Cash seems to be the new 4-lettered word.
In February, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers authored an opinion article that appeared in The Washington Post calling for the end of high-denomination banknotes. Summers cites a paper that claims to make a compelling case to stop issuing high denomination notes and possibly withdraw them from circulation because of its use in crime and corruption because large denominations are easier to carry. The paper claims that criminals have nicknamed the €500 note the “Bin Laden.”
Last May, the European Central Bank announced will stop printing the €500 banknote by the end of 2018 when the €100 and €200 banknotes of the Europa series are planned to be introduced. Although the announcement did not quote the Summers article, the announcement had addressed some of the issues he addressed.
In June, Sweden became the first nation to announce a formal policy to become a cashless society within five years. According to reports, Riksbank, the Swedish central bank, claims that just under 2-percent of all transactions are made by cash. They expect that number to drop to one-half of one-percent by 2020. Most shops report that 20-percent of sales are made using cash.
Sweden may be an outlier. Globally about 75-percent of all sales are made using cash.
In the United States, it is being reported that some higher-end retailers have stopped taking cash.
Retailers have been looking to the convenience industries as an example of the future. There are parking lots that no longer take coins in their parking meters. Pay stations now only accept credit cards. Some toll roads now require a special transponder to be mounted in your car because there are no booths to collect tolls. Those transponders must be linked to a credit card. Airlines no longer take cash when you buy beverages or snacks on the plane because handling the change is too difficult.
New payment options have entered the market. Smartphone-based Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and MasterCard Master Pass have worked to make it easier to separate you from your money by allowing you to wave your phone at the reader and pay. For most retailers, there is little they have to do in order to accept these payment methods as long as they are accepting chip-based transactions. Since the transaction cost to the retailer does not change, it is an incentive for them to accept these types of electronic payments.
Although electronic payment options make up 13-percent of all cashless transactions you have to remember that this market barely existed a few years ago.
Even as banks and large retailers push to increase the number cashless transaction, there are problems that society faces when moving to a cashless retail system.
The biggest problem is one of scale. The United States makes more money, spends more money, trades more money, and has more economic impact than any other country in the world. It is the world’s single largest economy with a strong capitalistic culture where most of the commerce is done with small businesses. Amongst all business, 55-percent of retail merchants are cash-only enterprises. They are too small to consider paying the 3-to-5 percent fees for using a credit card, known as the “swipe fee.” Of those that do take credit cards, at least 36-percent require a minimum purchase.
Once you get past the problem of scale, then there are the issues of the poor who do not have bank accounts. Aside from not having the economic power to work with the banks, there are some communities that are culturally opposed to the banking system. Even if they can afford to have a bank account, many choose not to open one. The near failure of large financial institutions in 2008 did not help in the trust factor.
Of course, the one cultural issue that cannot be ignored is privacy. Cash transactions are private. Only the buyer and seller knows the details of the transaction (unless the buyer volunteers their loyalty or rewards account information). With the problems of hacking around the world, how do you know that your credit card transaction are safe? Should we ask the victims of the computer hacks on Target and Home Depot?
Aside from privacy, credit cards can be costly to the customer. High-interest rates, debilitating debt, and collection issues see the use of consumer credit dropping when there is an economic downturn. During the Great Recession that began in 2008, spending went down and, when the economy began to improve, savings went up. When wages began to rise in 2010, more money was being spent paying down debt than adding to the economy. Rather than stimulating the economy, this creates a stagnant effect since the economy thrives more on the selling of goods and not by the managing of cash.
It seems that every six months there is yet another “Chicken Little” story that either we are or should stop using cash. But when society seems to be set in using cash even when there is anecdotal evidence that makes it appear that we are on the brink of a cashless society, they become quiet as if they ended up in Foxey Loxey’s den!
Reports of cash’s eventual demise appear to be as amusing as it is greatly exaggerated. For numismatists, this means that our hobby will continue to grow with new, fresh material for years to come. Happy collecting!
One of the strangest set of stories about the problem of counterfeiting was the several stories that came out at the end of August about people trying to make purchases with movie prop money. This has caused regional U.S. Secret Service across the south to issue warnings.
Prop movie money is designed to look close enough to real U.S. currency so that a moviegoer would not be able to tell the difference on screen. When these notes are examined closely, they are clearly marked with “THIS NOTE IS NOT LEGAL TENDER” and “FOR MOTION PICTURE USE ONLY.” Prop money is smaller than real U.S. currency and does not have the anti-counterfeiting features of a real Federal Reserve Note. But that has not stopped people from trying to pass these notes as real currency.
Prop Movie Money
Prop Movie Money
Prop Movie Money
Here is a sample of the reports about people trying to use prop money as real currency:
In Athens, Georgia, a 30 year-old man beat a customer with a baseball bat at a fast food restaurant when he alleged the customer bought marijuana using two prop $100 notes.
Police in the Gwinnett County, a suburb of Atlanta, are looking for two suspects who went on a spending spree by buying two cars and paying with prop money.
Prop money has shown up in Morristown, Tennessee, northwest of Knoxville.
U.S. Secret Service issued a warning in the Tampa Bay area when someone tried to buy a smartphone using prop money and noted that there has been an increase in the use of this currency.
Areas of East Texas have reported several cases in which prop money has been used. Texas Bank and Trust reported that they have seen a few of these notes were deposited into accounts at their bank.
Sources have not confirmed the source of this recent uptick in prop money usage but noted that the currency can be purchased online. Although eBay rules do not allow for this type of currency to be sold on its site, a recent search yielded several listings offering prop money. There is no restriction on Etsy where searches lead to over 300 listings of all types of prop or replica money.
Why was the criminal in the in the Dateline video attached to my post “How easy is it to pass counterfeit currency” so successful? Like he said, nobody pays attention!
Prop Movie Money
Last April, the Baltimore Green Currency Association, sponsor of the BNote, initiated an Indiegogo campaign to fund their next issue that would feature significant women in Baltimore history. Although the campaign fell a little short, an anonymous donor funded more than $10,000 of the balance to print the currency.
Notes are a local currency that can be used at participating businesses in and around Baltimore. Currently, there are over 230 businesses accepting the BNote for goods and services. Consumers can receive BNotes as change for a transaction or may visit one of the official cambios (money exchange locations) to exchange dollars for BNotes. For every $10 that is exchanged for BNotes, you will receive a 10-percent bonus, which means if you exchange $10 you will receive BN11. You can also exchange BNotes for dollars at a reverse rate (receive $10 for every BN11 in BNotes).
The first BNotes were issued in April 2011 featuring the designs of Fredrick Douglas on the BN1 note and Edgar Allan Poe on the BN5 note. The reverse of the notes features a Baltimore oriole (the bird, not a ball player) on the $1 BNote and a raven on the reverse of the $5 BNote. For this new issue, Douglass and Poe remain on the note but the design changed to incorporate the vertical bars of the Calvert coat of arms that is incorporated in the Maryland flag.
Baltimore BN1 BNote with portrait of Frederick Douglass
Back of Baltimore BN1 BNote featuring a Baltimore Oriole (batting leadoff)
Baltimore BN5 BNote with portrait of Edgar Allan Poe
Back of Baltimore BN5 BNote with image of a Common Raven (Nevermore!)
The new BN10 and BN20 notes are similar in design with new colors on the background. Bea Gaddy is featured on the front of the BN10 and the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, the official Maryland State Insect, on the reverse. Lillie May Carroll Jackson appears on the front of the BN20 note and a Blue Crab, the official Maryland State Crustacean, on the reverse.
Bea Gaddy was known as the Mother Teresa of Baltimore. A single mother of five who ended up in baltimore in 1964, she was discovered by a Baltimore attorney who encouraged her to go to college. Gaddy earned her bachelor’s degree in human services from Antioch University in 1977.
Baltimore BN10 BNote with portrait of Bea Gaddy
Back of Baltimore BN10 BNote with image of a Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, the Maryland State Insect
Gaddy saw the need to help others and joined the East Baltimore Children’s fund where she used her own home as a distribution point for clothing and food for the poor. She founded a homeless shelter which eventually became the Bea Gaddy Family Center, which is still in operation today.
In 1981, using the $290 she won on a 50-cents lottery ticket, she bought enough food to feed 39 neighbors and eventually opened a community kitchen for the needy. From Thanksgiving dinners to opening furniture bank refurbishing used furniture and rehabbing abandoned row houses, Gaddy was a catalyst to help the poor in Baltimore. Eventually, she became an ordained minister to perform marriages and hold funerals at no cost to the families.
Gaddy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. With the cancer in remission, Gaddy ran for Baltimore City Council in 1999 and won. Unfortunately, the cancer returned and she died in October 2001 at the age of 68. Even though Bea Gaddy is gone, her family and friends continue to help the poor in Baltimore using the same love and compassion Bea showed throughout her life.
Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson was born in Baltimore in 1889 and is consider the mother of the civil rights movement. From 1935 through 1970, Jackson was the president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP and at the forefront of nearly every fight to end Maryland’s Jim Crow laws. Through her leadership, the Baltimore NAACP sued to remove the color barrier from admissions to the University of Maryland Law School, won cases to force Baltimore public schools to grant equal pay to white and black teachers, and was fundamental to having Baltimore to be the first school system south of the Mason-Dixon line to integrate their schools following the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.
Baltimore BN20 BNote with portrait of Lillie May Carroll Jackson
Back of Baltimore BN20 BNote with image of a Blue Crab, the Maryland State Crustacean
Jackson fought for equal pay and fair employment practices even though Maryland Governor Theodore McKeldin (R) was once quoted as saying, “I’d rather have the devil after me than Mrs. Jackson. Give her what she wants.” In the end, Jackson won most of the fights.
She is also credited with playing critical roles in the passage of federal civil rights legislation in the 1960s.
Jackson died from a heard attack in 1975. After she died, her will called for her Baltimore home to be turned into a civil rights museum. The museum opened in 1978 with memorabilia from Jackson’s life and documents chronicling her life’s work. It was the only museum named after a woman and the only civil rights museum in Maryland. The museum closed in the 1990s because it was too difficult to maintain as a private facility. The museum was transferred to Morgan University who refurbished the building and reopened it on June 11, 2016.
As part of the Indigogo campaign, I selected the option to receive the a full set of the second series BNotes with matching serial numbers. The notes I received, which feels like they were printed on heavy stock paper, a type of paper my wife said was “resumé” paper. All four notes feature serial number BN00055. For all you liar’s poker players, I call a full house.
What do you mean I can’t call a full house?!
Throughout the life of this blog, I have revealed a lot about myself and my collection. I do not mind sharing but every so often I would like to know something about you. Based on my logs, I know the blog has attracted new readers over the last few years for which I thank you for joining my little corner of the Internet world. But what do you like? If you are a long time reader, has your collection changed?
From my collection, a 2015 Canada Bugs Bunny $20 for $20 Silver Coin
I am asking for two reasons: first, I am curious. I know that my tastes are different from yours and I am curious about yours. There is no wrong answer to this question because whatever you like to collect is right for you. It should not matter what anyone thinks of your collection because it’s your collection and you are the one that has to be happy with it. I want to know what makes you happy.
The second reason is so I know a little about who is reading the my blog. It will allow me to could tailor some content to your tastes. It is good for me to stretch out of my comfort zone a bit to learn about something else. But I want to do so in a way that I can write about it and someone will have an appreciation for the content.
The poll is anonymous. The usual set of website logs are kept on the server but it does not identify you or how you voted. Comments are encouraged and moderated only to prevent spam. If you are reading this from a site that aggregates web content, you will have to visit the page on my site in order to participate.
What happens when the Federal Reserve shreds old money?
5 lb. bag of shredded currency contains $10K in cash
We have seen the many packages of shredded currency. From the little packages with $5.00 of shredded currency to 5 pound bags filled with approximately $10,000 shredded money, this was the primary way currency did not just get thrown away. Since 2014, the Federal Reserve has been working with recyclers across the country to turn that shredded cash into something else useful.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Federal Reserve pushed for more recycling of currency in 2011. Since each Federal Reserve bank manages its own cash operations each works with local recyclers to provide the cash. In most cases, the recycler hauls away the shredded cash for no charge to the bank and turns it into other products.
Examples of what is done with the cash is that the San Francisco district supports burning of the shreds for “green power,” a fitting name for recycling U.S. currency. So does the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
The story caught my eye was about the New Orleans branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta that provides shredded currency to a company that composts the cash, mixes it with other soil so that it is used for growing vegetables.
If compost is not your idea of fun, how about using the shreds to make art:
“Another Day, Another Dollar”
Artist: Jason Hughes
Sadat Art for Peace (2012): First Prize, Category: 2 Dimensional
Medium: American Currency
This is final part of a 6 part series
If you are uncomfortable trying to detect whether a coin is counterfeit or not, you might first consider buying from a reputable dealer who has return and/or buy back policies. If you buy raw coins and have questions, ask that the coin be examined by a third-party grading service such as Numismatic Guarantee Corporation, Professional Coin Grading Service, ANACSand Independent Coin Graders. These third-party grading services have a buy-back guarantee so that if the coin is ever found to be counterfeit after it was certified they will buy the coin from you at the price you paid. You may be asked to pay the grading fees. Some dealers may charge a service fee for submitting coins to the grading services on your behalf.
If you own coins that you may have questions about, either bring it to a dealer for an opinion or submit the coin to the third-party grading service yourself. NGC and PCGS have membership services that allow you to directly submit coins for authentication and grading. Members of the American Numismatic Association can register to directly submit coins to NGC. ANACS and ICG allows for collectors to directly submit coins for authentication and grading.
Sample of a PMG Holder
For collectible currency, buy from a reputable dealer who has return and/or buy back policies. If you buy ungraded currency and have questions, ask that the note be examined by a third-party grading service such as Paper Money Guarantee or PCGS Currency. These third-party grading services have a buy-back guarantee so that if the note is ever found to be counterfeit after it was certified, they will buy it from you at the price you paid. You may be asked to pay the grading fees. Some dealers may charge a service fee for submitting coins to the grading services on your behalf.
Sample of a PCGS Currency Holder
If you are buying through an online auction and you have any question about the coin, you are better off not trying to purchase it than trying to deal with returns. While there are quite a few reputable dealers who sell on these sites, it may take more than a month for the process from purchase to refund to occur. During that time, you will not have access to this money.
Remember, caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware.” Without a warranty or some type of assurance, such as a graded and encapsulated coin, the buyer takes all of the risk.
For sellers, caveat venditor, “let the seller beware.” Unless you expressly disclaim any responsibility, you will be held liable if the item is not true to its specification. You may also lose a future customer if that person feels cheated.
The Hobby Protection Act
Over the last number of years, we have seen when a hobby becomes popular and items increase in value, there are opportunists who will try to do whatever it takes to make money from the gullible and uneducated. This chapter was written to inform and educate you as to what to expect from those looking at your wallet and not to you as a valued customer so that you are not a victim.
When I discuss these issues I am eventually asked, “Aren’t we protected by the Hobby Protection Act?” In short, the answer is yes and no. The Hobby Protection Act of 1973 and was amended in 1988 represents an attempt at stopping counterfeits in all collectibles based on the way the world worked in 1973 and slightly updated in 1988. A lot has changed since then including the technologies available to counterfeiters.
The Hobby Protection Act requires that coins not made by the U.S. Mint include the word “COPY” somewhere on the surface. The law allowed law enforcement and buyers to go after the suppliers. The problem was that the suppliers were mainly in China and out of the reach of the U.S. criminal justice system. That changed in December 2014 when congress passed and the president signed the Collectible Coin Protection Act (Public Law No. 113-288). Under the new law, consumers and law enforcement can take civil action against the distributors and resellers of counterfeit coins.
The Federal Trade Commission has published draft rules to update the wa they enforce the (16 CFR Part 304) made by the passage of the Collectible Coin Protection Act.
FTC is required to publish the new rule in the Federal Register (81 FR 23219) and ask for public input on the new rules. These rules are the result of corrections made after a previous draft asked for comments on the costs, benefits, and overall impact of the rules.
Comments can be made on the FTC’s website or via postal mail as outlined on the website and in the Federal register.
Even though the law has changed, you should educate yourself and work with reputable people to build your collection. Education can be fun and the knowledge will help you better enjoy the hobby!
- Certified coins images courtesy of Dakota Coin.
- Image of the PMG holder courtesy of Paper Money Guarantee.
- Image of the PCGS Currency holder courtesy of PCGS Currency.
This is part 5 of a 6 part series
As opposed to the effort to detect counterfeit coins, new security features added to the currency paper makes it easier to detect counterfeits. First, examine the currency and compare the note you are questioning to one of the same denomination and series (date with possible letter added). Look at the quality of the paper and the sharpness of the printing. Look for how the note differs from the genuine note.
If the printing looks flat, darker, the colors do not look the same, and does not show the fine details that the original, you should check further. Look at the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals. On a genuine note, the saw-tooth points are clear, distinct, and share. Counterfeit notes may be uneven, rounded, or even broken. The boarder should be clear and sharp, even on a worn bill. The portrait should appear distinct from the background. If it looks like it is blending into the background, the note is likely counterfeit.
One of the tricks the counterfeiters use is to change the denomination in the corners hoping that they can pass the note to someone not paying attention. The most common alteration is changing a $1 note to look like a $10 bill by changing the numbers in the corners to be tens. You would be surprised how many times this works!
Genuine currency paper has a distinct feel that is different from writing paper. Currency paper is primarily made from cotton with tiny red and blue silk fibers embedded in the paper. Counterfeiters will try to simulate this feature by printing red and blue lines on their paper. You can see the difference between embedded threads and printed lines using a magnifying glass.
Counterfeit Currency Warning issued by the Baltimore Field office of the U.S. Secret Service in 2014.
One thing counterfeiters do is to try to print or copy genuine notes on paper that they bleached to remove the printing from a lower denomination. Bleaching will dull the security features but not eliminate them. Counterfeiters count on you not understanding the security features to pass the note.
First, look for the watermark. Every new note except to the $1 bill has a watermark of the portrait on the front of the bill. Hold the note up to the light and look for the watermark. You should be able to recognize the portrait as being the same portrait as printed on the note. If you are looking at a $20 bill, you should see the portrait of Andrew Jackson. If the watermark portrait is unclear, missing, or does not look like Jackson, you have a counterfeit note. If the watermark is the number “5” the paper is from a $5 bill and was reprinted by a counterfeiter.
Also look for the security thread that may be running up and down to the left or right of the portrait. The security thread should say “USA” and the denomination repeating on the thread. If you are looking at a $100 note and the denomination on the thread says “FIVE” then you are looking at a bleached counterfeit.
Counterfeit Detection Pens Do Not Always Work
Every time I visit a store and watch as the cashier use one of these currency pens to try to detect if I passed a counterfeit note, I laugh because it is not a dependable test.
The counterfeit detection pens use an iodine-based ink that writes in yellow or are colorless. If the ink darkens, the bill is allegedly a counterfeit note. The principle is that the iodine ink will react with the natural starches in regular paper. Since currency paper is made from cotton, it does not have these starches and will not react with the iodine-based ink.
How to tell a counterfeit note using a counterfeit detection pen.
If you are trying to pass a bleached note, the ink will not react since it is real currency paper. If you are trying to pass an altered note, the ink will not react since it is real currency paper.
You can also make a genuine note look like a counterfeit by spraying starch that you would use to iron shirts on the note. Spray the starch on the note and use a warm iron get it to stick to the note. When you try to use the note and the cashier uses a counterfeit detection pen, the ink will change colors and you will be accused of trying to pass a counterfeit note.
The only way to reliably detect counterfeit currency is using the embedded security features.
To learn more about detecting counterfeit currency, the U.S. Secret Service and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing created the U.S. Currency Education Program to raise awareness about how to use the design and security features of U.S. currency. You can find a lot of resources at uscurrency.gov including an online training module that you can download for a reference.
If you receive a counterfeit note, do not return it to the person who gave it to you. Gather as much information as you can such as the description of the person, the description of anyone with that person, license plate and make of the car they might be driving, and call the police or contact your local U.S. Secret Service field office. Try not to handle the note. Rather, put it in something to protect it, like an envelope and give it to the police when they arrive to investigate.
Remember, in the United States it is illegal to posses counterfeit notes that are not marked as counterfeit or defaced in a way that make is clear the note is note genuine.
Finally, in the last installment we discuss resources you can use if you do not trust your own judgement.
A week ago, the European Central Bank announced will stop printing the €500 banknote by the end of 2018 “when the €100 and €200 banknotes of the Europa series are planned to be introduced.”
Euro 7+3 Series €500 Banknote
The Europa series is the second designed series of banknotes that will include updated security features and updated designs. ECB has been working on a phase in of the Europa series since 2013 beginning with an education program followed by the issuance of the €5.00 in 2014, €10.00 in 2015, and €20.00 this year.
Although not mentioned in the press release issued by the ECB, it is likely the result of an article by former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers who quoted an academic research paper noting how the United States $100 Federal Reserve Note and the €500 banknote have become favorites of criminal enterprises in order to carry out cash-based transaction. In fact, the report noted that criminals have nicknamed the €500 banknote the “Bin Laden.”
Experts interviewed by The Wall Street Journal expressed their doubt that this will do anything to stop crime. While the experts think it is unlikely, there is
an aspect of the analysis that the academics are not thinking about. These academics appear to be also in favor of eliminating physical currency which does
not consider the nature of a legitimate cash economy.
The ECB will not demonetize their first series of banknotes that will allow the current supply of 500e notes to continue to freely circulate.
New Europa Series Banknotes
Europa Series €5 Banknote Front
Europa Series €5 Banknote Back
Europa Series €10 Banknote Front
Europa Series €10 Banknote Back
Europa Series €20 Banknote Front
Europa Series €20 Banknote Back
Images courtesy of the European Central Bank.
Last month, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew announced a series of design changes that will occur on United States currency. These changes will be phased in over 10 years to coincide with the production schedules in place currency redesign.
Obverse of the 2009-present Native American Dollar featuring the portrait of Sacagawea
I will go into the more details of the changes at a later date, but during my travels around the interwebs I came across a television news report from KIFI, the ABC affiliate in Fort Hall, Idaho. Although it is like every other news story it has one feature that no other news outlet was able to add to their story: an interview with Randy’L Teton.
Randy’L Teton is a member of the Shoshone-Cree tribe who was the model for Glenna Goodacre’s design for the Sacagawea dollar coin. Teton was a student at the University of New Mexico majoring in art history and was working for the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe when Goodacre visited looking for Shoshone woman to be her model since no images of Sacagawea exist. Teton was chosen for as the model.
For anyone who has not seen or heard Ms. Teton, here is the video of KIFI’s report:
A reader with questions recently reminded me of a previous version of this article. After reading what I wrote, I noticed a few things that required editing along with some additional information I could add. Rather than keep this to myself, I am sharing so that it can also serve as a reminder to everyone about proper storage.
After putting in the time, effort, and resources to assemble your collection do not just throw it in a draw or closet. Coins, currency, tokens and medals can become damaged if not stored properly. It would be a shame if your collection is damaged when a little effort can keep your collection preserved.
Storing a collection is a matter of dealing with two factors: using archival safe storage materials and the environmental factors of where your collection is stored.
All coins, medals, tokens, and currency are made from materials that will react with the environment. Metals will oxidize and tone, some with patterns that intrigue collectors. Paper-based materials can be made from cotton rag or linen that may not break down the same way as paper but can be damaged in a way that will affect its value. The key to storing your collection is to use products made from archival safe materials. Archival safe materials are those made that are not acidic, materials that do not turn acidic over time, or materials that are not too alkaline.
Acid free means that the pH (potential Hydrogen) measure is 7.0 or less. A pH measure of 7.0 is neutral and greater than 7.0 is basic or alkaline. Although acidic materials will damage your collection, materials too alkaline will also cause damage. Those that produce acid free supplies with materials that is as close to being pH neutral as possible.
It is possible for some materials to be acid free without being archival safe. These are substances that can breakdown over time and become acidic. For example, commercially made paper contains lignin, a bonding elements that naturally occurs in the pulp that helps holds the wood fibers together. While lignin is not acidic it gives offs acids as it deteriorates. To prevent lignin from becoming acidic it must be treated. This treatment involves dipping the paper in a solution that neutralizes the natural lignin.
Another storage item to stay away from are plastic products made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is a inexpensive plastic that is used as an additive to other plastics to make softer, more flexible products. One example of a numismatic product that can be made using PVC are the two-pouch coin holders called flips where each pouch is 2-inches square. PVC in itself is neutral but gives off an acidic gas in reaction to atmospheric conditions. The PVC gas will not only react with the coins but will deteriorate the plastic. The result will be a green or gray streaks or blob appearing on the coins.
The gas produced by deteriorating PVC will damage the surface of the coin. Once a coin is damage by PVC it cannot be reversed. There are ways to conserve coins that are damaged by PVC as long as the PVC contamination is discovered early and is only on the surface. Once it mars the surface, the coin is permanently damaged and its value diminished.
When purchasing plastic or clear storage items, hard plastics or those made of Mylar are the best choice. Capsule manufacturers use a neutral plastic that does not contain PVC while those that make archival safe 2×2 flips use Mylar. The makers of 2×2 cardboard holders also use Mylar over the cutouts while album manufacturers use Mylar to make the cover sliders found in albums.
Archival Safe Flips and Cases
Some people like to buy older albums because of they are unique and have a classic look. Those albums may not be made of archival material including paper with active acid from the deteriorating lignin that was not neutralized during manufacture because this was not a concern. Also, cover sliders could be made of PVC or other plastics that are not neutral. If you are not sure whether that used album is safe, it is best to buy a new archival safe album.
Although this discussion centered on coins, the same can be said for currency storage. The only difference will be the size and types of holders.
You can use the most archival safe materials but they will not protect your collection from environmental factors. The general rule of thumb is to stay away from the extremes. Do not store your collecting in a place that is too hot or too cold. Try not to store your collection in a place that is too humid or too dry since both could cause your storage materials to react. In other words, the average home with a temperature of 64-78 degrees with an average humidity of 30-percent should not be a problem.
Those living in colder areas where the home heater is being used longer than other areas of the country may have to compensate. Forced air heating systems tend to dry the air that could cause damage to your collection. If you use a humidifier, whether built in to your heating system or a standalone unit, you might consider investing in a hygrometer to keep the relative humidity between 30 and 40-percent.
Where you store your collection also has to be a concern. If you keep your coins in a cabinet, the gasses from the wood and even the paint or stain can cause damage. While wooden cabinets are attractive and practical, you do not want to store your collection some place that could add to the environmental concerns.
Metal cabinets are a better option. Safes and safety deposit boxes in temperature controlled vaults also makes great storage options aside from being able to keep your collection secure.
One of the factors that could cause wood rot in cabinets is excess humidity. If the humidity in your home or where you store your collection cannot be controlled, you should use a desiccant. A desiccant is a substance able to absorb moisture in the air. Two common desiccants are silica gel, the little packets that you see in some packaging, and montmorillonite clay.
Choosing which desiccant to use depends on your situation. If your storage area is not that humid, use silica gel. It well suited for lower moisture area over a longer period of time, about six months. For high humidity areas, use a clay desiccant. Although it will not last as long as silica gel (about three months), clay is more effective at removing moisture where the humidity is higher. Another option is to use a combination, especially during seasons of high humidity. You can purchase silica gel and clay desiccants at many hobby stores and stores that sell collecting supplies.
While there are other types of desiccants, they are not recommended for use around collectibles. Calcium sulfate and calcium chloride uses sulfur and chlorine, both will not react well with the metals of your coins. Activated charcoal can add carbon dust to the air, which can attach itself to your coins. Some have suggested using salt as a desiccant. Salt is made of sodium chloride that would also introduce metal damaging chlorine into the environment.
Not all safes are safe for coin storage. Click on the image to read the story about a safe found in the house of the writer’s late grandfather.
Choosing Storage Products
If you buy products made by a reputable manufacturer that advertise them as archival safe then the only difference between products are the way your coins will be displayed.
Be careful, old coin albums may not be archival safe!
Albums are popular for raw coins collected in the published series. You can find albums for many series from different manufactures to suit your tastes. Each manufacturer has its own distinct color and style. The difference is your personal preference.
Coins that have been encapsulated by third-party grading services may present different issues for storage and display. While there are a few manufacturers that make a special page to fit the grading service’s holders, collections made up of coins encapsulated by different grading services can be stored in boxes.
When storing grading service holders it is important to remember that the holders are not considered airtight. Third party grading services uses sound waves to melt the halves of the plastic holder to bond them without using chemical adhesives. While this type of sonic seal is strong, it can be subject to breaking if the encapsulated coin is mishandled. Additionally, whatever contaminants were in the air around the time the slab was sealed would be trapped with the coin.
Although most encapsulated coins could be stored in a standard plastic case, those who want extra protection should consider storing the slabs in special archival quality inserts or polyethylene bags.
When storing your collection you can use the same archival quality containers that are used by organizations like the United States Archives or Library of Congress. Although many of the containers may be coated with an alkaline buffer should not be a deterrent. Since your coins are in another holder, whether encapsulated or within an album, the buffer will maintain a barrier between your collection and the storage box that should not hurt your coins.
Although proper storage of your prized collection is important, do not make it more important than your collection. Be careful how you store these items but do so in a way you can still enjoy what you collected.
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