How to Handle Coins Properly

How to Handle Coins Properly


When you hold or handle your Canadian, US or other country’s circulation and collector coins, the number one rule to remember is to never touch the faces of the coin. Always handle coins by the edges. If the coins are in Mint Set packaging or in plastic capsules or holders, you should never remove them unless absolutely necessary, especially if the coins are in grading service holders or capsules from the a major, recognized Mint.

Sometimes, though, you may want to remove a coin from its capsule to examine it more closely or photograph it. Here are some tips and things to keep in mind so you can learn a best practices approach to how to handle coins properly, so you do minimal damage to them.


How to Hold Loose Coins

If the coin is loose (not in a capsule or plastic holder) your main concern is preventing damage to the coin. Follow these steps:


Establish a safe working surface.

Lay a soft towel or other fairly thick but soft cloth on the table, so if you drop the coin, you don’t end up with a ding to edge, or worse, a rolling coin that winds up on the (dirty) floor. A soft cloth will cushion the fall and prevent rolling, so always work over a cloth or specially-made felt-lined coin tray. Be careful about using a towel that smells heavy with fabric softener, though, since this chemical could hurt your coins.


the coin co uses a two step approach when handling silver and gold coins. hand sanitizer and cotton gloves is the best combinationMake sure your hands are clean.

Although some people advocate wearing cotton gloves when you handle your coins, I don’t recommend them for beginners. Wearing gloves makes you lose tactile sensitivity in your fingers and you become more clumsy, thereby risking a dropped coin. If your hands are clean, you don’t need to worry about damaging the coin from oil or dirt anyway so gloves are an unnecessary complication. Personally, because I’ve handled hundreds of thousands of coins (literally!), I’m comfortable doing both. It combines the best of both worlds, in my opinion.

The primary way that coins are damaged through handling is when someone touches the surface of the coin and gets skin oils and/or fingerprints on it. Although in the past, experts recommended that you wash your hands before handling your coins, I think even this step is unnecessary today, since the primary offender is skin oils anyway. Just use one of those hand sanitizers before handling your coins, paying particular attention to your fingertips. Hand sanitizers are alcohol-based, which very effectively strips the oil out of your skin while cleaning your hands at the same time. Be sure to use unscented sanitizer, since the scented kinds might leave behind other trace perfume chemicals that could get on the coins.


the coin co ottawa always holds gold and silver coins on edge mediumHandle the coin by the edges only.

There is never any good reason to touch the surface of a coin with your fingertips. Even when your fingers are clean, any little bit of dirt, oil, or grit can damage the surface. Pick the coin up with your primary hand (most people are right-handed), using your thumb and forefinger to hold the coin securely. Always keep the coin above your soft cloth or tray, leaning in towards the coin rather than drawing the coin towards your face. Be sure to keep the coin away from your breath-stream, too. (See the next tip for details.)

If you are looking at a loose coin at a coin show or at a dealer’s shop, be aware of any felt-lined coin tray or other soft surface the dealer may provide, and be sure to hold the coin over it when you pick it up. Most dealers put their coins in some kind of holder, at least a cardboard 2×2, but from time-to-time you may have to hold a loose coin without any drop protection. In this case, use your other hand as a “catch-guard,” holding your cupped left hand slightly below the coin so that if you do drop it, your other hand will catch it.

Never under any circumstances touch the surface of someone else’s coin, even if the coin is a crappy, well-circulated, low-cost specimen in someone’s junk box. Having respect for other people’s coins is the number one point of etiquette to observe at coin shows, coin clubs, and in dealer shops.


Do not spit on your coins.

As obvious as this seems to be, we see people spitting on coins all the time at coin shows. When you talk, little tiny flecks of saliva spew forth from your mouth, some of which can land on unprotected coins. This is often the cause of spotting that you see on some copper, silver, gold and Proof coins. When you hold a loose coin, keep it well away from your breath-stream. Although breathing on it probably won’t damage it (it might depend on what you’ve been drinking), oftentimes people are chatting while looking at coins, so make it a habit to hold the coin out of your flow of breath (and spittle.)


Handling Proof Coins

Unlike regular business strike coins, especially ones that have already been circulated, Proof coins present a special challenge for who people decide to handle them outside their capsules or protective packaging. Because most modern Proof coins have pristine, mirror-like surfaces, any tiny little bitty imperfection is a disaster for these coins. Special care must be taken if you feel you have to handle them.


Establish a sterile workspace

I don’t mean “sterile” in the medical sense, but you do need a very clean, lint-free, dust-free space. Make sure your hands and fingers are very clean, and have everything ready in advance for whatever you plan to do. If you’re photographing the coin, have the camera set up and ready. If you’re examining the coin, have your microscope or loupe or magnifier close at hand with the lighting already established. If you’re planning to move the coin from Mint packaging to a capsule, have the capsule open and ready. You want to minimize the time that the Proof coin is exposed to the open environment.


the coin co ottawa is holding breath while handling silver and gold coinsHold your breath

Okay, literally holding your breath is probably a bad idea, but don’t breath on the coin, and especially do not talk or chew gum at all while the Proof coin is exposed to the air. Make the exposure as brief and safe as possible. Proof coins have very fragile surfaces, and you will lose several grade points if the surface gets damaged by something that eats into or scratches it.


just remember to stop holding your breathCoin Handling Summary

Handling gold and silver circulation and collectible coins doesn’t need to be a frightening experience. Use common sense, clean hands, and a soft working surface and you’ll do fine. Just remember, unless you’re a Guinness World Record holder, you have to breath from time to time too. And if you have any questions, just contact The Coin Co. We’re far less fragile.


Whether you’re in Ottawa, Nepean, Orleans, Kanata, Almonte, Rockland or anywhere in Eastern Ontario, your gold and silver coins should be professionally inspected and appraised for fair market value. We hope that you enjoyed this ‘How to Handle Coins Properly’ page.



If you have old, unwanted gold and silver coins and want to find out how much they are really worth, contact The Coin Co. and set up a free in-home or office evaluation. We’re ready when you are.


1150-45 O’Connor Street  @  Ottawa, ON K1P 1A4  @  613.668.5123  @



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