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The Best Coin Holders to Protect Your Collection
5) We Recommend
The thrill of the hunt and of building a personal collection is just the first step for a budding numismatist. Once a collection has been started, it must be protected in order to preserve the value achieved through your time and effort.
Most coins are made from precious metals due to the resilience and beauty. However, they can be vulnerable to postproduction damage from factors such as the atmosphere or contact with incompatible materials. This can significantly reduce the condition, and often the value, of your carefully curated collection. The first step towards becoming a discerning collector is to learn and identify the various ways a coin can be damaged, then how to prevent such damage from occurring, and ultimately, what storage solutions are right for you and your collection.
Gold Coin Vulnerability
Gold is a particularly soft metal primarily due to the nature of the atoms that compose it. While the atoms are heavy, they can slide past each other with ease due to gold being quite malleable and ductile . This makes gold coins particularly vulnerable to nicks and dings. To combat this, many gold coins are alloyed with other harder metals like silver and copper to reinforce the coins and make them more durable. For example, a 1 oz. American Gold Eagle is comprised out of 91.67% gold alloyed with 3% silver and 5.33% copper.
Gold cannot be corroded by water damage, does not oxidize when exposed to air and water, and does not react when exposed to most acids in the manner that other metals do. However, if gold is alloyed with a different metal like copper, spots can crop up on the surface of a coin due to that alloy interacting with outside materials.
Silver and Copper Coin Vulnerability
Silver and copper are more reactive to outside factors. Silver, which is also a soft and malleable metal, is resilient against corrosion and oxidation, but less so than gold. Also, while it does not begin to oxidize when exposed to oxygen alone, it is highly susceptible to oxidation when exposed to sulfur and sulfides, which exist in small amounts in the atmosphere, leading to toning.
Copper is the most prone to postproduction damage as it will react with oxidizing acids. In fact, exposure to sulfur, ammonia, or even oxygen, will lead to corrosion. Exposure to moist air can also lead to the development of a green patina over the surface of the coin.
Humidity- While pure gold itself is not very vulnerable to water, both copper and silver will undergo chemical reactions when exposed to it. Humidity and water damage in general can be particularly hard to combat as water vapor exists in the very air we breathe, especially if you live in places closer to the equator. It is said that when humidity reaches 35% in an environment that certain metals can begin to corrode.
Temperature- Cold and heat are not direct threats themselves, however they do increase the likelihood of damage especially when switching between extreme temperatures. It is the transition between hot and cold that allows condensation to form on coins, eventually leading to oxidation and the associated rust damage. Many chemical reactions are sped up in higher temperatures as well which can accelerate potential damage. While more common on paper money that coins struck from precious metals, mold can also grow in humid environments.
Improper Handling- Simply holding a coin incorrectly can lead to damage as well. The oils and acids present on the human body can leave deposits on the surface of a coin that will eventually adversely affect it. Holding a coin too close to your face and accidentally breathing or sneezing on it exposes it to similar risks as well as the potential for moisture damage. Not to mention that it is easy to drop a coin if you are not careful, which can lead to a new nick or ding that will detract from its beauty (and value).
Acids and other Chemical Reactions- Acids are a corrosive substance that neutralizes alkalis and dissolves some metals. Acids can be found all around you. Most papers and cardboards contain some acid-based element, as do some types of wood. Adhesives and most household products will also contain such substances. Over time, acids can leech onto surrounding surfaces including the very silver and copper they are intended to protect. Such reactions can lead to discoloration and toning as the result of oxidation. You must be very cautious with what materials you choose to secure your coins. Chlorine like that found in most pools and hot tubs, but also in PVC (polyvinyl Chloride), which is used in a variety of plastics, has similar negative reactions leading to undesired toning and even corrosion that may eventually cause pits to appear on the surface of a coin.
Air Quality- Air pollution and smog are of biggest concern in areas where they are extremely concentrated, such as in large cities, where they can seep into surrounding environments. Such gasses when combined with oxygen can react and damage the surface of some as well.
Now knowing the numerous ways that the condition of coins can be negatively affected by outside factors, there are several steps you can take to secure the collection you spent the time and resources to put together.
Store Your Collection in a Safe, Temperature-Controlled Location
As described above, environmental factors such as the level of humidity and the quality of air can harm the coins you store. To prevent such damage, place your coins in a location where temperatures do not widely fluctuate. You would not want to store coins in an attic or basement for example. Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) recommends that you store coins at 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
You also would not want to place them in a location that experiences high humidity like a kitchen or laundry room for example. The use of humidifiers and placement of silica gel packs can help reduce the amount of humidity in the air . As do vapor-phase inhibitors (VPI’s) which can guard against corrosion and oxidation by altering the molecular composition of air in a given location. However, you must be careful here, because VPI’s tend to be for specific metals and what air composition might be beneficial for silver, may not have the same effect on gold or copper. It is also important to avoid acidic materials like some types of wood; which overtime may leech chemicals that would adversely react with coins.
Properly Handle Your Coins
When handling your coins there are some safeguards you can put in place to prevent spoiling them. Making sure that your hands are clean is a good first step, but you must still be careful even after doing so, as some oils and soap residue can remain after washing.
The golden rule is to NEVER touch the face of a coin with your hands. You should only pick up an exposed coin by its edges. The faces are much more susceptible to fingerprints and picking up oils, and even after thoroughly cleaning your hands some oils and dirt can remain. It is also important to avoid holding coins too close to your face where you breathe or even worse where spit (microscopic amounts are released into the air when talking) could accidently hit and contaminate the surface of the coin leading to spotting and discoloration.
Finally, while this may seem obvious, a tight grip is necessary to avoid accidentally dropping your coin which can lead to catastrophic dings and marks. Placing a felt surface beneath where your will be handling your collection is also recommended . Some suggest using cloth gloves to handle coins as they significantly reduce the potential for fingerprints.
One of the most important safeguards you can put in place to guard against postproduction damage to your coin collection is choosing the right storage solution. A multitude of options are available to store your coins, but not all are created equal.
Coin Collection Albums are albums or little books that are often made of cardboard and that have multiple removable pages outfitted with slots to house raw coins. Such albums will often allow the collector to organize and label their collection to some extent. Some of the most common and respected coin albums available to collectors are Whitman and Dansco Albums. Some collectors utilize coin albums as they allow you to view the coin from both the obverse and reverse, while protecting the coins with a plastic film that covers each coin slot. The ability to remove and add pages also allows for easy organization and expansion of coin collections.
You do have to be careful when choosing albums because some, especially the older ones, have pages made from cardboard that contains acids which can leach through the material and adversely react with the metal coins it houses. Many coin collection albums made in modern times are acid free, however you still should be wary. Similarly, some coin albums use PVC plastic to protect the coins slots in each page, which also carries the risk of chemicals leaking and toning coins. This is more common in older coin collection albums before such dangers were widely known. In addition, the plastic used in such albums, PVC free or not, can mark your coins with what are known as “slider marks.” If too firm of a plastic is used, a coin can become scratched when inserted and removed from the slots of coin albums. Coin collection albums do offer a nice presentation and a clean way to store and organize your entire coin collection.
Good: Coin Flips, sometimes referred to as Coin Pockets, are clear pockets that fold in half, generally designed to hold one coin. These can be made from Plastic, PVC, or Mylar, and range anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 inches when folded in half. Most people will place a coin in one side of the pocket and either leave the other side empty to allow for unobstructed view of the coin or place a little card with identifying information into it. Coin flips are very common, especially among coin dealers, as they allow for the compact storage of multiple coins. Coin flips allow the coin to be viewed from both sides while protecting it from yourself while handling it, as well as outside contaminants or scratches. While there are many benefits to coin flips, there are also some downsides you should consider. The main one is that some plastics contain PVC can very harshly react with the metal content of coins. Eventually heat and light will cause PVC to break down creating a mild acidic reaction when it interacts with the metals of the coin. This leads to residual deposits on the coin that appear as milky, green, or gray streaks or even a haze. In addition, flips can also be also be flimsy and prone to breaking especially when accidentally dropped. Flips are great in pinch or if you need a compact coin storage solution.
Better: Coin Capsules, also referred to as “caps” are hard-plastic cases. They are generally circular, but sometimes they are shaped to match the coin they are meant to house. Most are made from two plastic pieces that fit together and can be opened, while some others are sealed. They are generally a tight fit to the coin to prevent rattling. Styrofoam cut outs can be used to make the fit snugger. The hard-plastic casing is more durable than flips and helps to prevent nicks or contamination caused by outside sources. It must be kept in mind, however, that, not all are airtight. This could leave your coins vulnerable to humidity and temperature changes, and any resulting chemical reactions. You will also need to be cautious of the material the caps are made of to avoid any reactions like those caused by PVC. While caps allow you to handle coins without fear of fingerprints, the presentation leaves much to be desired and does not allow for the labeling of a coin and its specifications.
Best: Slabbed graded coins are one of the most trusted and secure ways to store your treasured collection. More than a simple storage solution, graded coins are also a great way to authenticate your collection and the condition it is in.
Third party grading companies determine the physical condition of coin and assign it a numerical ranking based upon what is called the Sheldon Scale which ranges from 1 to 70, with 70 being the highest. They also indicate if the coin is in circulated or uncirculated condition as well as the finish of the coin. Grading offers collectors a way to put a numerical label upon their coin, both authenticating it as real (graders will not grade a fake coin) and certifying the condition that it is in.
Once a coin has been graded it is placed in a “slab” or “holder” that will protect the coin while offering an attractive presentation. Graded coins also receive a label that is affixed to the holder that displays all the important information concerning a given coin including its silver purity, denomination, and country of origin. Special designations like Early Releases, First Releases, First Day of Issue, and First Day of Product will also be indicated on the label, which certify when the coin was received to grading. A label will also display if a coin is lucky enough to be Ultra Cameo, Deep Cameo, or Proof like, all desirable aspects in a coin.
While multiple companies offer coin grading services, two of the most trusted and commonly used among collectors are NGC and PCGS.
NGC Slabbed Holders
Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC) was founded in 1987 and has become one of the world’s largest and most trusted third-party grading services for coins. Over its 30 years of existence, NGC has graded more than 43 million coins and employs 30 full-time coin graders. To ensure impartiality in their grading process, NGC and its employees do not buy and sell coins commercially. The Smithsonian even uses NGC slabbed holders to preserve some of their most priceless artifacts.
NGC’s coin slab holders have evolved quite a bit over the years. NGC’s standard coin holders are composed of top-notch inert material that is cleanly welded by directional pressure, completely sealing the coin inside. The graded coin is suspended by four prongs that position it in the center of the slabbed holder, allowing its rim to be viewed, as well as its obverse and reverse. NGC’s holders also come with built in security features that authenticate both the coin and the holder itself as being legitimate in the form of a UV water mark, which appears on the micro-printed label, and a hologram bonded on the back of the holder. NGC offers a variety of holders that can house graded coins of most varieties including 5 oz. and kilo coins! NGC even offers certified options for rolls as well as holders that can house multiple coins- perfect for sets. In addition, a variety of cores and labels are available allowing you to somewhat customize your collection.
All NGC graded coins receive a certification number that appears on the coin’s label allowing you to verify the coin’s description and grade. Images of most coins are generally available in NGC’s data base as well. This resource can be invaluable when selling your coins or when buying graded coins.
While some NGC holders can be prone to scratches, NGC offers a special scratch resistant holder that is cured with a hard coat that does not obscure its contents. While you won’t be able to feel the shape of the coin in your hand, you also will not be able to accidentally breathe on it or easily break its holder. While chips and even cracks are possible, NGC holders are much more durable than flips or even caps.
PCGS Slab Holders
Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) was founded in 1986 and is based out of Irvine, California. It was the first third party grading corporation on the numismatic market and the first to offer a lifetime guarantee for coins. Thus, PCGS largely set the standards for the industry.
PCGS Holders are distinct form the previously described NGC holders. The bulk of the holder is made from a somewhat frosted, but still transparent plastic that contains an additive that is unique to PCGS and easily identifiable which provides an additional security measure. The most recent iteration of PCGS slabbed holders contain reformulated plastic that provides a stronger weld than previous renditions, making it more durable and harder to chip. With the new design, tampering of any kind is also more apparent. The center of the slabbed holder where the coin is suspended is made for scratch-resistant, ultra-clear plastic. Similarly, to NGC, the coin can be viewed from both sides and is centered in the holder using prongs. PCGS exclusive designations and a variety of labels are available so you can customize your collection and display the grade of a coin along with all its notable specifications.
PCGS holders boast unique security features including a gold shield that appears on PCGS labels which contains microtext as well as a unique PCGS hologram which can be found on the back of the holder. Both measures allow you to verify and authenticate not only the coin in the holder, but also the grade of the coin and the holder itself, while a scannable QR Code allows you to easily verify the authenticity and condition of a coin in their database.
PCGS slabbed holders are a great storage option that will both protect your prized coin collection and provide an eye-catching presentation They will also certify the condition a coin is in, which oftentimes directly correlates with its value.
Display Cases for Slabbed Holders
A variety of coin display cases are available to house and protect your graded slabbed holders be they PCGS or NGC. While slabbed holders offer numerous advantages in protecting and displaying your graded coins, further storing such holders offers another layer of protection by preventing scratches and nicks to the holders themselves. Some display cases for coins also improve the overall aesthetics of your collection. Hard plastic cases that house either 20 PCGS or 20 NGC slabs are available for those interested in both an added layer of protection and compact storage. Holders that house one, two, or more slabbed holders are also available composed of materials that range from plastic vinyl cases to classy coin collecting wooden boxes that will allow your most treasured graded coins to shine. Many are cushioned within the case and firmly held in place to avoid rattling around and getting dinged up. Many also offer a slot where Certificate of Authenticity can be housed, providing more information about the coin than even the labels themselves do.
Identifying the many ways that coins made of precious metals can be compromised which sometimes affects the overall eye appeal and value of them, as well as the steps you can take to combat such damage, is an integral part of building your coin collection and protecting the assets that you spent time and resources gathering. Be it from storing your coins in temperature-controlled rooms away from humidity to choosing the right storage selection for you, the presentation, and more importantly safety, of your collection is in your hands.
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