How to Properly Handle Coins February 15 2014

For chunks of metal, coins are surprisingly delicate objects.  A single misplaced fingertip can lead to damaged luster or a permanent fingerprint, and woe betide you if your fingers slip while removing a coin from a stapled cardboard 2X2.  But preventing such catastrophes requires little more than a steady hand and common sense.  In this article, I’m going to run through a couple of the basic do’s and don’ts for handling coins.

One of the most common mistakes is also one of the most potentially harmful.  Never hold a coin high over a hard surface.  Countless coins have been dinged, scratched, or otherwise damaged from being dropped on concrete floors or glass display cases.  When at home, I always make sure to hold my coins over a soft surface.My go-to is a black velvet pad.  Even if I accidentally drop a coin, the fall isn’t going to do any damage. 

Coin shows are a slightly different situation.  While some dealers have soft presentation pads available for shoppers to examine their coins over, many don’t offer any sort of cushioning between the coin you’re looking at and the hard glass display case.  That’s why I like to bring along a piece of soft fabric of my own.  It not only prevents significant damage if I do drop a coin, but also gives me (and the dealer!) peace of mind. 

Another don’t – never touch a coin’s surfaces with your bare fingers.  This goes double for uncirculated and proof coins – if even the tip of your finger brushes the coin’s surface, you risk permanently harming the luster or blotching the mirror finish.  Cotton gloves are a cheap and easy way to prevent your skin oils from getting on the coin.  If those oils do get on a coin, over time they will turn into nasty spots and fingerprints that are very difficult to remove without damaging the coin.  For lower-grade circulated coins (assuming they’re not very valuable), cotton gloves are not usually necessary.  To minimize the area affected by skin oils—carefully hold the coin by the rims with clean, dry hands. 

As in all things, common sense applies.  When removing a coin from a stapled cardboard 2X2 flip, remove all of the staples with a staple remover before attempting to remove the coin itself.  Separate coins out individually as much as possible –keeping coins in a big pile or even a bank roll will lead to unnecessary contact marks, especially with larger and heavier coins.  And don’t eat or drink while handling coins. 

In order to keep this article short and to the point, I’m going to leave proper coin storage methods for a future article.  If you have any coin handling suggestions of your own, please leave a comment below and I’ll add it to the article!