How to Tone-Proof Coins

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How to Tone-Proof Coins
Properly handle and store coins to prevent toning. (coin toss image by John Sfondilias from

A toned coin in the world of numismatics is one that is tarnished, discoloured or dirty. According to Reid Goldsborough, toning due to the natural ageing of a coin is a form of corrosion, like rust on iron. The coin-collecting world is split in its views of toned coins, and some numismatists go to great lengths to achieve the look of a toned coin. However, since natural toning is due to a coin's exposure to the elements, there are steps you can take to tone-proof coins.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Cotton gloves
  • Soft towel or jeweller's felt pad
  • Felt bags or small plastic bags
  • Coin-holding products

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  1. 1

    Wash your hands before handling coins.

  2. 2

    Wear cotton gloves when handling coins to protect them from fingerprints and oils from your skin. If you do not own cotton gloves, hold coins by their edge, between your thumb and forefinger.

  3. 3

    Place a soft towel or jeweller's felt pad on the surface you are working on in case you drop any coins.

  4. 4

    Store your coins in products specifically designed for coins. These products include coin flips, 2-by-2-inch cardboard holders with Mylar, plastic coin holders, polythene sleeves, paper envelopes specifically made for holding coins and slabs. Slabs are hard, plastic coin holders that sonically seal a coin within the special case.

Tips and warnings

  • Place coins you are not able to store right away in individual felt bags or small plastic bags, which you can purchase at craft stores. This will prevent them from being damaged by other coins and getting toned.
  • Do not eat or drink around your coin collection, especially if the coins are not in protective holders.
  • Avoid speaking directly over your coins. The United States Mint states small droplets of saliva can later show up as spots that are difficult to remove.
  • It is customary to seal coins in cardboard holders with Mylar with staples, one on each side. If this is the storage method you choose, place the staples as close to the edge of the cardboard holder as possible. This way, if the staple begins to rust, it will take more time for the oxidation to affect the coin. When you notice staples beginning to rust, immediately place the coin in a new cardboard holder.
  • Never clean your coins. According to The United States Mint, cleaning a coin can reduce its value.
  • Do not store coins in wooden boxes or wooden furniture. According to Preserving My Heritage, wooden cabinets, especially oak, emit vapours that cause coin toning. Use a metal storage cabinet with a powder coating or plastic containers to store your coins.
  • Avoid placing a coin in any material that contains polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC will cause a green toning that will eat away at a coin.

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