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Caring for Your Coins

One of the most popular hobbies in the United States is coin collecting. From rare coins to modern U.S. Mint proof sets and commutative issues, beautiful silver and gold bullion, and historic examples of every denomination bring millions of collectors all over the country together. After all, the idea of owning something with intrinsic value that grows over time, has a meaning history and can be a beautiful piece of art can excite just about anyone.

But if you want to make the most of your coin collection, you need to know how to properly care for it. Both novice and experienced coin collectors make mistakes when it comes to handling their coins. To help coin collectors of all experience levels, we’ve put together the following guide on how to properly handle precious coins and bullion.

Why It Is Important to Handle Coins Properly

Coins have been used in American society for centuries. People all over the country know the look and feel of coins, and as a result many people think precious coins require the same level of care as circulated coins. But this just isn’t true.

Historic, uncirculated, and proof editions often have low mintage, which means they have more historic and collector value than your average coin. So while it’s not a big deal to touch and drop the average quarter, touching or dropping a rare coin can prove disastrous. For example:

  • Rare, uncirculated coins often have mirror-like finishes that make them look more lustrous than normal coins. If you damage this surface, that lessens the value.

  • Pure gold bullion coins, like the American Gold Buffalo, have higher susceptibility to damage from certain storage materials. Many people use PVC holders as a storage material, but because it decomposes when exposed to heat and light, it releases hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid eats away at the metal in all types of coins, making them worth less.

  • Some coins made of precious metals, like gold, are soft and especially prone to damage. By simply touching a gold coin in the wrong manner, you can scratch it or fingerprint it, diminishing its value. The moral of the story is that proper care and handling will preserve (and even increase) your coin collection’s worth.

7 Rules for Properly Handling Precious Metal Coins

Once you recognize the importance of proper care and handling, you can take steps to maintain your coins’ appearance. Here are seven rules to keep in mind.

1. Never touch valuable collectors coins with your bare hands.

This rule matters most if you own proof coins or uncirculated coins. The natural oil in your skin, as well as any dirt that might stick to your hands, will tarnish your coins’ shiny surfaces. While you may not notice any damage right away, the oil will wear away at the coin over time.

2. Wear clean cotton gloves when you need to handle rare coins.

If and when you want to show your coins to friend or family members or you just want to examine them yourself, put on a pair of cotton gloves. The cotton prevents oil and dirt from coming in contact with the coin, thereby preventing it from tarnishing and discoloring.

3. Handle coins by the edge, never by the face.

Although you might love the feel of a coin between your thumb and forefinger, you should only handle common circulated coins in this manner. There is never a good reason to touch the surface of a rare coin; you should only touch its edges. The smallest speck of oil, dirt, or grime can stick to a coin’s face, damaging its luster over time.

4. Keep your coins in protective holders.

If you plan to take your collection to shows or you like showing it to friends and family members, you should invest in protective holders. Holders protect the surface and edge of a coin from dirt, oil, and scratches. They’ll also protect the coin if you or someone else accidentally drops it.

5. Handle coins over soft surfaces.

Whether you keep your coins in protective holders or not, you should handle them over soft surfaces. No matter how much care you take, you might drop a coin. If it drops onto a concrete floor or a glass display case, chances are good that it will suffer dings and scratches. When you examine coins, examine them over a soft surface, such as a velvet pad. Additionally, try to only handle them in carpeted rooms that don’t pose a significant threat to the coins.

6. Never clean your coins.

All collectors want their coins to look shiny and pristine. In an attempt to keep coins looking their best, many collectors clean them, which is dangerous. Some cleaners are acidic and can reduce the value of a coin by 50% or more. If you really want to keep your coins looking their best, forget about cleaning them. Don’t use acidic cleaners on them. Don’t try to polish them with your breath or saliva. Don’t clean them in city tap water, as it often contains chlorine that will discolor coins. If you feel uncomfortable about cleaning your coins, take them to a professional who can determine the best course of action.

7. Store coins properly.

Try to keep your coins in an airtight place to prevent corrosion from heat and moisture. Flip books and coin albums protect coins to a degree, but don’t completely lock out air and moisture. Consider using coin slabs to store your coins.

Keep these tips in mind to properly handle and care for your coin collections. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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