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Proper Coin Care: Cleaning and Storage

By Gainesville Coins
Published October 14, 2009

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.

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 often carry certified coins, which have been individually sealed in tamper-proof hard plastic packages called "slabs". A slab usually displays the coin’s grading information, and prevents someone for switching out the coin for a lesser quality one. Slabs protect the coin’s surface without bstructing 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 that allow slabbed coins to be stored vertically. Some special coin display cases are designed to display slabbed coins horizontally in order to see the encased coins in an attractive setting.

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 numismatic professional.

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