How to Handle Rare Coins

How to Handle Rare Coins

If you’ve gathered quite a collection of coins and you’re now branching out into coin shows and exhibitions, you need to know how to handle them so that you don’t damage your collection – or even worse, someone else’s.

The main thing to remember is to pick up and hold coins by their edges, not by their faces. If the coins are from a dealer like Golden Eagle Coins then they’re probably held in plastic packaging (or slabs) and you shouldn’t remove them unless absolutely necessary.

Handling loose coins

If a coin is loose, you should aim to not cause any (or further) damage to it.

Create a safe workspace

Lay down a thick towel or similar cloth onto your table so that if you do drop a coin, it doesn’t get dented or roll off the work surface. Your towel shouldn’t have any fabric conditioner on it, as this can cause tarnishing.

Have scrupulously clean hands

Some people wear thin cotton gloves when handling coins, but if you find that they make you lose dexterity, then just wash and rinse your hands thoroughly. If your hands are very clean and dry, then you shouldn’t cause any oil or grit-related damage anyway.

The oils on your skin are one of the main causes of coin damage as the oils and acids can cause chemical reactions. If you’re worried about oils, then use an unscented, alcohol-based sanitiser before handling your collection.

Handle the coin by its edges

You should never touch the front or the back of a coin with your fingers, as even if they’re very clean to start with, you could collect tiny particles of grit, or you could sweat or produce oil. Pick up the coin with your dominant hand and hold it (by the edges) between your thumb and forefinger. Always hold the coin over the cloth and lean into the coin rather than bringing it up to your face. Try not to breathe on it, as the moisture and carbon dioxide could cause tarnishing. Similarly, don’t talk over it, as tiny drops of saliva will fall on it – you won’t see them, but they’ll be there and they can cause spotting.

If you’re handling someone else’s coins, then make sure there’s a soft coin tray and always hold the coin over it while you examine it. If you ever have to hold a coin away from a drop-tray, then use your other hand as a landing net underneath it – just in case.

Etiquette is important

No matter how low the value of someone else’s coin is, you should always observe the basic rules, especially at coin shows. It will not go unnoticed if you don’t.

Handling proof coins

You have to be doubly careful here as these coins may never have been exposed to the air before! If you ever have to take them out of their cocoons, then you must take extra precautions. Proof coins have utterly flawless, almost mirror-like surfaces and so any tiny scratch or blemish is a disaster.

Get your workspace ready

You need a clean, dry atmosphere and work surface, dirt, dust and lint-free. You also need clean hands and you should have everything you need all prepared in advance. For example, if you’re removing the coin from its capsule to photograph it, your camera and lighting must be ready beforehand. Similarly, if you’re moving a coin from its mint packaging to a capsule, then the capsule should be open and waiting. The key is to minimise the time spent in the open air.