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Preserving Your Collection

Michael S. Swoveland

Michael Swoveland lives in North Carolina, USA, with his wife and two children. He has been involved with coin collecting for over twenty years, working for two coin dealers during that time. His primary area of interest is Medieval English coinage, but also collects Ancient Roman coins, U.S. coins, U.S. currency and American political buttons.
Michael has a great website which is definately worth a visit, he also as other articles worth reading.

One of the biggest concerns felt by coin collectors is how to properly preserve their collections. Sadly many coins have been ruined by improper storage robbing their owners of much of their investment and robbing future generations of collectors of the chance to acquire these coins. In this article I will attempt to answer some of the basic questions and address some of the concerns of newer collectors.

Handling Your Coins

One of the first mistakes collectors make is the manner in which they handle and store their coins. When holding a coins care should be taken to never touch the obverse or reverse of the coin. Coins should only be held by the edge and even this should be kept to a minimum. Human skin contains oils that will cause fingerprints to appear on silver and copper, thus reducing the value of your coin. The temptation to "hold history in your hand" should be avoided as much as possible as it might cause much of your investment to become history!


Many collections have been lost through theft. When word gets out that you collect coins there is the risk that the wrong people will become aware of your hobby and decide they would like YOUR collection. To avoid this we advise you keep your most valuable coins, if not your entire collection in a bank's deposit box. Some collectors wish to keep their collections at home, while not advised, you should at least have a secure safe if you choose to go this route. When selecting a safe, buy the heaviest one you can afford. Many people will buy a light safe that can simply be carried away by a thief. It is also wise to consider insuring your collection. Another aspect to consider is the use of a postal box for buying and selling of coins as this makes it slightly harder for the wrong kind of people to find your collection.

Cleaning Your Coins

In a word, don't! While some coins are improved by cleaning, far more are harmed by it. Collectors desire coins that are as close to their original condition as possible. Abrasive cleaning will leave tiny hairline scratches over the entire surface of a coin, greatly reducing it in value. Most serious collectors will not even buy a coin that has been cleaned in this way. Some silver and nickel coins will have an unattractive toning, in such cases the coin may be helped by being dipped. Coin dip is a special chemical solution that is designed to remove toning without harming a coins original luster. However, coins should only be dipped by someone who has a great deal of experience and only after serious consideration and careful examination. If you make a mistake, you can never undo the damage.


Many coins have been destroyed my improper storage. Careful attention to the environment in which your coins are stored and to the type of holders in which you keep them is called for. It is best to place your safe in a cool dry location away from direct sunlight. Many collectors will place a desiccant in their safe to help reduce the problem of moisture. When selecting a holder, be sure you choose one that is made of inert materials that will not react with your coins, while at the same time offer protection in case the holder is dropped. The best holders of this type are made by Capital, Air-Tight and Eagle, all of whom have websites where holders can be ordered directly. If you choose to use 2x2 inch coin flips be sure you are using Safe-Flips which do not contain the harmful chemical PVC. Albums made of paper or cardboard may contain sulfur which will cause coins to tone over time. 2x2 inch cardboard holders contain sulfur and have the added danger of staples which can damage your coins when they are removed if you are not very careful.

You should always bear in mind the statement made by a respected dealer:

"You do not own your coins, you only pay for the privilege of being their caretaker for a short time. You are responsible to future generations for the choices you make."