Gold and silver coins in protective slabs on wooden table with money and magnifying glass

8 Rules to Follow for Proper Coin Handling


Written by John Rothans

Jun 12, 2018

Gold and silver coins are visually stunning, which can make it tempting to pick them up, admire them, and show them off to friends and family. Doing so, however, could diminish a coin's condition and future profit potential. If you must touch, hold, or transport your gold or silver coins, learn how to do it properly by following these important guidelines.

Follow These Rules to Better Protect Your Gold & Silver Coins

Proper coin handling for ungraded coins

Unlike graded coins, bullion and ungraded proof coins aren’t typically sealed in tamper proof plastic slabs. Even so, their condition is still an important factor in determining their market value, along with: the coin’s weight; the mintage, product type, and scarcity of the coin; the current supply and demand for the precious metal; and national and economic conditions.

A coin’s condition and appearance matter, even if the coin isn't officially graded. Take care to follow these handling guidelines for ungraded coins, all of which carry over to your handling of graded coins as well.

  • Prep the area. Lay down a thick, soft cloth on the table. A velvet pad is ideal. This will help protect the coin from scratches if you drop it and worst-case scenario, prevent the coin from rolling off the table onto the floor.
  • Wash your hands. The natural oils in your skin can etch a fingerprint into the surface of the coin within minutes. Once the fingerprint is on the coin, it’s practically impossible to remove it without further damaging the coin. Wash your hands and follow up with unscented hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers are alcohol-based, which helps strip the oil out of your skin while cleaning your hands at the same time. Some coin owners will also wear soft cotton gloves, however, wearing gloves could cause you to lose sensitivity in your fingers and increase your chances of dropping the coin.
  • Handle the coin by its edge, never its face. Place your index finger and thumb on the edge of the coin and hold it securely. Do not touch the front or back of the coin. (Here’s a quick refresher course on the parts of a coin.)
  • Do not eat or drink around your coins. Avoid food and drink while handling your coins. Small particles can get on your coins and cause spots and color changes.
  • Be careful of the holder. While ungraded coins aren’t usually sealed in tamper proof plastic slabs like graded coins, many coin owners will still put their coins in some kind of holder. Use care when removing and returning a coin to its holder, whether it’s a coin flip, cardboard 2×2, hard plastic coin holder, or coin tube. You’re taking a risk each time you remove a coin from its protective holder. One wrong move could negatively affect the condition of your coin.

Before you get out your bullion and ungraded proof coins, keep reading! You may also want to take into account our guidelines for handling graded coins, especially if the appearance and condition of your coins are of the utmost importance to you. See below!

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Proper coin handling for graded coins

Coin grading is the process of determining a coin's physical condition. A coin’s grade is a very important factor with regard to its current market value and long-term profit potential. The higher the grade, the more perfect—and, often times, pricier—the coin. Because a coin's grade is based on its appearance and overall condition, you want to avoid doing anything that could potentially damage the coin’s appearance and therefore, the coin’s market value!

  • Avoid removing the coin from its plastic slab. Once a grading service gives a coin its official grade, they sonically seal the coin inside an impact-resistant case or “slab.” Avoid removing a graded coin from its slab unless it’s absolutely necessary. The slab preserves the grade and is noted with a unique serial number. Coin slabs are meant to be permanent and tamper proof. Every time you remove a coin from its protective holder, you run the risk of putting minute scratches on it when it comes into contact with the sides of the holder. You also jeopardize its official rating.
  • Establish your workspace. If you must remove the coin from its slab, prep your space for whatever you’re going to do beforehand. The space should be spotless: no lint, no dust. Have your microscope, lighting, or camera ready to go to limit the amount of time the coin is exposed. Lay down a thick, soft lint-free cloth or velvet pad on the table. In the event that you drop the coin, this will help cushion its fall.
  • Don’t breathe on the coin. You definitely don't want to eat or drink around a graded coin, but you also don't want to talk or chew gum while the coin is out of its holder. You may even want to consider wearing a mask if you know you tend to talk to yourself and breathe out of your mouth. Without you noticing, tiny flecks of saliva can spew from your mouth, land on the coin, and cause spotting. Graded coins have fragile, highly regarded surfaces. If the surface gets damaged, you risk losing several grade points (and the market value that goes along with them).

In the end, proper coin handling doesn’t have to be a nerve-racking experience! When you use common sense and take the right precautions, you can avoid damaging your coins and still “ooh” and “ahh” over their undeniable allure. Take care to keep your coins in the best possible condition and turn to U.S. Money Reserve with any questions about gold or silver coins. After all, we’re America’s Gold Authority®!


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