How to preserve paper money

Written by colleen reinhart
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How to preserve paper money
Special holders will protect your paper money from dirt, moisture and debris. (Croatian paper money image by Darko Draskovic from

Collecting paper money is an interesting hobby for history buffs and people fascinated by the art that adorns banknotes. Unfortunately, paper is fragile, and ageing paper marred by years of frequent handling can deteriorate quickly, taking a toll on your collection. According to, some countries now make banknotes from a plastic polymer substrate to boost their lifespan, but most banknotes are printed on some sort of paper. To enjoy your hobby for years to come, take precautions to preserve your paper money.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Cotton or nitrile gloves
  • Acid- and PVC-free albums or holders

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  1. 1

    Purchase acid- and polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-free holders for your banknotes to protect them from dirt, moisture and debris. If your album or individual holders contain acid or PVC, you'll be harming your collection rather than protecting it. recommends mylar-polyester holders, as used by the U.S. Library of Congress, for preserving old paper documents.

  2. 2

    Use gloves when handling your paper money outside of its protective album or holder. Wearing cotton or nitrile gloves minimises the transfer of harmful oils and dirt from your hands to your precious collection.

  3. 3

    Display your collection out of direct sunlight. Sunlight can cause the images on banknotes to fade, and prolonged exposure makes paper yellow and brittle. If you need bright light to closely examine your paper money, use a halogen lamp instead.

  4. 4

    Never try to repair or clean paper money yourself, even if you notice damage and imperfections. Cleaning and repair by untrained hands often decreases the value of a banknote collection. If you need to have some banknotes repaired, the Bank of Canada's Currency Museum suggests contacting a well-known art museum or archival library for advice.

  5. 5

    Store paper money in a cool, dry place, away from excessive heat and humidity. The dampness of most basements makes them a less than ideal storage space, and the heat in attics can also cause irreversible damage to your collection.

Tips and warnings

  • The lifespan of your paper money is proportional to the amount of handling it receives. To protect your collection, handle your banknotes as little as possible.

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