopes and other magnifiers can be crucial for coin collectors. Inspect the coin in different angles and in varying light. Try to identify any problems before you sink money into valuable coins.
2. Identifying Threats to Your Coins
Coins face plenty of hazards - some obvious and some hidden. The following list is not all-encompassing, but you should at least consider all of these risks before determining how to safely store your coins.
❏ Poor Handling - clumsy handlers can dent, scratch, bend or chip their coins. Coins with high gold or palladium fineness are especially vulnerable, as these metals are extremely fragile at high purity.
❏ Pollution / Air Contamination - numismatic coins, like art, need protection from contaminant in the air around where they are stored.
❏ Heat / Humidity / Water - hot air, hot surfaces, fires, etc. can all damage your coins. Similarly, humidity is bad for the metals in your coins; in fact, water in any level is potentially harmful (water can slowly erode almost anything).
❏ Theft - doesn’t need much explaining. Don’t keep your coins in obvious places without security, and don’t go around advertising the value of your collection. The world is not populated by angels, after all.
❏ Children / Animals - never keep your coins in a spot where they can be accidentally damaged (or even eaten) by children or animals.
❏ Paper - this may seem like a surprise, but most common forms of paper contain sulfur. Prolonged contact with paper will allow that sulfur will do a number on your collection.
❏ PVC - abbreviation for polyvinyl chloride, which is a common chemical found in a lot of less sophisticated coin holders or slips. This chemical will slowly fuse itself to your coins, damaging them in the process.
3. Methods of Coin Storage
There are as many methods of coin storage as there are threats to your collection. We’ve identified some of the best, as well as some to avoid.
❏ Safety Deposit Box / Depository Vault - simply put, the most secure way to store your coins is at an institution that specialises in protecting assets, such as a bank or depository vault. Obviously, there are increased costs associated with this, and it also prevents you from looking through your collection whenever you feel like it.
❏ Individual Plastic Cases - less expensive than a SDB or vault, these cases are highly recommended for any coins that have above low to moderate value (< $50). These do not solve the problem of storage location, but are excellent at preventing physical damage.
❏ Wall or Floor Safe - speaking of location, an anti-burglary safe can be an excellent option. Just be careful about “fire-proof” safes, which may contain chemicals that are harmful to exposed coins.
❏ Binders, Pages and Holders - there is an enormous variety of binders, pages and holders for numismatists. Avoid any that contain PVC, avoid cheap and soft plastics, and be careful with holders or tubes that expose the front/rear coins. For less valuable coins, these are good options and can be preferable to just tossing them in a bowl or jar.
❏ Avoid the Freezer, Attic or Basement - freezers used to be common, but burglars know to look there now. The same goes for under the bed or in the closet. The attic and basement are either too hot, humid or dirty for safe storage.
❏ Avoid Soft Plastic / Ziplock - these are too easily torn, may contain harmful chemicals and leave room for the coins to knock into each other with ease. Unless your coins have low value and you have no other options, these are not useful storage methods.