By Steve Carr
If you are a fairly serious collector, you need to properly store your collection. Actually, if you have more than one or two coins, books, currency or other numismatic items, you have to do something about storing them. If the items sit loose at your home, they will accumulate dust and dirt on their surfaces. They might get lost or stolen. What a horrible way to loose your collection.
Any method of storing should keep the item in its present condition – if not, the condition of the coin and its price will be affected negatively. Coins should be stored in an environment that is cool and dry, a temperature from 60 -75 degrees (F) and a humidity of around 20%,. Paper money and books are best stored at the same temperature but with a humidity of 40%. These temperatures are what we can expect from a typical room in our house or apartment. The humidity can vary greatly.
If your collection has much value, you will probably want to keep it in a safe. You can purchase a safe and install it in your house, but many collectors use bank safety deposit boxes. The temperature in the vault will probably be ok but the humidity levels will vary. You may want to create a suitable “micro environment” in your box by using a desiccant,
Once these are met, there are a number of different ways to store your collection.
There are literally thousands of different ways to store your coins. The best type of storage is where you can deal with your coins as easily as possible. Do you like looking at them? Or do you only look at them once a year (you should always look at your coins, at least annually – just to make sure your coins are not deteriorating).
Some collectors prefer to house their collections in albums. These albums can be simple, like the blue Whitman albums. This type album has a hole cut through its cardboard core. The back is covered, making it possible to only view the obverse. They are great for circulated coins, but since you must push the coin into the album, uncirculated coins will pick up grease/dirt from your fingers, causing toning as a minimum. Also, the albums are made of paper, which has some sulfur in it. Sulfur is corrosive for coins. Several different companies make this type of album.
Another type of album has better features. Commonly called Dansco albums, they have a hole for the coin with plastic slides on the front and back. Both sides of the coin can now be seen. These albums also have sulfur in the paper and can produce fantastic toning. In fact, some of the most spectacularly toned coins come from albums like this. This toning can take years to develop, and when it reaches its desired color, the coin should be removed from the album. Otherwise, the coin will continue to tone until it is black in color.
Albums, in fact, are available for all your numismatic needs. They are made for slabbed coins, proof and mint sets, even medals.
There is one problem with these albums. The slides, which are made of rigid plastic, can scratch the surface of the coin. These light hairline scratches take away from the eye appeal of the coin and make them less valuable. Just so you know.
Other collectors store their coins in even different ways.. Most dealers use white 2X2 holders to sell their coins and many collectors keep their coins in these holders. These holders are archival, meaning they will not cause a chemical reaction between the coin and the holder, so they are good for long-term storage. They are, however, open to outside air. These holders are great for coins that are dollar size or smaller. (bigger coins do not fit), but they have one draw back. They are closed using staples. If these staples are not crimped, they can scratch coins in adjacent holders. Even a crimped staple can do damage to coins in other holders, if the coins are packed tightly.
An alternate method is to use plastic flips. These storage units have two pockets. Since both sides are visible, someone looking at the coin can see both the obverse and reverse. The second pocket can contain either another coin or a piece of paper describing the first coin. These flips come in soft and hard plastic. Hard plastic flips are the best type. Although they may scratch the coin’s surface, these holders do not contain plasticizers, which can react with all coinage metals. The soft plastic flip containes poly-vinyl chloride, commonly called PVC. The reaction of the coin and PVC takes a while to begin, so short term storage with these flips is ok. Usually six months is considered safe.
Want to be even safer? Some collectors, particularly large and half cent collectors, store their coins in paper 2X2 envelopes. Envelopes available today contain no sulfur, so toning is minimized. To be even safer, a cotton liner is frequently used, either as part of the envelope or as a separate unit. The cotton liner prevents tiny hairlines, from the envelope rubbing on the coin. Coins can be stored in these envelopes forever without problems. This type of storage, however, makes looking at your coins more difficult, as they must be individually removed from their envelopes.
If you collect rolls, there are a couple ways to store them. Paper wrappers are sometimes used. These wrappers often contain sulfur and can cause toning of the coins. A better method is to use a roll tube. These are made of non-reactive plastic and come in cylinder and square form.
Storing paper money is pretty straight forward. Sleeves for storage are available in a number of different sizes, to hold large size currency, small currency, colonials, fractional currency, and even uncut sheets. The most popular are made using Mylar-D, which is archival quality. This means it will not react with the currency you store.
Currency graded by third party grading services come in their own holder, which is also of archival quality. Most have an opening in the holder to allow air circulation around the note.
Albums are also available for currency. Lindner makes perhaps the best, but other albums are produced by a number of different companies.
Books are the simplest to store. They can sit on a bookshelf! If the books are old or valuable, they might be stored in a plastic bag before being put on the shelf. This will keep dirt from collecting on the cover. It does make it a little more difficult to use these books, as they must be unbagged before use. Unless the books tilt on the shelf, they should be store upright. If they tip when on the shelf, store them in stacks of horizontal books. This will prevent premature binding failure.
No matter how you store your numismatic items, do so to protect them.