We buy coins to look at them, and the coin holders through
which we look can greatly affect our viewing pleasure. It's common knowledge that there's no such thing as the
perfect coin holder, but that's never stopped coin collectors from searching the best coin holder for them.
Much about coin holders is subjective. My preferences regarding the best coin holder may be different from yours.
What follows resulted from talking with coin collectors, coin supply dealers, coin holder wholesalers, and coin
holder manufacturers, as well as my own experiences in testing out or using each of these holder types.
Your choices in coin holders include but aren't limited to the following, in order of estimated popularity:
These holders consist of white cardboard with a clear Mylar pocket to let you view the coin. You can attribute
and describe coins on the cardboard with pen or pencil. These holders are called 2x2s because the holder's dimensions
measure 2 inches by 2 inches, though most coin holders are this size as well. (In Europe larger and smaller sizes
are used more commonly than they are in the U.S.)
One problem with 2x2s is that paper dust from the cardboard can cause spotting over time. Some holders, however,
advertise that they're dust free. The staples on the staple-type holders can potentially scratch a coin if you're
not careful when removing it or rust and leach chemicals onto coins. The adhesive on self-sealing 2x2s can potentially
damage coins over time, and the adhesive can wear out as well, causing the holder to pop open.
2x2s are somewhat chintzy looking, but they're inexpensive, relatively safe, and popular. They're often used by
coin dealers because of their low cost and because it's easy to write on them.
With these all-plastic two-part holders, you flip up the part of the holder holding the coin to view the coin's
reverse. You can choose flips with one pocket (for the coin) or two pockets (one for the coin and the other for
a paper insert on which you can attribute and describe the coin, optionally using a computer). Unlike many other
holders, safety flips let you view edge of the coin. They're called "safety flips" because they're relatively
safe for long-term coin storage.
There are two kinds of safety flips, low-plasticizer PVC flips and polyester flips. Low-plasticizer PVC flips are
often mistakenly called non-PVC flips or PVC-free flips, even by some coin supply dealers, despite the fact that
they're made of PVC, which is an abbreviation for the plastic with the name polyvinylchloride (or vinyl for short).
Low-plasticizer PVC flips are much safer than ordinary PVC flips for long-term coin storage. The plasticizers (typically,
phthalate esters) used to soften the PVC can damage a coin's surfaces over time. Low-plasticizer flips have as
little as one-fifth the amount of plasticizers as ordinary PVC flips. Sometimes low-plasticizer flips are mistakenly
called unplasticized flips.
Low-plasticizer flips aren't perfect. Their hard edges may scratch a coin when you insert or remove it if you're
not careful. They may crack with repeated opening and closing, forcing you to replace the holder. They may turn
pale color over time, also forcing you to replace them.
Low-plasticizer flips shouldn't be used with proof coins because the PVC itself can degrade over long periods of
time, releasing small quantities of gaseous chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, chloroethylene epoxide, and
formic acid. These chemicals, in turn, can cause microscopic pitting on coins, leading to hazing on a proof surface.
This outgassing occurs more if the holders are exposed to excessive humidity or sunlight. With circulated coins,
these concerns are minimal.
There are several different kinds of low-plasticizer flips. One is Madison flips (also called Frame-A-Coin flips),
manufactured by Frame-A-Coin of Madison, N.J. (they're typically not branded with their name). They're available
at many coin shows and through coin supply dealers. They come in sheets -- you tear off the individual flips.
Other low-plasticizer flips are made by International Plastics of Altadena, Calif., and are available from Jake's Marketplace. They're thicker and sturdier than Madison flips (and they consequently make
nice mini-coin stands), but they crack more easily and are thus not as practical for Morgan dollar-size coins.
Still other low-plasticizer flips are made by various manufacturers in China, including those sold by Brooklyn Gallery Coins & Stamps.
To reduce the chances of low-plasticizer flips causing problems in coins over long periods of time, you should
store coins in them away from excessive heat (less than 85 degrees F.) and humidity.
The other main type of safety flip is the polyester flip. One brand is Kointain Saflips. They're made of Mylar,
which is one brand name for the plastic with the name polyethylene terephthalate. Polyethylene terephthalate, in
turn, is a type of polyester. Polyester is thought to be somewhat safer over the long term than low-plasticizer
vinyl. It's also not as prone to cracking.
One negative of Kointain Saflips is their horizontal striations, which are unsightly and can interfere with viewing
of the coin inside. These flips also have sharp corners. Kointain Saflips are more expensive than low-plasticizer
flips but can be a good choice for proof coins and otherwise when safety is paramount.
Another brand of polyester flip is Saf-T-Flips by SuperSafe, made of prolar polyester. They're less expensive than
Kointain Saflips, but they're made of lighter gauge material and the weld joints aren't as strong. As with Saflips,
they have horizontal striations and sharp corners. Among the coin supply dealers selling them, as well as Saflips,
is Brent-Krueger Coin Supplies.
Flips, also called soft vinyl flips or PVC flips, are commonly used by dealers to sell coins and by some grading
services when people submit coins to them because they make it easy and safe to insert and remove coins from them
and because they're inexpensive. However, regular flips are unsafe for long-term coin storage.
Flips consist of PVC (polyvinylchloride, also known as vinyl), stabilizers (to prolong life), and plasticizers
(to soften the plastic). Plasticizers mixed with the PCV can damage coins over time, causing "PVC damage,"
which looks like green goo. Damage occurs faster when flips are exposed to excessive heat (above 85 degrees F.),
humidity, sunlight, and mechanical bending. Early PVC damage can be removed with acetone. More severe PVC damage
can corrode a coin's surfaces, causing permanent damage. Theoretically, this damage can also occur with low-plasticizer
PVC flips as well, though I've heard of only one instance of this happening, with a collector in Hawaii, a state
with a warm and humid climate. On the other hand, some collectors have stored their coins in regular soft flips
for decades without damaging them.
Still, it's only smart to play the percentages. If you buy a coin in a soft vinyl flip, you should remove it and
place it in another storage medium. One rule of thumb is that no coin should sit in a soft flip for more than six
New evidence from PCGS suggests that inserting and removing heavier coins from soft flips can cause scratches on
a small percentage of them as a result of small particulate matter imbedded in the surfaces of the flip. Such particles
can consist of iron, zinc, silicon, sulfur, chlorine, potassium, and calcium. PCGS suggests using polyester flips
when submitting coins to a grading service.
Air-Tite holders are the most attractive coin holders next to slabs, and depending on your views about slabs, you
may find them more attractive. You can choose various color combinations to best highlight your coins, whether
copper, nickel, silver, gold, or other metal.
The Air-Tite system consists of a snap-together acrylic inner holder that fits snugly around the coin; a polyethylene
white or black ring that fits around the inner holder; a black-, blue-, burgundy-, red-, or green-colored velour-covered
cardboard display card into which fits the holder and ring; and a black polystyrene frame holder with a wood finish
and stamped with gold- or silver-colored lettering.
You can optionally use a host of other accessories, including storage boxes, display easels, albums, display boxes,
wall frames, and presentation cases.
The Air-Tite system is relatively safe for long-term storage. The size is nonstandard, with the 2-3/4 inch by 2-3/4
inch display cards being larger than the 2 inch by 2 inch size of most other holders. Air-Tites are considerably
more expensive than most other holders, but they may be worth it.
Whitman (or Gallery) holders
These all-plastic holders consist of polystyrene, a relatively safe plastic for coin storage. Made by either Whitman
or Gallery, these snap-together holders are an inexpensive way to store you coins. The downside is that coins can
slide and bang around inside the holders, potentially causing damage over time.
Whitman or Gallery holders are widely available at coin shows and coin stores and through coin supply dealers.
These relatively new holders are made with a material that's designed to intercept and neutralize sulfur and other
contaminants and thus prevent toning. This can be beneficial or not. Many people regard nicely toned silver coins
as the ultimate in eye appeal. On the other hand, coins that have toned unattractively just look tarnished or stained,
and brown copper coins are generally less attractive and worth less than red ones.
Intercept Shield holders measuring 2 inches by 2 inches are made for different sized coins as well as for coins
that are already in slabs. You can also buy different sized Intercept Shield boxes and albums. You can optionally
use the Intercept Shield boxes with other 2 inch by 2 inch coin holders.
On the negative side, it can sometimes be difficult to place coins inside the flexible gasket of the Intercept
Shield holders. The holders are also relatively expensive.
Formerly called CoinSafe holders, these all-plastic holders let you view the often neglected third side a coin,
the edge. Whether lettered, reeded, or flat, a coin's edge can tell you a lot about a coin, including whether it
may be a cast or electrotype counterfeit or whether it was once used in jewelry.
CoinEdge holders are made from Mylar (polyethylene terephthalate) and are safe for long-term storage. They're not
the most impressive-looking coin holders but not the least impressive either. You can buy optional accessories,
including albums and boxes.
These holders consist of just a round shell that fits snugly around the coin. They're similar to the Air-Tite inner
holders. They're made of triacetate, a non-PVC plastic, and are relatively safe for long-term storage.
Kointains, however, can sometimes be difficult to piece together or take apart. Some collectors report that they're
very clear, others that they cause some optical distortion.
The company advertises that some museums use Kointains for coin storage. Kointains can be used alone or inside
other holders or albums.
Made of polystyrene encasing with Mylar (polyethylene terephthalate) windows, these holders are relatively safe
for long-term storage. They're attractive, with the encasing available in white or black. They also come with optional
accessories, including attractive display boxes and albums.
It can be more time consuming than with some other holders to insert coins into these holders. They may not be
ideal for very small or very large coins, which granted are unusual circumstances. With silver three-cent pieces,
coins don't always remain in position within the holder, even when you follow the directions for small coins. Large
coins such as American Silver Eagles and Bust dollars can sometimes cause the holder to pop open. The company has
recommended that you glue shut the holders to keep these very large coins from causing the holder to pop open,
though some collectors have expressed the concern that there's a possibility that the glue might damage the coin
These holders are made of Lucite-brand acrylic and come in two varieties, one that you screw together, one that
you snap together. They're similar to Whitman (or Gallery) holders but are both more impressive looking and more
Inserting and removing coins, however, can be labor intensive. Coins can also slide or bang around inside, potentially
Coin World holders
This is a relatively new type of coin holder from Amos Press, the publisher of Coin World, too new to fairly be
ranked in terms of popularity. These are slab-like holders but are easy to open and close, which lets you to insert
coins yourself. Coin World holders are made of clear acrylic, the black inserts of inert polyethylene. Both are
safe for long-term coin storage.
Like slabs, these make handsome holders. Twenty different size holders are available, which fit most U.S. coins.
You can write descriptive information on the supplied coin labels, which like the holders are fairly conspicuously
imprinted with the Coin World logo. You have two choices in holder sizes: Premier, which are the size of PCGS slabs,
and Standard, which are the size of ANACS slabs. Also available are Coin World coin cases that hold the Coin World
The above aren't your only options for coin storage. Others include slabs, coin albums, coin folders, paper envelopes,
poly bags, coin cabinets, coin cases, coin frames, coin tubes ... and pockets and purses.
Recommended coin supply dealers:
Brooklyn Gallery Coins &
Brent-Krueger Coin Supplies