Very New And Concerned About Accidental Coin Damage By Sorting

Greetings, I've inherited a substantial coin collection from my grandfather, I've limited experience with such matters. Six giant storage bins and several large safes, coins of all types, from all over the world. Small truck transportation likely required to bring it over for valuation. 

Some (ex. krugerands) are already in albums and store cases and have their papers, while others (like the silver rounds and bullion) are simply lumped together as 'like piles' in bags or containers. Then there's the U.S. coins: half of those are in albums/tubes, the other half are completely loose. 

Our focus has been on collating any books/documentation we find, in addition to physically organizing the collection (especially US coins). We have been sorting all loose U.S. coins into tubes by 'year' and 'mint mark'. 

Given the collection size, the sorting process on loose memorial cents, ALONE, has taken us months. I can only imagine what it'll be like to sort the other loose coins (quarters, nickels, dimes, morgans, etc.) 

Even after we finish the loose coins, we still have the boxes of U.S. coins that are already tubed, but definitely NOT sorted by year/mint mark. These are by far the 'better preserved' of our unsorted U.S. pile.

I do not wish to inadvertently damage the more potentially valuable coins in the process of sorting and preparing them for valuation and sale. I will need definitive answers on handling these for the purposes of sorting them.

Since the loose coins are already circulated, with a few in pretty rough shape, our handling practices for these have been as follows:

-cloth table cover, 2x layered.

-cotton/non-powdered vinyl gloves.


-air purifiers.

-regular room cleaning.

-polystyrene tubes used for storage.

We are a multi-member household with pets. I'm reluctant to do anything with the better kept coins until I know how best to move forward with sorting them in a way that does not damage their value. Please advise?

I'll be perfectly honest, being 'new', this whole thing is freaking me out a little. Seriously, THIS size collection?! It's unbelievable, and I do NOT want to be 'that guy' who inadvertently turns his grandfather's $10,000 Lincoln Memorial Cent stack into a $10 pile.  

I can't tell you how many articles I've read online that warn about damage related to a single dust particle on an otherwise gem-state copper, and there I was: sorting loose coins in a household with pets!

At the very least, I'll lose less hair over this if you could expertly 'ok' one of these two planned approaches, or even suggest a better way (or little tweaks) to go about this whole sorting business so we'll be ready for valuation:

A.     Un-tubing the entire lot into one big pile on the table cloth, using cups to sort by decade, then year, then by mint mark, then straight back into tubes. (quick and dirty, same handling/room cleaning procedures outlined above).

B.     Working with individual tubes, laying each coin out on the table cloth so they never touch, then sorting them back into tubes by decade. After that, sort by year, and then by mint the same way (again, same handling/cleaning procedures from above, just takes longer and more steps to help prevent damage).

If I do 'B' I will definitely be at it a while. If I do 'A', it will take less time, but it might be a little too heavy-handed for the better preserved coins. Thoughts?

5 years ago

Hello, and sorry that nobody replied sooner to your post. Here's the shortest answer, taken directly from our FAQ page on this website:

It is best to store coins individually in containers designed to limit exposure to detrimental elements as much as possible. These supplies for long-term storage, such as acid-free envelopes or PVC-free mylar "flips," are available for purchase through your local ANA member dealer. Paper money should be stored in PVC-free, mylar sleeves. A dry environment in a fairly constant temperature is important for long-term storage of your numismatic items. If you store your collection in a safe-deposit box, check on your collection every few months to make sure no problems are developing.

While I'm glad to see you're taking a rather proactive approach to preserving the integrity of this collection, it often takes a rather long time for most particulate matter found in household air to truly have a detrimental effect on most coins. Heat and humidity are the worst culprits for causing harm to most collections stored in American households (though, I too am a little worried that my dogs might be contributing to the slow degrading of some of my own coins at home!) Coins left for too long in PVC (soft plastic, as opposed to harder plastic) holders/flips can be damaged in this way and can impart a greenish slime over the surfaces - this slime can usually be carefully removed by someone who knows how to properly conserve coins with this stuff on them, but if it goes left untreated for too long it will cause irreparable/irreversible damage.

I'd go with option "B" as stated in your post for uncirculated coins, but some of the circulated items will probably be fine for option "A". Option "A" has more potential to damage coins, especially if they are in uncirculated condition. It may take longer, but there is much less of a chance of damaging them by improperly handling if they are kept as separate as possible. However, for common wheat cents and circulated 90% silver US coins (pre-1964 dimes, quarters, and halves) I don't think you'll do too much damage to them if you use option "A" for those. Hope that helps - and good luck!

-Sam Gelberd, ANA Numismatic Educator

4 years ago

Well I'm sorry for your loss but as my friend said you do have quite a job ahead of you. Do what he says first. Everyone will have ideas but I think you should buy gloves. Do not get fingerprints on any of your coins. Do not clean any of your coins you swill scratch them you can buy the gloves at any dealer. And do keep the pets away from them. I have so many things to say but it will have to wait for now. Those art two very good ideas. Get gloves don't handle copper gold or silver with your hands one little slip and the print will bring the value down. Do not clean them. You can send them out to get professional done. Mike

4 years ago

I believe for the previously tubed coins that are 'the better preserved' I would go with plan B but watch for mint state uncirculated coins that may be in those tubes. Any uncirculated mint state coins you may find possibly deserve their own Mylar flip so they stay in mint state until further grading/valuation can be done. Also, the Exact Change software looks like a great solution for cataloging a collection.

4 years ago

Wow. With that large amount to go through I might suggest picking one box, container, ect. at a time. Those in albums, books or the like would be separated individually for initial/immediate protection and should be fine. Those in bags or envelopes would be of the highest concern. Expect "bag marks" on otherwise mint state coins. I would invest in 2x2 cardboard flips, bought in bulk of course, as other methods could get expensive. As you go through them, store them some where dry.

At some point, if not already, you'll have to decide on what to do with such a large collection. Separated they'll probably take up more space. If you are going to make a collection, keep the best aside as you go. If and when you sell them, the care taken now will maximize your profit.

One final thing, don't hesitate to ask for advice as you proceed down that long, long road. Enjoy!

1 year ago

This is a 3 year old thread.  Hopefully all holdings were successfully.divested.

1 year ago
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