3 Tips For Cleaning And Storing Collectible Coins

1 July 2015
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Coin collecting is an enjoyable and sometimes lucrative hobby. Hunting down specific coins to enhance your collection can be a satisfying challenge most of the time, but sometimes you'll be surprised when a valuable coin turns up in your pocket change with no effort on your part at all. Once you start amassing a collection, the question becomes how to store and display your coins safely. Metal coins may seem tough and hardy, but the truth is that you can easily damage the metal and destroy the resale value of your coins if you aren't careful. Take a look at some tips that will help you understand how best to create a safe and beautiful coin collection.

Coin Cleaning

When you get your hands on an old coin that's potentially valuable, your first instinct may be to clean it up to restore its original shine and ensure that the details on the coins are plainly visible. However, it's important to resist the urge. In most cases, you're better off not cleaning the coin – doing so can damage the coin and reduce its value. Silver tarnish, while undesirable on jewelry and silverware, is referred to as "toning" on silver coins and can actually increase their value. The same is true for the patina that forms on copper coins.

In the event that you acquire a coin that is not simply tarnished or dull but is actually covered in dirt or grease or is encrusted in corrosion, it may be worth attempting to clean it. Avoid using acid-based metal cleaners on these coins, as they will remove some of the surface metal. Clean grease and dirt with a gentle cleanser, like dish soap. Use distilled water to rinse the coin off, not tap water – the chlorine in city water will discolor the coin. If the coin is covered in heavy, built up corrosion, you can try soaking it in olive oil. However, you should be aware that heavy corrosion often permanently damages the coin, so this may end up being a waste of time.

If you're ever in doubt about whether you should try to clean a coin, err on the side of caution and leave it alone. You can always consult a coin expert for advice about a specific coin.

Avoid PVC Damage

If there's a cardinal rule in coin collecting, it's this: don't store your coins in PVC. Coins are often stored in flips – small plastic envelopes designed to hold and display one coin. Flips come in several different materials, one of which is PVC, or polyvinyl chloride. Unfortunately, the PVC chemicals can have a damaging interaction with metal coins.

The chemical reaction that you get when you store metal coins in PVC flips shows up as hazy or milky greenish streaks. Once contaminated, the reaction will continue damaging the metal coin, even after you remove it from the PVC flip. It's best to avoid PVC flips entirely – opt for stiffer flips made with mylar instead. If you have coins that have already been exposed to PVC, you can remove the PVC by gently swirling the coin in a dish filled with acetone.

Coin Storage

Flips aren't the only way to store your coins. You actually have a lot of different options, and you can choose depending on whether you want to display your coins for show or simply store them for the future.

Coin albums are one of the best ways to store your coins if you want to be able to show them off. Inexpensive coin albums fold out into several sections and allow you to display one side of the coin. Pricier volumes have pages, rather than just folding out, and allow you to display both sides of the coin at once. If you have a number of some common coin, like wheat pennies, and you don't care to display all of them, you may prefer to use plastic coin tubes for mass storage. Very valuable, ungraded coins can be displayed in locking hard plastic coin holders. For those who are new to coin collecting, a coin storage kit that comes with several different storage containers is a good place to start.

After you clean your coins and determine a method for storing them, remember to keep them in a cool and dry location. Limiting your coins' exposure to extreme temperatures or moisture will help keep them in top condition.

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