Coin collecting is a fantastic hobby, and millions of Americans enjoy its pleasures and benefits. Not only is collecting fun, but coins carry intrinsic financial value and can usually be expected to increase in worth over time. That is why it is important for coin collectors to know how to safely handle their coins to protect their value and to prevent financial loss. Below are several considerations about handling coins in order to prevent damage:
Wear gloves when touching coins
One of the most important things any coin collector can do is to never touch their coins with their bare hands. While you may think your hands are clean enough to handle a metallic object without causing it harm, your skin produces natural oils that can cause permanent discoloration of coin surfaces. Not only that, but minute particles of debris, rough fingernail edges or even a calloused area can produce tiny scratches that will reduce a coin's value drastically.
Instead, be sure to handle coins only while wearing gloves designed for that purpose. Cotton or silk gloves are excellent choices and are unlikely to mar the surface of a coin. Never substitute these natural fiber gloves with latex rubber gloves or other materials that may stain or scratch coins. In addition, keep a few extra pairs of gloves handy for friends or family members that wish to see your coins and whenever your gloves become dirty or worn.
(Almost) never clean coins
Another cardinal rule for handling coins is to avoid cleaning them at almost all costs. As tempting as it can be to make your coins as spick and span as possible, the reality is that cleaning usually irreparably harms coins. The patina you may have noticed on coins is formed by reactions between the metal and oxygen. Though this process may appear to discolor the surface of the coin, it is actually a prized feature among collectors and indicates a desirable lack of handling. Cleaning will remove the patina and may even introduce scratches into the metal. The only time a coin should be cleaned is if it is accidentally exposed to a harsh agent, such as a strong acid, that will cause deep scarring if allowed to remain in place. Even in that circumstance, it is best to leave the cleaning of highly valuable coins to experts who are able to perform the task with the right tools and materials.
Handle coins over a safe surface
Whenever you handle your coins, take into consideration the area where you are handling them. All it takes is one drop onto a concrete or tile floor to dent or scratch the surface of a coin, and even a coin dropped onto a wooden table can be damaged. That is why it is important to handle coins over a surface that is smooth, soft and that will not chemically react with your coins should they touch it. Be sure the surface is large enough to prevent dropped coins from bouncing off onto the floor or other hard objects. Once you are finished handling your coins, carefully put away the surface you use in a clean location to prevent contamination from dust and other substances that can harm your coins.
Minimize handling altogether
The only absolute way to prevent damaging your coins during handling is to refrain from touching or holding them. Keep in mind that the more you handle a favorite or valuable coin, the more likely an accident is to occur that will leave your coin in much worse shape than before you picked it up. However, since handling coins is part of the pleasure many collectors find by participating in the hobby, this is often not a realistic or desirable expectation.
A solution to this dilemma is to store coins in such a manner that they may be seen and handled without the coin itself ever being touched. One such means is to have your coin slabbed or encapsulated by a professional appraiser at a coin grading service. This process involves permanently mounting coins in hard, inert plastic cases that afford full viewing of coins without any danger of them being touched. While slabbing is more expensive than other conventional storage techniques, it is one of the best ways to protect your coins and still permit free handling without fear of damage.