To maintain the quality and value of a coin collection, it is important to care for the coins properly. Improper cleaning or storage can result in damage to the coin’s surface, which significantly decreases its value and can even impact its appearance. To ensure the beauty and longevity of every coin in a collection, use the right cleaning techniques and store the coins in the right containers.

Caring for Your Coin Collection

To retain the value and aesthetic of your coin collection, proper care and storing are essential.

Organizing Your Collection

Tools to help you organize and care for your collection include:

  • A high-quality magnifying glass for coin inspection
  • A padded jeweler’s tray, plush towel, or soft cloth to set coins on when viewing them
  • A plastic ruler; avoid hard, metal rulers that may scratch coins
  • A general coin reference book that includes information on dates, mint marks, major varieties, grading guidelines, and prices
  • Good lighting, e.g., a halogen lamp
  • Soft, cotton gloves
  • Coin envelopes, holders or albums for storing your coins

Handling Your Collection

Hold a coin by its edges, and over a soft towel or other soft surface, between a thumb and forefinger. Additionally, wearing soft cotton gloves protect the coin’s surface from fingerprints and the natural oils on your skin, which can be corrosive.

While you may be tempted to polish your coins to make them look shiny and new, proceed with caution. Polishing and/or cleaning coins can reduce their value. Older coins that show deep age coloration are more desirable than coins whose surfaces have been stripped away by improper polishing or cleaning.

If you do polish a coin to remove dirt, use mild soap and water. Once you’ve washed the coin, pat it dry with a soft towel. Brushing or rubbing can scratch a coin’s delicate surface.

Storing Your Collection

Keep coins cool and dry
Sharp changes in temperature and moisture promote tarnish and spots that devalue coins. Avoid talking directly over coins; tiny droplets of saliva can create spots on a coin. Just like fingerprints, these marks are difficult to remove.

Use original holders
All modern proof sets and commemoratives should be bought and sold in original cases and capsules. Tip: When inserting or removing a coin, “bow” the packaging by pressing opposite sides inward to avoid scratching the coin. Additionally, avoid soft plastic holders that contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a chemical that softens plastics. PVC can eventually coat a valuable coin with sticky green slime, which eats into the coin’s surface.

Save documentation
A certificate of authenticity and an information card accompany uncirculated and commemorative sets.

Keep them safe
A safe-deposit box at a bank is ideal. If you have a home collection, ensure that your home insurance covers full replacement costs.

Storage and Display Options

  • Flips, for a coin and its label
  • 2″ x 2″ Cardboard Holders
  • Plastic Tubes, for coin rolls
  • Hard Plastic Holders, for high-value coins
  • Polyethylene Sleeves, for short-term storage
  • Paper Envelopes Made for Holding Coins, for circulating coins; ordinary envelopes could contain chemicals that cause your coins to change color over time
  • Foldout Albums, for short-term storage of lower-grade coins
  • Slabs, sonically sealed hard plastic holders that are good storage protection, for individual, high-value coins

Cleaning A Coin

Generally speaking, uncirculated coins should never be cleaned. The abrasive chemicals of cleaning products can discolor a coin, and the wiping or polishing process leaves tiny scratches on a coin’s surface. Beginners, who may start their collections with circulated coins, often find that their acquisitions appear grimy or dull. Since circulated coins are often damaged anyway, it is acceptable to clean them gently:

  • Wash hands thoroughly, to remove excess oils and tiny grit.
  • Fill a small plastic container with warm water. Add a small amount of mild detergent.
  • Fill a second container with distilled water, for rinsing.
  • Set up a drying station, using a soft blanket or towel.
  • Immerse coins one at a time in the water, gently rubbing both sides with the fingertips. Work from the center of the coin, out to the edges.
  • Rinse the coin under hot running water.
  • Swish the coin in the distilled water, which will remove chlorine from tap water.
  • Air dry the coin using the drying station. If distilled water was not used, gently pat the coin dry.
  • Make sure that coins are completely dry before storing them.

During the cleaning process, it is important to handle coins one at a time, so that they do not come in contact with one another. Additionally, removing oxidation from a coin can actually decrease its value. Known as toning, this change in coloration is part of a coin’s natural aging. To protect toning, no dips, polishes, or chemical solutions should be used on a coin.

Storing A Coin Collection

Once coins are cleaned, they should be handled only by the edges, to protect against finger smudges. Storage containers for collectible coins should be chosen carefully, as chemicals in the storage containers can also damage or discolor coins. There are several options for coin storage:

  • Envelopes are an economical method for storing coins. Each coin should be stored in its own, acid-free envelope. Label the envelopes using photo-safe or acid-free ink.
  • PVC-free plastic bags, also called “flips” are slightly more expensive than envelopes, but they allow viewing the coin without removal from the packaging.
  • Mint-issued holders are designed specifically for coin storage. Furthermore, this packaging is often part of the collectible set, so keeping the packaging maintains the set’s value.
  • Coin dealers may also place coins in slabs, which are hard plastic packages for individual coins. A slab usually also displays the coin’s grading information. Slabs protect the coin’s surface, without obstructing the view of the coin.
  • To store a large number of slabbed coins, special boxes can be used. These boxes are fitted with a series of grooves, between which the packaged coins will fit. Some coin display boxes are designed to accommodate the coins in slabs.

With the right care, coins will maintain their value and appearance indefinitely. Maintain their beauty with proper coin cleaning and storage.

This information is provided for general reference purposes and does not constitute professional advice. For detailed coin collecting or investing information, please consult with a professional expert.