Top 7 Ways to Ruin Your Coins

Never Do This to Your Coins!

Here are seven ways that coin collectors can ruin their coins without even knowing it. I've even seen expert coin dealers spitting on their coins! If you want to protect your investment that you are making in your coin collection, then take the time to learn how to properly handle, clean, store, and protect your valuable coins. Otherwise, your coin collection will be worth much less when you or your heirs will go to sell them.

  • 01 of 07

    Touch Your Coins

    Hands with coins
    Verity Jane Smith/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Just touching your coins with your bare fingers is enough to cause damage to them, especially if you collect higher grade coins. And you will definitely damage them if your fingers come in contact with mint-state and proof coins. Your fingers contain oils and miniscule pieces of grit that will adhere to the coins and cause them to discolor or suffer microscopic scratching. When you handle your coins, wear cotton or latex gloves, and handle only the edges.

  • 02 of 07

    Clean Your Coins

    With the exception of freshly dug-up detector finds, cleaning or polishing your coins will do more harm than good. Once metal has been exposed to the air, it is natural for it to oxidize, or tone. If you strip the coin of this toning, not only will you lose any remaining mint luster, the coin will appear harsh and unappealing, and suffer microscopic abrasions that lower its grade. Plus, toned coins are worth more than stripped coins. If you really must clean them, clean coins safely.

  • 03 of 07

    Spit on Your Coins

    Talking about your coins can do just as much damage as touching them or cleaning them, if you do so with the coins exposed while you chatter away. Little bits of saliva escape from your mouth when you talk, and these can cause spotting and discolorations that are difficult to remove. Many uncirculated and mint-state coins have been ruined this way. Say whatever you want about your coin collection, just make sure your coins are safe when you say it!
  • 04 of 07

    Break Their Holders

    a cracked out coin from a PCGS encapsulated slab
    The coin is now cracked out of the PCGS coin slab. Image Copyright: © 2016 James Bucki; All rights reserved.

    You are certain to greatly decrease the value of your mint set, proof set, commemorative coins or encapsulated coins by removing them from the mint-issued holders they come in. The holders, along with the box and literature (if any) are part of the "set" and should be kept intact and pristine. Similarly, coins that have been slabbed are worth a premium in their protective cases. Never remove coins from these types of permanent holders unless there is a specific reason that would justify...MORE the coin being cracked out of its slab.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Expose Them to Acid

    coins in a paper envelope
    Coins stored in a paper envelope can ruin your coin collection. Image Courtesy of: Christopher Stevenson/Getty Images
    Storing your coins in envelopes, wrapped in paper, with your notations beside the coins, or in cardboard boxes is a good way to damage them unless you are careful to use acid-free paper materials. Over time, the paper material breaks down, releasing acidic chemicals around your coins. This causes spotting, discoloration, and can promote oxidation (toning) of your bright, mint surfaces. Be sure to buy only acid-free paper and cardboard supplies for your coin collection.
  • 06 of 07

    Coat Your Coins in Green Slime

    PVC Damage to Coin
    PVC Damage to Coin. Image Copyright: © 2015 James Bucki; All rights reserved.

    Another good way to cause spotting and degraded surfaces is to store your coins in PVC-based plastic flips, holders, and boxes. Similar to the way the acid in paper can harm your coins, the chemical by-product of certain plastics can damage your coins over time. If you store coins in those handy food-grade plastic containers, or in soft, pliable coin flips, your coins will eventually develop a slimy green coating on their surfaces which will damage them permanently.

  • 07 of 07

    Expose Them to the Elements

    a picture of an old attic with toys and boxes
    Storing Coins in an Attic or Basement Will Ruin Your Coins. Image Courtesy of: Steven Gottlieb/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

    If you store your coins in the attic or basement, you are probably exposing them to extremes of temperature and humidity that will promote their oxidation. In addition, these conditions will more quickly break down the storage materials (such as flips, paper and cardboard, plastic containers, etc.) your coins are organized in. To protect your collection the best, store it in a dark, dry, temperature-controlled environment (such as a safe deposit box or specialized coin cabinet.

    Edited by: James...MORE Bucki