Storing your Coins - Part 3: Option paralysis
There are more than enough ways to store and display your coins so rest assured that there will be a suitable option out there for any collector regardless of budget, space and taste.
By far the cheapest way to store individual coins is in 2 x 2 acid free paper envelopes. The envelope provides a convenient surface on which you can record information about the coin. The disadvantages are that the envelopes will not protect the coin from the atmosphere themselves, nor will you be able to see your coins! You will also probably still want to store your coins in a box, safe or album.
Plastic 2 x 2 coin flips
An improvement on the above is 2 x 2 plastic coin flips. These generally with two slots and fold in half so that you can store the coin in one half (and unlike the paper options, be able to see what it is) and put paper notes in the other half to keep information about the coin. These flips will also provide a little more protection than their paper peers.
Like their paper cousins, not all plastic coin flips are created equal. If you are planning on keeping your coins in these long term, make sure that the product you are using is made of an archival material (such as Mylar) that won't corrode your coins. PVC coin flips in particular should be avoided for long term use (although they may be acceptable for short term use. Keep in mind that most coin flips of this type don’t seal so some care is needed when handling them to make sure the coins don’t fall out!
Card 2 x 2 coin flips
An alternative to the above are 2 x 2 flips made of card with plastic windows to show the coin. The windows come in a variety of sizes and most coins will fit (although you will struggle with some particularly thick coins and any coins approaching 2” in diameter of course!).
The advantage of card flips over plastic flips is that you can secure the coin in place by taping or stapling the flip (the pressure should hold the coin in place, although often they still move about which can be frustrating!). Like paper envelopes however they are not completely impervious to atmospheric conditions.
Again, make sure that your card flips are made of non-acidic archival grade card and the plastic windows are Mylar or similar.
Folders and Albums
If you have your coins in flaps you may be wondering how best to display them. There are numerous options out there for storing coins in folders or albums, and most are designed to fit 2 x 2 flips, allowing you to thumb through your collection like a book at your leisure and to arrange and organise your coins to your preference (I will write about organising and cataloging your collection at a later date).
And of course you do not need to have your coins in 2 x 2 flips to use albums to store them in. But if you are are not using flips keep in mind they can easily fall out and of course make sure that the plastic is safe for long term storage.
At one end of the spectrum, you can buy individual Mylar album pages with 2 x 2 pockets and just put them into a regular ring binder.
At the other end of the spectrum there are also specialised coin albums out there, in a variety of sizes, formats or styles. Some have a fixed number of pages, while others can be added to. Many are designed with aesthetics in mind. Others are even designed specifically to house particular coin issues. There are too many options to describe all the different possibilities here, so browsing the links below may give you some idea of the options available.
Capsules & Slabs
There are a number of products that allow individual coins to be store in airtight transparent hard plastic cases. The cases themselves come in a variety of sizes and shapes (typically square 2 x 2 or rectangular "slabs" with inserts of varying size designed to hold the coins in place; or round and sized to varying dimensions to fit different coin sizes), and there are several different brands available. As always, care should be taken to ensure that any capsule that you use is made from inert plastics suitable for long term storage, but, this point aside, in theory these cases will provide excellent protection for your coins. The cost of course is higher than that for flips, but it is a good investment for your more valuable coins at least.
While flips and cases will protect your individual coins, they don't keep them together. Luckily there are boxes designed to fit all types of coin holder to help you collate and organised your collection. While these won't allow you to peruse or display your collection as well as an album or the options mentioned below, boxes allow easy access; space efficient storage; and provide an extra layer of protection between your precious babies and the world.
Chests, Cases and Display Boxes
So far we have been talking about storing and protecting our coins (although we have still to cover topics like how to deal with moisture, fire and thieves), but now we are finally ready to start talking about displaying them.
Coin chests are a great option for this. There are a huge variety available, from modern plastic chests designed to take coin trays (which are generally in turn designed to take 2 x 2 coin holders or similar), to bespoke handmade wooden chests which are works of art in and of themselves. Some favor ease of display, with a hint of luxury with velvet lining, others are designed to provide security and protection (there are even metal chests designed for transportation - useful for dealers).
Finally, sometimes the “dichotomy” of coin collecting is no dichotomy at all. For whatever reason (be it security concerns, a lack of space, or simply ambitions to emulate your childhood hero Scrooge McDuck), being able to easily access your collection might not be a realistic priority. In such situations you may wish to consider having a professional take care of your collection. Many banks, bullion traders, and security companies have facilities for securing your valuables in state of the art vaults. As anyone who has watched Tom Cruise in action will know, such facilities are not impervious to theft, fire and flood, but it's bound to be better than hiding your coins under the mattress.
What do I do?
In case you are wondering, my own coin collection relies on a number of different techniques. My "world" coin collection (mostly 17th-21st Century coins) is largely stored in album pages in folders. Common and heavily circulated coins are simply inserted into the pages, but rarer or high quality coins are in flips that are inserted into the pages. I keep my ancient coins in Lighthouse brand "Quadrum" 2 x 2 plastic holders, which in turn sit in velvet lined plastic trays. This produces a great visual effect while balancing protection and ease of access, and at a reasonable price.