All too often experienced coin collectors see collectible coins mishandled by new collectors or by those who’ve received coins as gifts and just don’t know any better. The feeling of watching coins get unintentionally mistreated is cringing. And nearly every coin collector who’s been around for awhile can describe it.
My biggest personal "shock" in handling coins was when I gave a proof coin as a gift. A proof coin is specially minted with polished planchets and dies and is struck multiple times so it shines more and has great looking detail. They’re always released in protective cases to help preserve their quality.
Several years back I had given a proof Silver American Eagle to a friend. I soon discovered he liked it so much that he carried it around in his pocket. Unfortunately, he took it out of its protective case and handled it just like any other coin! I was, to say the least, initially amazed. I just assumed he’d know to keep the coin protected and thought he knew the coin holder wasn’t just fancy gift wrapping.
Yet, I never told him of his "mistake". Why? Because he loved carrying the coin around! I can confidently say he enjoyed that proof Silver American Eagle in his pocket much more than if it remained in its case buried on a desk or shelf for display. The coin’s collectable or numismatic value was absolutely ruined by its handling but its personal value had sky-rocketed. That’s an interesting tradeoff…
Another experience I had years and years back was when I stored some of my coins in paper flips that were inserted into vinyl pages and then placed inside of regular school-styled, three-ring binders. I was letting a family member go through one of the binders when they suddenly and forcibly dropped one vinyl page onto another, causing metallic clashing noises between coins. Ouch! I could feel the pain my coins went through!
Finally, I have a few quarters from childhood that show "toned" fingerprint smudges. I’m fairly sure they didn’t at the time! I suspect an ignorant coin collecting child – ME – wasn’t too careful in handling all my coins. Over the years my dirty finger imprints finally and very visibly materialized.
After experiences like these, you quickly learn to better protect your collection with smarter handling, better coin holders and solid storage techniques. You also learn to educate those who know little about collectible coins before showing them your collection!
Fortunately, my experiences of improperly handled coins have never involved very valuable coins. And it’s really important to always remember the joy in collecting! Unless you’re dealing with expensive or rare coins, it’s okay to relax and let yourself and others "feel" them, so to speak. In all instances, there are ways to enjoy coins while also protecting and preserving them.
However… If you intend to collect coins so they maintain or build value – both personally and monetarily, you’ll want to know and apply a few things to your collection:
- Try to keep coins within protective holders. Use the best approved holders for the more expensive coins.
- If you absolutely must touch a coin, do so on its edge. "Invisible" oil, dirt, etc. on fingers can damage coins over time.
- When laying a coin down, make sure it’s on a soft, clean surface
- Never allow coins to drag against other coins or surfaces
- Eliminate temptations to clean a coin. Unless done by a professional, a cleaned coin nearly always, always drops in value. (Cleaning a coin should be done only when absolutely necessary and for conservation purposes. If you had an old, valuable painting, you’d never dust, clean or "touch it up" yourself. Think of coins in this way.)
- Store coins in a controlled environment with low humidity and moderate temperatures
These are only general tips. If you’re new to collecting or have questions, spend time researching the topics by reading books or online resources to build your knowledge. You’ll find that your time spent was well worth it. You certainly don’t want to build a coin collection you really love only to see it self-damage over the years because of improper handling or storage.
Is anybody in the market for some fingerprinted quarters?