How to Store and Display a Coin Collection

Properly displaying your personal coin collection can be a challenge on its own. You’ll want to ensure the security and safety for the coins themselves in a way that is still aesthetically pleasing to you and its admirers. Here are some ways to do this.

Whitman Folders

Whitman coin folders are one of the most common tools that coin collectors use to organize their nascent collections. These are blue-colored cardboard books that have indentations labeled with specific dates and mints within a date range. These folders are sold in a wide variety of places, ranging from local hobby stores to your neighborhood Walmart and have been in production since 1940. While these folders are very cheap and accessible entry points into coin organization, they typically fall short in caring about the long term condition of the coins.

Whitman folder

There are four main threats to the continued health of a coin: to sunlight, heat, water, and oils. Over time, exposures to each of these different can trigger chemical reactions in the metals comprising a coin, causing undue toning and damage to the coin. To preserve a coin’s condition, it must be stored in a cool, dark, dry location, away from of human hands.

The key is to keep coins in a dry place. Moisture can ruin a coin, especially a copper one. Bank safe deposits, for example, are moist and not insured for loss, and therefore neither are you. -Bob Scoles, Gulfcoast Coin & Jewelry

While Whitman style folders take up very little space and are excellent at containing coins in a meaningfully organized manner, they do little to protect the coins. Keep in mind:

  • Coins must be inserted into punched holes, usually done with a thumb, which spreads oils deep across the coin’s obverse.
  • Over time, the holes can loosen, causing coins to fall out of their designated locations.
  • Only one side of a coin is viewable at a time which can cause damage to coins in certain conditions, as the sulfur in the paper can react with the coinage metals.
  • The coins are rather exposed to the atmosphere in the area: the pages are collapsed on top of one another and are not protected from humidity or temperature in any appreciable way.

Whitman folders are fantastic for simple collections of circulating coinage, and they can definitely be rewarding to fill out and complete, especially for newer collectors.

Dansco-Style Albums

Dansco album

More seasoned collected who wish to see both sides of a coin or ensure greater care for the long term health of their collection may consider specialty albums, such as those made by Dansco. A typical Dansco-style album is composed of loose-leaf pages with holes punched cleanly through the entire page, as opposed to the shallow apertures of the Whitman folders. These pages are wide enough to allow for translucent plastic sheets to be inserted on either side of the holes, which both serve to secure the coin in the page while also protecting it from factors such as UV light, finger oils, and more.

Although these albums will allow for a good, clear view of both sides of a coin, the book takes up significantly more space. They are also significantly more expensive, costing around $30 a piece, while Whitman folders average $3.

Specialized Display Cases

When a collector begins acquiring older and rarer coins, usually in high grades they are often vacuum-sealed coins they are often vaccuum sealed into bulky plastic holders by grading services such as PGCS or NGC. For a fee, a grading service will certify the coin’s condition and protect it extremely well – however, this can cause problems with storage and display.

Coin display case

There are a couple of potential solutions for this. For one, specialized display cases with glass lids allow coins to be stored safely yet still be viewed. Such display cases are usually used by coin dealers who travel around the nation to various shows and need to efficiently and safely display their wares, but they can prove useful for private use as well.

There is also a variant of this style of display that is sometimes used by collectors who are in possessions of large amounts of coins that, while historically interesting, are marred or damaged in some way. These coins can be carefully lined up inside of a picture frame and then sealed up. As long as there are enough coins and they are fit together well enough, this can give bulk coins new purpose as a conversation starter.

Coin picture frame. Photo courtesy of Turning Stones

Custom Creations

Beyond this, some collectors build their own custom shelves with drawers. For example, a standing shelf unit whose bottom half contains grooved drawers capable of holding upright graded coins would be a sturdy, yet elegant option. For added security, locking glass doors could be added for the shelves, and it would be relatively simple to make the drawers capable of locking as well.

Collectors must also be aware of what safety precautions are necessary. High-end collections demand equally high-end security measures, to the point where a professional security system or safe might end up being a better option than something that displays expensive coins in an attractive manner. Safes, in particular, can be useful to store coins, assuming that they are large enough to comfortably accommodate the various associated binders, albums, and drawers. Indeed, a large safe containing more aesthetic display solutions within its walls solves many of the problems that face serious collectors: the coins are protected from both environmental and human hazards, while also being accessible to be shown off to guests when desired.

Coin chest

Ultimately, the degree of storage is determined by the degree of the collection. While a young collector with a bunch of hand-me-downs and pocket change might be fine storing his collection in plastic tubes contained within a wooden treasure chest kit, an older collector with graded complete sets might wish for something a bit sturdier. Luckily, answers exist for collections of all sizes, ages, and complexities.

Looking to add to your well-stored coin collection? Explore upcoming coin auctions here.

Learn more about How to Determine the Value of Rare Nickels.

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