Beginner’s Corner: Supplies You Need for Collecting Coins

Now that you've gained some fundamental knowledge regarding coins and collecting, it's time to start thinking about how to store your collection. Before you decide make your first coin purchase, it is important to make sure you have all the coin supplies necessary to be a successful collector.

Now that you’ve gained some fundamental knowledge regarding coins and collecting, it’s time to start thinking about how to store your collection. Before you decide make your first coin purchase, it is important to make sure you have all the coin supplies necessary to be a successful collector.

Keep in mind, however, that no amount of supplies will work if you don’t store your coins properly. Be sure to keep them in a temperature-controlled and relatively dry environment.

To get a good look at your coins, you will need a good magnifier. While many details and imperfections can be seen with the bare eyes, sometimes you need a closer look to inspect coins. Coin magnifiers, or loupes, enlarge the surface of a coin so that mint marks, varieties, and imperfections can be found, although a trained eye is helpful here as well.

It is simply a given that cheaper magnifiers do not have the quality of optics that better magnifiers have, so this is an area where you don’t want to get the cheapest you can to save money – your eyes are very important! It’s important to protect them by not falling victim to a cheap magnifier. While many collectors utilize 4x or 5x or magnification, for the purpose of authentication and identifying more nuanced elements like metal flow and die doubling, sometimes an even higher power of magnification is needed, like 10x.

Printed price guides make good general reference guides to gauge the value of coins, but be sure to check online value sources to get a more market-fresh idea of value before buying or selling. Additionally, when you select a specialty in collecting (which may or may not happen quickly), be sure to research books in your area of interest, then buy AND read those before jumping too deeply into spending money on coins. If you have an interest in Ancient coins, then this Whitman World Money of the Bible book, written by Kenneth Bresset, might just help jump start your collection. 

One of the most reliable coin reference books available to collectors is R.S. Yeoman’s A Guide Book of United States Coins, which is commonly referred to as simply “The Red Book.” This resource contains a plethora of information about U.S. coinage from the early days of the Republic to the current year of issue, and includes such information as historical context, specifications, up-to-date mintage information and more.  

After reading and deciding what you would like to collect, deciding how you display your collection might just be your next step. Some collectors choose manufactured pre-printed albums for their collections that slots for coins. Some prominent examples of such coin albums are created by Dansco and Whitman Coins. Some are modified to house specific series, stating the name of the series, and having a slot for each type of coin within the series, while others are simply left blank. Such coin albums can look very nice when completely filled, but some collectors choose a slightly different path that pre-printed album pages will not fit. In that case, archival safe flips and 20-pocket pages are a great way to collect what you want without the limitations that pre-printed albums present.

Undoubtedly you will find the need for placing coins into holders regardless of which method of storage you choose. Coin holders are most commonly 2 inches square when folded over, so the market commonly refers to them as ‘2 by 2 holders,’ or simply “flips.” There are other sizes, but these are most common for coins up to silver dollar size. We recommend against using staple holders of any kind, because staples can rust and affect your coins, but more importantly, staples are also a prime way to damage coins severely if the coins are not very carefully removed from holders containing staples.

Instead, we recommend archival safe-flips for storage of coins. They are a little more expensive (usually 8 to 10 cents each versus 3 or 4 cents for the staple kind), but they won’t scratch or damage your coins due to staple scratches, and if you get the double-pocket flips, you have a larger area where you can write information about your coins.

It is VERY important not to buy flips that contain Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). The plasticizers used in PVC leech out of the plastic over time, and create a green, oily film on coins that WILL ruin the coins. If you shop flips online, make sure you buy “archival safe” flips, which do not contain this dangerous-to-coins chemical.

If you buy flips locally, make sure they are rigid and do not smell plastic-like. The smell of a new plastic beach ball (or similar soft plastic item) is exactly what you want to avoid in buying flips. Good flips have no odor at all. Additionally, when you buy coins, be sure to remove the coins from any flips you suspect may contain PVC.

While both coin albums and coin flips can be solid choices for storing your collection, slabbed graded coins offer another level of protection beyond the simple storage of your coins. Coins in slabbed holders have been certified by third party experts to be in a certain condition by the metrics of the Sheldon grading scale, before being placed in a holder. The slabbed holders both offer a lovely presentation of the coin and prevent it from receiving damages from things like finger prints and nicks. Often times themed labels are used on such certified coins that not only allow for the careful curation of a collection, because collectors can pursue a certain label if they choose, but also allow pertinent information about the coin, like its purity, year of issue, and grade, to be displayed and easily referenced.

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