Storing Your Coins
People have been known to put their collections in dresser drawers. But as a collection becomes more sophisticated, so do the lengths the collector takes to ensure the collection looks less like an accumulation and more like a collection.
You may simply want to store the coins, or you may want to examine them and someday even display them. But proper storage is also important to safeguard your collection. Beyond the friction your coins are exposed to when you're handling them, coins can also be exposed to friction when storing. You don't want your coins handled more than necessary, and you want to avoid exposing them to friction.
Storing coins properly will also keep them free from potential environmental damage. If you have any silver objects in your home, you may have noticed that over time they tarnish. Tarnish is environmental damage. Pollutants in the atmosphere are reacting with the metal. The metal is actually burning, although so very slowly that it is not detectable to the human eye. This is called oxidation.
There is no single best holder; there are many factors to consider. These include the diameter of the coins, the thickness of the coins, where you plan to store the coins, how and where you may want to display them at some time, and how you want to view or examine them.
Storage should be practical so the coins can be safely handled, and attractive so the coins can be pleasing to view. There are many holders in which a coin or a note may be placed. Some of these are available from commercial sources, while others may be devised by the collector. Common coin holders include 2½2s, flips, coin board, and coin cabinets.
One of the most popular ways of storing a coin is in a 2” ½ 2” holder (usually referred to as a “2½2”), a cardboard square measuring two inches by two inches with an oval or a square cut-out center covered with clear plastic so once the coin is placed in it the coin can be safely viewed.
One advantage of using 2½2s is that you can view the coin without handling it. Another advantage is you can write information describing the coin on the holder.
The disadvantages are that you may not be able to view the edge of the coin, and that if the cardboard holder contains sulfur it may react with the metal composition of your specimen, causing the coin to tone. Also because these holders are not airtight, the coin can oxidize. Because 2½2s are typically held together by staples, if you remove a coin from such the holder, you have to fully remove the staples first to avoid scratching the coin.
Another type of popular coin holder is called a flip. These are double-pocket hard plastic holders in which a coin is placed in one pocket, with a paper insert describing the coin in the other pocket.
An advantage of flips is they are more durable than 2½2s. Plus, flips do not contain any harmful sulfur as cardboard holders may. It is more difficult to write on these plastic holders, but you can use a felt tip marker.
The size and thickness of a coin are important to the holder in which you may want to place a specimen. A coin placed in a holder that is too big may rattle around in it, subjecting the coin to friction. Placing the coin in a holder too small is simply not an option. It won't fit. Bank notes have the same factors to consider.
A possible disadvantage of flips is that, because they are made of plastic, they commonly contain PVC, which can cause green slime to form on the coins. Look for flips that contain no PVC. If you find that the holders for your coins contain PVC, remove them as soon as possible. It will cost more to get better holders, but this cost is a better alternative than eventually learning that your collection is unsaleable. Another disadvantage of flips is that, like 2½2s, they aren't airtight.
Testing for PVC
A simple test can tell you if the holder in which you plan to place your coin or a bank note contains PVC. Heat the end of a copper coat hanger over an open flame on a stove. While the coat hanger is hot, touch the questionable plastic with the hanger to obtain a small sample of the plastic. Once again place the coat hanger over the flame. If the flame turns blue, the holder is safe. If the flame turns green, PVC is present.
2½2 and Flip Holders
You can buy specially made boxes to store either the cardboard 2½2s or the plastic flips, creating a sort of a filing system for your collection in the process. You can arrange the coins in any order, ensuring they are safe from friction and free to be examined. Then you can stash the entire box in a safe, strongbox, bank safe deposit box, or other security devise. This can be an easy way to store a large number of coins in a small space.
Another time-honored way to store coins is mounting them on cardboard coin boards. These are typically commercially produced folders or books in which holes of the appropriate diameter to the diameter of a denomination of coin have been drilled into each page. Often the holes are covered with clear plastic so once the coin is placed in it the coin can be safely viewed.
These books can be purchased either with the dates of the coins in a series printed below each appropriate hole or without printing so a collection can be assembled as the collector pleases.
Once again there are advantages and disadvantages to coin boards. The advantages are that they are easy to store and that an entire collection can be viewed at once due to the simple presentation. The disadvantages are that once again the cardboard coin board may contain sulfur. Also, some boards only allow one side of a coin to be viewed. Other boards have holes drilled all the way through to allow both sides to be viewed, but when the clear plastic panels are removed, the surface of the coins are subjected to friction.
There will always be innovative ways to store and display coins, but one of the more classical methods is a coin cabinet, a chest of drawers made specifically to hold coins. Many collectors in the United States consider coin cabinets to be old-fashioned, yet coin cabinets remain popular with collectors in Europe.
The composition of the cabinet is important: Choose plastic over wood. Most wood-composition cabinets will eventually react adversely with the metal of the coins, while modern plastic coin cabinets will not.
An advantage of coin cabinets is that they are an elegant way to store coins and a great way to view them—just open a drawer to see a larger number of coins at once.
A disadvantage of coin cabinets is that since coins are laid flat but loose in the drawers, they are subject to cabinet friction, which may affect their condition. Every time a drawer is opened, the coins may shift, subjecting them to minor friction.
It's interesting to note that museum-owned coin collections are often referred to as a “cabinet” because of this format of storage.
Bad Storage Ideas
There are some placess people store coins that are damaging and should be avoided at all costs. Among these are wallets, pouches, or anything else made of leather or plastic (except plastic coin cabinets); metal cans; and pots.
Coins and paper notes placed in leather wallets and other such items turn black from contact with the leather. Cleaning them isn't an option, since this will ruin the finish on the coin or note. The best suggestion is simply to keep them away from leather.
Wallets, pouches, and other similar currency carrying devices made of imitation leathers (plastic) typically contain chemicals, especially PVC, which will be harmful to coins or paper money if coins or notes are kept in these containers for long periods of time.
Cans and pots are problems in part because of the material the can or pot may be made from, and in part because the coins may be damaged by knocking against other coins in the same container. Storing coins in cloth sacks is also harmful, since the coins are subjected to contact with each other every time the sack is disturbed. People often tend to leave such sacks in places without climate control, further risking oxidation of the metal coins by their exposure to seasonal cold, heat, and humidity.
Taping coins or notes to boards or paper may make them look attractive for display purposes, but adhesive tapes will leave a sticky film on them that will likely leave permanent damage. Wood alcohol carefully applied may remove the sticky residue, but when applied by someone inexperienced with doing this the coin or note may be ruined. Rather than worry about cleaning sticky tape residue, don't use tape in the first place.