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How to Collect and Store Coins
By Coins Magazine
June 10, 2013

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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Numismatics, the hobby of kings, began to catch on in the United States in the mid-1800s. In 1858, the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society in Philadelphia and the American Numismatic Society in New York City were organized. A decade or so earlier, there had been perhaps no more than a dozen serious collectors of coins this side of the Atlantic.

Coin-collecting interest expanded rapidly in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, as America’s frontiers became settled and Americans became more interested in the arts. The first truly national hobby organization, the American Numismatic Association, was established in 1891, and several numismatic periodicals flourished during the period.

Pursuit of the hobby, one of the world’s oldest and historically most exclusive, remained largely the prerogative of a few until the late 1920 and early 1930s. During this period, the flood of commemorative coins and promotional efforts of dealer B. Max Mehl in newspapers, magazines and on the radio first aroused public interest.

This development created the incentive for those who were engaged in the hobby as a profession to develop a broader and more refined tact. These individuals began to realize that what was really needed to place the hobby on a popular plane was more readily available and accurate information on the coins and better methods of housing collections.

Although comprehensive studies of some specialized series had been developed earlier, some of which have retained their standing of authority to this day, it was during this time that the standard-catalog concept for U.S. coins was developed. More than any other development, this move—providing collectors with readily available, basic information and prices on coins—was probably the most important in the perpetuation of the hobby.

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Equally important was the development of better, more compact, and handier methods of housing coins. Up to this time, the rich housed their collections in large coin cabinets made up of shallow drawers in which coins were laid out singly on top of felt pads. The less endowed reverted to cigar boxes, piano-roll boxes, or whatever they could come up with.

Travel down the new road commenced in 1934 when Whitman introduced the first coin boards. The logical progression was to folders and book-type albums. Advances in the applications of plastics following World War II soon led to the development of durable plastic coin holders.

Today’s collectors have a virtually limitless selection of housing methods and other hobby aids from which to select. There are coin folders and albums available in a variety of styles for every series and at prices to suit each pocketbook. Then there are 2-inch by 2-inch envelopes and holders in a multiplicity of styles. There are even plastic tubes for collecting rolls of coins.

Plastic tubes focus on the desirability of keeping coins out of contact with foreign elements. The reason is simple: All metals used in U.S. coinage, except gold, are subject to oxidation, discoloration and tarnishing. This change diminishes the coin’s value. So it is important to protect against it.

The ultimate objective is to have coins mounted in inert housing closed off from all oxygen. The worst thing that can be done is to store a coin in an ordinary paper envelope, which has a high sulphur content. Most collectors find that they must settle for less than the ideal, usually employing the tarnish-proof envelopes and albums of sulphur-free construction produced especially for collectors.

In addition to possessing the greatly improved ability to house their collections, today’s collectors have a number of other aids at their disposal, which allow them to enjoy their hobby even more. Included among these are gloves for handling coins. Gloves are particularly useful in handling of uncirculated and proof coins; their use prevents the deposit of oils from hands, which causes tarnishing.

All coins, but particularly uncirculated and proof specimens, should be handled with utmost care. This includes gripping them by the edge to prevent marring the surface. All collector coins, regardless of their condition, should be held by the edge.

This rule of handling is an important one to remember, even for those who begin collecting by removing coins from circulation. Some of these coins may be quite valuable. This will prevent needless damage and loss of value when the individual graduates to the selection of more choice pieces.

With graduation from the novice class, most collectors find it beneficial to subscribe to one of the leading publications, which can provide them with news and features on the hobby.

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