Usually its something you don’t usually pay too much attention when you start collecting coins, you begin storing them in bags or drawers around the house. But as your collection grows both in terms of dimension and value the need of a proper ordering and storing system that helps preserve the collection becomes a need.
So that’s what this weeks post is about, the different ways of preservation and storage that are out there in the market, along with their advantages and disadvantages. It is intended in order to help you decide which of them better fits your needs.
First of all we need to take into account that one of the main objectives when using a coin storage system is to preserve them in the best possible conditions. As we saw in a previous post regarding coin cleaning, coins are usually affected by external corrosive agents. With that said, the main tips for coin storage and collection regardless of the used method are:
- Do not expose the collection to substances or situations that could lead to a coin degradation by oxidation, deformation, etc.
- Protect the coin from hits, trying to avoid that coins hit each other.
- The place where we store the collection should have a constant temperature and humidity. Basically, a place in a usual house, not storing the coins in a wet basement, a room that looks like a greenhouse, the kitchen or the bathroom, should be enough.
- Periodically review the whole collection, in case some oxidation or deterioration process has begun so you can stop it as soon as possible.
- Some materials are affected more than others. Gold coins don’t need from special care. However silver, bronze, copper and iron coins are extremely sensible to the corrosives and humidity.
- If the collection is going to be observed very frequently it is a good idea to select a storage system that allows you to see tails and heads in a quick and easy way without affecting the coins storage.
- Using specific numismatic materials. Now a days there is a huge range of coin storing systems available in the market from a wide range of different prices. Makes no sense screw your collection over with products that do not offer you the proper guarantees because of saving some cents.
- Maintain the collection far from kids and any basically anyone that could not understand the value of numismatics. I love that kids could learn from the coins, but there is nothing I fear more than a kid playing with a high valued coin.
- Lastly, do not get obsessed, most coins are designed to be in circulation for long periods of time, so just keeping a minimal control over them should keep us far from serious disasters.
Its important also to take into account that we do not only have to store our coin collection. Most of the collectors have duplicated coins either coming from sets acquisitions, purchases when travelling around, bargains found in markets or just by buying better quality coins than the previous one we had. Although we don’t usually pay much attention to this kind of “extra” coin, truth is that these coins should be stored and classified in order to maintain its market value.
Once we have seen the generic aspects of coins preservation and storage lets get into the details of current methods available in the market. Its not easy to recommend one among all of them since its selections depends on the size, type, value and usage of our collection. Probably the better system is to have a combination of some of them. This way we could store duplicated coins using tubes, cardboards for the lowest value coins in the collection and capsules for the ones we appreciate most. Those decisions are now on you.
Coins can be stored in specific coin albums. Old albums were made of cardboard and coins used to be fitted in the cardboard. Fortunately, these now only come up in inheritances and old houses. They are not a good method since the cardboard is something that gets wet pretty easily and keeps a lot of the ambient humidity, so the coin that was not in really good conditions would end up oxidizing, not mentioning the deterioration of the album itself due to the passing of time. You have probably grabbed an old pictures album that had sticky, wet pages or even kind of ruined.
Nowadays albums are made from plastic and coins generally only have contact with PVC or other materials. The bad part of PVC albums is that coins might end up with an ugly patina, specially if they are made of silver, however this patina is relatively easy to get rid of. There are also some other albums of polyethylene terephthalate or other more adequate plastics to store the coin, however they are usually a bit more expensive. In any case get informed in the materials used in the production of the album so you don’t get unexpected surprises.
Specific coins albums
This kind of storage system is recommended if you make a “standard collection” and you want it to be well ordered and stored. That way, there are albums to store the different euro coins from different countries and years or for a specific coin series. For example you can buy a specific album for the ¼ dollar of USA representing the 50 states.
The idea is to only buy the album of the correspondent year and complete the series. That way they are all kept in order, then you store the album as a regular book and that’s it. Something similar to usual stamps or trading cards collections.
Storing coins in an album of this characteristics has the advantage that it looks really nice when you have an album with all spaces filled in. The problem comes when there are some gaps we don’t want fill or there are some others we need and are not there. In this cases it does not look that good.
Generic coin album pages
In the case that coins want to be stored in albums, but with some more freedom of collection, a good option are the generic pages that are stored in an album with rings.
In order to create our own customized album, we only need an album with rings and buy the pages we need. This plastic pages contain gaps with different sizes where you can store the coins you want. This way you can add variants to your collection or skip some of them (maybe because they are more expensive).
In this case the problem that we cannot order a specific page according to our needs arise. If we decide to use pages with different space sizes we might end up not having enough gaps for a certain size while if we take all of the same size we will have coins that will adjust perfectly to the gap and some others that will have too much space.
For example, if we buy pages with spaces for the Euro coins, for each country we can store a series of a whole year, but What happens to the commemorative ones? not all the countries have the same number of commemorative coins or we can find a coin that a specific coin its out of our budget. A good example could be the 2 commemorative coin from Monaco from 2007 from the 25th anniversary of the death of the princess which value in the market now a days is higher than 1.000 €.
To solve this problem we can use albums for cardboards and buy the different cardboards with different sizes, as we will see later.
Plastic coin covers
We usually get coins in these plastic covers when we buy them on the internet or in numismatic shops.
The advantage of this kind of cover is that they can be stored easily and they are usually cheap, however for a serious coin collection they are not appropriate at all. The collection does not look nice in them, the coins end up hitting each other and if we do not take on the proper cover selection we can end up ruining part of our collection. Here you can see the image of a silver coin that has a green patina due to the PVC cover used.
Another option when storing coins is to use tubes. Its storage is similar to storing the coin tubes from uncirculated coins that we can buy in the different mints.
Those made of polystyrene and also those made of polyethylene are safe, with the inconvenient that coins are in contact to each other and they end up getting marks. It is also important to take care not to store coins with different materials that could originate oxidization.
Generally we can divide them in two groups, the ones with a separation between coins and those who don’t. The ones with separation have two disks that on each end, making them hermetic and have specific inter-coin internal separations to avoid the coins hitting each other.
If this could be the cheapest storing method, it does not look like an adequate storing system for a collection, since its impossible to see the coins without taking them out of its container, with the resulting problems of that. Our recommendation is that you leave this containers for duplicated coins or those that you would not review in long periods of time.
They are without a doubt the most extended way of coin storage. They are cardboards with a small window of a thin layer of polyethylene terephthalate, in order to observe the coin. These plastics are the material actually touching the coin, not the cardboard that could damage the metal.
They are convenient, easy to use, cheap (around 3 cents each cardboard) and they can be placed almost anywhere, that’s why they are so popular. You can also use the cardboard surface to write down information regarding the coin they store: country, year, KM, preservation state, etc.
Another advantage of this cover, is that on their exterior they have a uniform size, which facilitates its placement and storage, and at the same time they can have different size plastic windows that go from 1 to 4 centimetres to store any kind of coin. The bad part of them is that if we are picky, the coin is not isolated from air and it could oxidized, specially the edge. Also they get deteriorated easily, it’s easy that the cardboard part as its get the humidity from air ends up deteriorating and you need to change it for a new one. However due to its low cost and the easiness of manipulation it is not an important waste of time.
Regarding the closing of the cardboards, there are two kinds of them: the ones that are closed with staples and the ones closed by blue. The seconds ones are a bit more expensive but the isolation from exterior is better. Don’t even think to save cents trying to by the stapled-closing ones and adding glue by yourself, since you could probably make the glue touch the coin; and we have always said that we should use numismatic specific materials. In the case of using stapled-closing cardboards, it is important to staple properly the cardboard to avoid the coin contact with air as much as we can.
Once we have the coins in the cardboards we need to find a place to store all those cardboards. There are several solutions, but one of the most extended ones is to buy pages to store the cardboards. They are very cheap, so for a very small amount of money you can store a quite amount of coins.
Mainly there are two sizes: to store 20 cardboards by page and to store 9 and the price is usually quite similar. If the coins we are going to store are quite heavy we recommend using the 9 places pages since using the 20 spaces pages would make the pages to bend… that said it’s merely a static issue, preservation of the coin is still the same. In the same way, it is preferable to store the albums lying in horizontal to avoid problems derived from the coins weight.
Another very frequent solution is to store the cardboards in boxes. There are some specific boxes designed for this. This solution is neither very convenient not elegant but if we don’t have much space might be a really good solution. There are quite a few numismatists that would consider this the best way of coin storage.
In any way, when storing the cardboards you should take into account that, different from capsules, they are quite fragile. Because of this you should never store them in a way that they get pressure from other stuff.
They are, according to most experts, the best way to preserve the coins, since they are able to close almost hermetically the coins. They are basically, as the name states, of transparent plastic capsules designed for coins, free from materials that could damage the coin and that allow you to see the coin completely and at the same time protect it against external agents and hits. They are more secure than the cardboards because they are more hermetic, leading to a better protection against chemical wear, shine los or patinas.
They could be made of different materials, however most of the ones you can find in the market are made of Polymethylmethacrylate, a very resistant material and basically neutral for most of the alloys from what the coins are made of. As well as with the cardboards, there are capsules of many sizes in order to minimize the empty spaces. It does not make much sense to store the coins in an too big capsule, just to save a few cents when buying them, since the coin will move around continuously within the capsule and will derivate in some problems due to the continuous hits.
Once we the coins in the capsules, we have again the problem of storing these capsules, since we are not going to leave them stack up in a drawer. They are usually stored in specific album pages, in wood cases or in trays as we will see later.
Besides the capsules we have seen, there is a mix between plastic capsule and container. They are squared containers that have an interior with a felt surface where the coin fits. The external contour has the same size for all the coins, while in the internal part there is a hole with different sizes so the coin gets adjusted properly. It is a very elegant solution that also works with non-rounded coins, since the felt are also sold without holes so you can cut it and make it fit your own needs.
There are several brands that sell this kind of containers, however the most popular are Intercept Shield and Leuchtturm, that calls “quadrum” to this kind of containers.
They are usually a bit more expensive than the capsules but they provide a more elegant and uniform solution. The fact that the external size is the same for all of them makes it easy to store them in albums or trays.
This is not actually a real way of coin preservation and storage but it was worth to be meant in this post.
There is a company from USA, the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America (NGC), specialized in numismatic identification and valuation. What they do is, once paid, encapsulate the coin indicating its type and quality. The containers they use to encapsulate the coins are similar to the quadrom capsules that we have already seen, with the difference that this encapsulation is meant to never be open. However it is easy to find videos and tutorials on the internet where they show how to open them. Here you have an example of this kind of encapsulation from the web page of NGC.
They have different kinds of containers, from the more simple ones that allow us to see the edge of the coin or the ones meant for the preservation of a complete stack of coins. You can get more details of these containers here.
It is very reliable method to preserve coins and at the same time it gives you an independent evaluation of the state of the coins, at least in the moment that those coins were encapsulated. This is important since as they say in the NGC frequently asked questions page one of their main slogans are “Buy the coin not the holder”. Basically what they mean is that when you buy a coin in an NGC container you should not only take into account the NGC container evaluation, but also you should have a good look to the coin.
- Sometimes NGC have errors. They are not very frequent but in some occasions it has been seen coins on sale in which they have even mistaken the facial value of the coin.
- Even maintaining the coin in the holder it can suffer from some kind of oxidization process for which NGC takes no responsibility at all.
- There can be some differences on the criteria when evaluating a coin, as the NGC web page advices.
- Although the holders are specially designed not be opened, it is possible that someone modify them to introduce a different coin from the evaluated one.
Another option when storing coins is the usage of trays. These trays can come in suitcases, by themselves, with a methacrylate cover… and they can hold coins in them directly, with capsules or even with cardboards. These trays are covered in velvet, generally blue or red that preserve the coin from directly contacting the wood or plastic of the tray itself, and at the same time shows a more elegant and professional design.
They usually have holes of different sizes in order to adequate to the different diameters of the coins. Although it is also possible to find trays with all the compartments in a uniform size, generally dedicated to store encapsulated coins, there is also a variety in the compartments size. There are trays with compartments where the coin is just left by itself, or trays where the hole is rounded so the coin fits perfectly in it. The latter are usually more practical if the tray is going to be frequently moved, avoiding possible unwanted hits.
It is a very elegant storing solution for ancient coins protecting coins from hitting one another. However it is an expensive solution that takes a lot of space and initially do not isolate the coins from air, so they can oxidized at some point. This is a good method if the collection is of very few items and they are expensive, and also if you don’t mind selling the collection if you get a good price for them, so they coins might not stay with you a lot of years.
We should not forget that one of the main requirement is that all the material that is going to be in touch with our coins along several years has to be the more neutral as possible in order to not affect negatively to the coins preservation process. There are cheap trays that have a non-neutral velvet, so if we leave there our coins for a long period of time they could end up obtaining a non attractive patina. So, you should not be cheap and take the risk of ruining the collection just to save a few Euro. It is also true, that if you have a collection of stable materials, like gold, that do not oxidized, this might be an ideal solution and at the same time very elegant. If that is not your case and you still like to have the coins in trays, you can always use capsules for the most valued items and leave the rest in the open air.