There are coin storage solutions available for every taste and budget. Most collectors will use a variety of solutions as appropriate for different aspects of their collection. Some storage methods are more appropriate for storing a large number of coins safely and conveniently while other methods are directed more toward an elegant display. Making the right choices for you is key to protecting your investment, enjoying the hobby, and sharing your coins with others.
With the exception of very low value, circulated coins, collectors generally avoid boxes of loose coins and coin tubes. As a general rule, a minimum storage solution should protect coins from surface scratches and exposure to substances that could discolor or otherwise damage the coin. It is best to use products that have been manufactured specifically for coin collectors. When stored over a period of years, many plastics and even cardboard products release acids and chemicals that can be harmful to coins. A notable villain is a plastic formulation known as PVC which can cause significant damage to coins. Look for products labeled as PVC free and be wary of plastics that are particularly soft and pliable.
The workhorse of coin storage is a holder affectionately referred to as the 2x2. These are cardboard holders with round windows made from an inert, clear plastic known as Mylar. The holder is stapled closed to hold the coin in place and both sides of the coin are visible through the windows. There are many good points to the system. The holders are very inexpensive and safe for coins. You can buy boxes sized to hold 2x2s, and there are clear plastic pages that hold 20 to a page and fit in standard three-ring binders. It’s easy to organize coins stored in 2x2s and you write notes directly on the cardboard.
Similar to the 2x2 are coin flips: small plastic dual pocket containers. They are commonly used by coin dealers in order to store and transport coins. Coins can be inserted and removed easily, and notes can be written directly on the flip. Although convenient, flips aren’t really recommended for long term storage. Coins are not well secured in the flip and they are not always made from coin-safe materials.
For greater protection than 2x2s and flips can provide there are a great assortment of plastic holders and capsules available. These holders are usually airtight to protect coins from environmental hazards. A typical configuration would include two round pieces of clear plastic that snap or screw together around the coin. They are available in many sizes and the intent is to fit the coin as snugly as possible. Capsules are frequently offered as part of a system that fit into another holder either for bulk storage or a special display. Capsule systems are also used by the major coin grading and authentication services who seal coins into a holder after it has been certified to prevent tampering.
Cardboard coin boards and coin folders have been an essential part of the hobby for decades, and many collectors got their start sorting through pennies and storing them in inexpensive cardboard folders that were sold in hobby shops and department stores. These board based products have die cut holes into which a coin pressure fit and held securely. While folders do not offer a great deal of protection for coins, they make a very attractive display and remain a popular solution for enjoying a collection of circulated coins of modest value. A significant downside of the folder system is that coins can only be viewed from one side.
For greater protection, flexibility, and elegance, coin albums offer a step up from folders. Coin albums are made from sturdier board than folders. Features will vary among manufactures. Some use a system of clear acetate strips to provide protection to coins while allowing them to be viewed from both sides. Others are designed to work with capsule systems to combine ultimate protection with attractive display. Some albums have pre-printed coin descriptions and are design to facilitate building a specific collection. Others are blank and intended to be customized to your needs. Most albums will have a loose leaf construction so that pages can be added, moved and removed. A nice bonus feature that you will appreciate as the years go by would be an album that has a slipcase to protect from accumulating dust.