If you plan to personally store silver coins, bullion or other precious metal, you’re probably a coin collector (numismatist), a survivalist or a precious metals investor. The differences between a collector, a survivalists or an investor is that the collector is more focused on the intrinsic value and condition of each individual item. As a result, for the collector, maintaining the best appearance and condition of each coin or piece is critical in determining market value. Nicks, scratches, tarnishing, bag marks and other blemishing can alter value as much as 20%-40%.
On the other hand, the survivalist and investor are mainly interested in the underlying value of the silver or gold content of the coins but, for a number of reasons, prefer holding their investment in physical form. While it’s obvious the collector needs to be more concerned with storage and handling, the survivalist and investor should also be aware of the physical risks to storing coins, ingots and plates.
Where to store your coins or precious metals? Even though there is a whole industry devoted to storing precious metals, for the purposes of this article, we will consider the two most common storage facilities for the ordinary collector/hoarder: the home and bank safety deposit box.
Storing Silver Coins and Bullion at home: Security is the major consideration when storing at home. If you have a sig-nificant collection/hoard, invest in having a wall safe (well concealed), a false wall or false cupboard. Don’t tell anybody about your stash. Also, keep in mind that a fire can melt precious metals. Observe the storage consider-ations listed in the following section.
Storing Silver Coins and Bullion in a Safety Deposit Box: Most banks offer the rental of well protected safety deposit boxes. Charges are typically $50 to $150 annually depending on the size of the box. Safety deposit boxes provide excellent security and a controlled environment but there are several additional things to consider:
- Choose a bank that is in strong financial condition and not subject to potential bankruptcy or regulatory shut-down.
- Choose a bank close to your home for easy access.
- Some banks provide 24 hour access to safety deposit boxes.
- Consider the fact that in the case of a catastrophe or national emergency you might not have access to your safety deposit box.
Also, observe the storage considerations in the next section.
Major storage considerations for Silver Coins and silver bullion are air, environment, and containers.
Exposing silver to the air oxidizes metal, changing its color. It is advisable that if you’re storing your coins for a long period of time you store them in a controlled environment. Environment. A relatively constant, moderate temperature and low humidity are preferable for long term storage of numismatic collectibles. Small particles of moisture may eventually cause spots. Placing packets of silica gel in coin storage areas helps control atmospheric moisture.
Containers holding the silver coins or silver bullion have several types of “containers” for coins are available. Most anything will do for coins with little numismatic value, while nearly airtight holders made of inert materials are a good idea for valuable coins. Tubes are plastic containers designed to hold a number of the same size coins. They are fine for bulk storage of circulated coins and can be used for higher grade coins, provided the coins do not move.
Yet, a disadvantage is that the coins cannot be viewed without being removed from the tube. When viewing a coin, place them on a clean soft cloth or clean piece of blank paper.
Paper envelopes of various sizes are sometimes used for one or more coins. Be sure to use envelopes made explicitly for holding coins, or your coins may change color (tone) over time due to reaction with sulfur or other chemicals present in the paper.
Bags, jars and boxes are adequate for pocket change and circulated bullion coins. Various brands of folders and albums are sold for series and type sets.
When properly used, they offer some protection from wear and handling. Over several years coins may tone due to reaction with sulfur or other chemicals present, and they are therefore not a good choice for long term storage of higher grade coins.
Hard plastic holders are preferable for more valuable coins. They are not known to contain any materials that harm coins and offer good protection against scratches and other physical damage. They are available for individual and small sets of coins.
Plastic “flips" are available in various materials. “Soft” flips are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which decomposes over time with disastrous results for coins. They are therefore not suitable for long term storage. Mylar and acetate flips do not contain PVC.
However, they are hard (may scratch the coin if not inserted and removed carefully) and brittle. While not airtight, they are reasonable choices for moderate value coins that will be “left alone” for multiple years but less so for coins to be shipped or that will be removed and reinserted.
There are several easy tricks for silver hygiene of the trade that professional jewelers have developed to maintain the beauty of silver. Silver is a soft metal that can be scratched so be careful to rub gently when cleaning. Never use anything but a clean nub free cotton or flannel cloth, a special sterling silver cleaning cloth, or a very soft bristle brush like a baby’s toothbrush or a horsehair silver brush.
Sterling silver dips can be fast and easy but are not recommended by professional silversmiths. Professionals seem to feel it’s better to insert the item in the dip and remove it quickly, repeating after rinsing with water, rather than leaving the item in the dip for long periods of time.
Follow up by buffing with a soft cotton cloth. Also, if appearance is a concern, it’s recommended that cleaning be done at least on a monthly basis.