Proper coin handling and storage is essential to protect your investment from the environmental conditions (air-water- fire), theft, mishandling and the ravages of time.

Handling a Coin

Some sites will tell you to minimize coin handling to reduce the potential for damage and degradation.  However, we encourage frequent coin fondling of common coins as they were designed to pass amongst the human hand and since we are big fans of the tactile sense and mode of learning.  You can sure learn about the allure of gold by holding it in your hand.  The weight, the beauty, the strength. One must handle numismatically valuable coins with care, of course.  Although improper or abusive coin handling can reduce numismatic value, there are techniques and safeguards to prevent this. However, very expensive or high quality coins should have certain safeguards against both handling and environmental conditions.

The picture below shows the wrong way to hold a coin, the thumb is touching the face (front, obverse) of the coin.  The human skin produces oils and contains contaminants which can mar the patina finish or surface toning of a coin and also leave indelible fingerprints that can last for decades.

The picture below shows the right way to hold a coin, the coin is pressed between the thumb and forefinger so that the human skin is only touching the outside edge of the coin (band, rim), not the coin face. 

For very high quality and value coins and all proof coins one should wear certain electrostatic and lint fee gloves. Some coin stores may stock lower priced cotton or latex gloves for coin handling.

Just as human skin oils can degrade high quality coins, so can acids and bases contained in human saliva. So, whatever you do, no sneezing or slobbering over the coin!

(find picture of bill clinton improperly holding coin)

Coin Viewing

When viewing a coin, always place it a soft surface such as a felt pad. Dragging a coin against a surface causes wear and damage.  In fact, one definition between an uncirculated and circulated coin provides that the coin was placed across a surface.  Also, dropping a coin on a hard surface or another coin can result in nicks or scratches in the coin devices or field or rim dings detracting from the numismatic value.

When shipping coins, ensure sufficient packing material and technique commensurate with the value of the coin (and the relationship with the person you are shipping it to) to prevent damage in transit.

Coin Storage (sorted from least expensive to most expensive method)

1.  Loose Change

...on the nightstand, kitchen counter or under the bed.  Ultimately the most costly type of storage method since this is how coins get lost, to be found by we metal detectorists years down the road. 

2.  Cigar Boxes, Jars, Cans and Bags

Many coin collectors of average means in the early 21st century stored all their coins together in Cigar boxes or other similar boxes and jars or whatever spare container they had laying around the hovel.  These are still fine methods today for storing pocket change, circulated coins and less valuable fair, such as your common 'wheatie cents'.  These containers do not suffice for better quality coins.  Previously individuals have buried their coinage to keep others from discovering their stash. This method of storage requires extremely efficient packaging or else the moisture and mineral content in the ground will destroy the coins.

3.  Paper Envelopes, Wrappers and Rolls

People also had paper laying around the house and used it to their advantage in storing coins.  Most older envelopes or folders contain sulfur in the paper and thus are not suitable for storage of better quality coins since the sulfur will cause the coin appearance to change over time.  However, modern paper coin envelopes that are 'sulfur -free' are suitable for coin storage.  Paper rolls are used primarily by the US Mint and banks and have the same limitations as other paper holders.

4.  Coin Folders

These are single sheets of paper or cardboard with individual cut out slots for each type of coin. Typically the folder is sorted by a particular theme or grouping, such as State Quarters.  Like envelopes, coin folders are typically made out of inferior quality paper that will have various dyes or preservatives that contain chemicals and elements (sulfur, dioxin, arsenic) which may damage the coin over time. Since they are inexpensive (a couple dollars or so) they can be uses to store coins temporarily or those of little value.  Of course, like in every other pursuit, extensive use of inexpensive equipment becomes quite costly over time.


Here are some of the major and minor holder manufacturers:

  • Dansco

  • Eagle

  • Guardmaster

  • Harco

  • Harris

  • Littleton

  • Meghrig

  • US Mint

  • Wayte Ramond

  • Whitman

5.  Coin Flips

Plastic coin flips provide a good storage device since you see the coin without removing it from the storage cover.  Plastic flips are not airtight but they are a good storage option for coins that are intended to be left untouched for many years.

6.  Cardboard flips or '2x2s'

This storage option is popular since it provide inexpensive yet effective storage while not taking up much space.  The cardboard flip folds over on itself with the coin in the middle. A space cut out of the cardboard in the center has a sheet of thin and clear mylar plastic allowing viewing of the coin.  The flip is stapled to itself securing the coin within the flip.  Different size mylar cut outs are used for different coin denominations.  These flips cost about five cents each.

7.  Coin Tubes or Rolls

Plastic coin tubes are an inexpensive method to store large groups of coins together (typically 20-50).  Plastic tubes are an improvement over the paper bank rolls but for storage and handling of more inexpensive coins, especially in volume.  Tubes provide excellent protection and packability. However, they take up large amounts of space and even when clear do not provide for readable view of contents inside since the coins are stacked upon each other.

8.  Coin Albums

Coins albums provide a preferred method of storage for most coins.  They are essentially several pages of coin folders (though of much higher quality) bound together to form a book or album.  There are individual cutouts to snaplock in a coin with either clear mylar or acetate coverings to protect the coin.  Some older and lower quality albums have environmental issues similar to cheaper paper such as sulfur content.  Albums are more expensive than folders (typically a couple to several dollars each) and take up considerable space but provide some level of environmental protection and a higher organizational order. That is, albums are often grouped according to theme or denomination and due to size capacity can contain an entire production run, such as an album of Mercury Dimes.

9.  Plastic Containers

Plastic containers are the most recent method of coin storage; typically used for more expensive coins.  While every effective, they can be somewhat difficult to properly use for full protection from environmental factors. They are also very expensive and take up a lot of space.

9.1  Air-Tite Holders

Made of either acrylic and polyethylene, these holders are expensive yet very effective for long-term storage of higher quality coins.  http://www.airtiteholders.com

9.2  Slabs

The term 'slab' describes a coin professionally graded and encapsulated in plastic.  Third party grading companies slab coins and provide certification to the authenticity of the coin and provide an opinion of the coin's grade. Some slabs are hermetically sealed hard plastic holders which provide a very high level of protection from abuse, mishandling and environmental conditions.  However, there is a small percentage chance that should one break the coin out of the slab, the coin could either be damaged in the process or contain some damage when Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) sticks to the coin surfaces.  Slabs are not completely airtight.  Although slabs offer excellent protection, they are very expensive ($10-30) and take up a large amount of space.

More on Third Party Grading and Slabbing Services - On Coin Grading:


A key point to remember is that since slabs are  gas-permeable do not store the slabs in your lock box o safe with papers containing sulfur or the sulfur will eventually reach the coin surface.

One interesting coin storage method combines the benefit of both slab and folder options.  Of course, storage space can quickly become an issue.

Cleaning Slabs

Sometimes the slabs, not the coins themselves, get scratched.  To reduce these scratches use Brasso polish applied with a cotton swab or old rag. Let dry for a few minutes and it will haze up and get gummy. Then wipe it dry with a clean rag and watch those small scratches disappear!


For gummy residue on a slab left behind by someone's old price sticker, use a solvent (carburetor cleaner or especially WD40) on the gum and wipe dry with a clean rag.

9.3 Intercept Shields

A more recent coin storage product (2001), these holders are designed by the manufacturer to prevent a completely airtight enclosure which also physically neutralizes corrosive gasses such as sulfur to provide the highest coin protection available. Essentially, the technical concept is one of the sacrificial anode. Some users experience difficulty placing a coin and ensuring a proper seal.  Very expensive and require much storage space.


 10.  Coin Drawers and Chests

Back in the old days coin collecting had been the purview of a rather upscale clientele.  Before the advent of a large and prosperous middle class, the general population usually had not the luxury of salting coins away as a form of amusement. The more well-to-do collector had the means to properly showcase (hence the term 'showcase') his or her (but usually his) coin display in a drawer; the coins were laid out amongst a velvet backdrop and a collection of drawers formed a chest.

11.    Velvet

Today collectors and dealers continue to use velvet surfaces for the short term storage and viewing of coins.  For example, a coin store employee might place a coin for your viewing on a velvet lined tray so that the coin is not dropped to the floor nor picks up scratches by passing over a glass display counter. Collectors might emulate this viewing practice on their own.  A temporary velvet container, trademarked as "Selvyt" is a synthetic velvet suitable since it is soft, portable, and washable.

12.  Jewelry and Adornments

Generally, the West holds precious metals as coinage whereas the East holds precious metals as jewelry and bullion chain.

13.  Bank Vault

Some individuals are most comfortable keeping their valuables in a bank vault.  Conversely, some individuals remember grandmother telling the story of when Franklin Delano Roosevelt via Executive Order 6102 outlawed privately held gold and the bankers turned over gold stored in bank vaults to the US Government. The government then paid scrip for the gold (if it paid at all). The scrip then lost over 90% of its value since then.

But deposit boxes are deductible! Think of the four dollars a year your could save!

14.  Buried in the Ground

Yes metal bars will sink in sandy soil.

The depth/time depends on many factors. Metal flakes, however will rise (as do glass and porcelain).  Before digging to find your bars, please consider some electromagnetic work such as a plain old metal detector with the right coils and discrimination.  Should that fail, consider a more robust version, EM61 (time domain).  Failing those, ground penetrating radar could provide some help, depending on several factors. Given the shallow groundwater, refraction is probably out of bounds.


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