How To Take Care of Your Precious Metals?

How To Take Care of Your Precious Metals?

Thinking about buying incredible coins like Gold American Eagles or Canadian Silver Maple Leafs and want to know more about both how to take care of coins and the best coin storage practices for preserving your precious metals?

This article will give you everything you need to know about the bar and coin handling, cleaning, and storage. It will help you find out more about whether or not you should handle and clean your precious metals and how to do it properly, in addition to what kind of silver coin storage, gold coin storage or bullion storage you must choose once you’ve decided to invest in precious metal bullion. 

Why do you need to know about how to take care of coins and bars?

It’s a simple and well-known fact that people are drawn to shiny things, including bullion coins or bars kept in their “mint” condition. Investors are more willing to pay for a coin or bar that is well preserved rather than one with scratches or severe tarnishing. Therefore, mint condition bullion is a more liquid asset on the market, even though most dealers and buyers will always pay attention to the bullion’s manufacturer, weight, and purity first.

For this reason, knowing how to take care of coins, bars, and rounds is a must if you are or want to become a bullion collector or investor. One of the biggest concerns about precious metals is their tarnishing – a process through which your bullion loses luster.

Why do metals tarnish? Depending on each metal’s chemical properties, they can react to natural or synthetic components. High humidity climates, improper cleaning, or exposure to certain chemicals may accelerate the tarnishing (toning) or oxidation process of your precious bullion. This process can be faster or slower depending on the finishing of your bullion. However, most of the time it will not affect its intrinsic value, but it may become harder to trade your bullion on the market.

Let’s see each metal’s chemical properties:

Gold – difficult to tarnish because it’s chemically inert. Gold maintains its chemical and physical properties and it doesn’t oxidize under normal conditions - it gets dissolved by nitro-hydrochloric, which is not easily found. Although it’s resistant to scuffs and scratches, it’s a soft metal, hence it is possible to dent the bullion if dropped on a hard surface or from a considerable distance.   

Silver – oxidizes under normal conditions. This metal is easy to tarnish, scratch, and scuff, hence it requires a little bit more care than gold. It’s susceptible to hydrogen sulfide which can be found in fossil fuels, food (onion, eggs), paint, rubber, and latex, but also is naturally present in the air.

Copper – it slowly reacts with atmospheric oxygen, soil compounds, and natural water, which leads to corrosion. Copper tarnishes if it’s exposed to sulfur compounds forming various copper sulfides.

Platinum and palladium – the least reactive precious metals, these noble metals are resistant to corrosion and high temperatures and can be damaged only if you use synthetic chemicals. However, the metals may become dull over time.

Besides tarnishing, your precious metals may risk being damaged by improper handling, cleaning, or storage. The following are several steps you should take to avoid damaging your bullion.

Bar, Rounds and Coin Handling

Knowing how to handle your precious bullion properly is essential for preserving its condition. But before explaining how to manage bars, rounds, or coins, be aware that it is easier to keep them clean than to restore your bullion once you’ve touched it. Moreover, in most cases, you may not be able to return your bullion to its peak. Keep your coins sealed in storage, encased carefully, and remember that the higher the metal purity, the greater the need for proper handling. So, avoid any unnecessary bar or coin handling due to the risk of damage.

In case you really need to hold your bullion, make sure that you wear soft, clean lint-free cotton gloves because fingerprints, which may contain your skin’s natural oils or hand moisturizers, can be corrosive to your precious metal.

Never use:

  • latex or plastic gloves – these types of gloves are coated with powders or lubricants which can damage your precious bullion.

  • plastic tweezers – they may scratch or damage your bars or coins.

If you choose to handle your precious metals with your bare hands, make sure to wash them before touching your bullion. By washing your hands, you ensure that they are free of any dirt or residues. The best way to clean your hands is to use hand sanitizers since they will remove any damaging oils from your hands. When handling your coins or bars, prepare a special area by draping a soft towel, velvet cloth or a piece of clean lint before you take out your metals and start working with them. You need to ensure this soft surface in case you accidentally drop your coins or bars. You should always hold your bullion by their edges because this way of handling won’t damage their surface or design. Never handle pristine and tarnished metals together - to prevent contamination. You must keep them separately, handle them carefully, and most importantly clean your hands before touching each coin or bar set. Do not breathe or talk over the precious metals because breath or saliva may leave spots that can be nearly impossible to remove.

Summarizing the above tips, here are the main rules for proper bar and coin handling:

  • Avoid handling your bullion if possible – keep your coins and bars in a safe storage place – this is the place where your coins and bars should be 99.9% of the time.
  • If you need to handle your bullion, wear soft, lint-free cotton gloves or
  • Wash your hands and use hand sanitizers before touching your bullion.
  • Lay a soft towel or a thick, soft cloth – to ensure a soft landing in case you drop your bullion.
  • Always handle your bullion by edges, between your forefinger and thumb.
  • Never place tarnished and untarnished metals together.
  • Don’t talk or breathe over your bullion.

Bar, Rounds and Coin Cleaning

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, you should avoid any bar or coin handling unless it is necessary to do so. Rigorous cleaning is a famous misconception – by cleaning your precious metals, you will not improve their value or condition. The attempts to protect the quality of your bullion will only accelerate the deterioration of the metal. Cleaning a coin or a bar can damage its condition and, therefore, lower its value. Collectors prefer a tarnished and well-preserved bullion piece than one that was improperly cleaned. Passionate numismatists or investors are more willing to select coins and bars by their toning or discoloration because of their unique colors: they can vary from black to many of the rainbow colors. If you recently acquired coins that are difficult to read or distinguish, it doesn’t mean you need to clean them. This process will spoil their pleasing tarnish and deep coloration, which may have taken centuries to be formed. So, if you have highly-graded, rare or extremely valued coins or bars that need to be cleaned – do not clean them, or, in case you feel it is necessary, seek only professional help. Remember, coins and bars that carry evidence of cleaning, contact marks, worn features or rim blemishes have a significantly lower value, especially numismatic, proof and brilliant uncirculated coins which are mostly issued in low mintage editions. Old coins that show age marks are far more desirable than the ones with surfaces stripped away by improper cleaning.

If you still want to clean your bullion – make it superficial. Wash your bullion with mild soap and water, and rinse it thoroughly to avoid any soap residue. After washing it, gently wipe your bullion dry with a soft towel or cloth. Do not polish it excessively and aggressively because you can scratch the bullion, remove the outer layer, and cause a small loss of precious metal, hence making it lighter and reducing its value. Let your bullion completely dry before storing to prevent trapping any moisture or water on its surface. You may consider using an ultrasonic tank – it will clean your bar or coins by gently vibrating them in the soapy water. Since this ultrasonic action is gentle, it won’t harm your bullion. The effect is similar to boiling in soapy water, but the sound waves are more smooth – the agitation is the one that loosens the dirt instead of the risky boiling action. But, remember to clean only one coin or bar at a time and change the water solution frequently. 

In general, when it comes to cleaning your bullion – avoid it at any price. If you still decide to do it, make it superficial, and perhaps use an ultrasonic tank, but NEVER USE:

  • any special formulate polishes, abrasives or cleaners - because they contain acidic components which can corrode the surface of your precious metal.
  • city tap water – it contains chlorine in it which may discolor the bullion. Use and rinse the bullion only in distilled water.
  • fingernail polish, Coca-Cola or brown sauce -  acetone, carbon dioxide, and vinegar will react with your precious metal and will certainly damage it.
  • metal cleaners for sale on TV – they’re all acid-based and lead to destructive cleaning by removing some of the coin or bar surfaces.

Bar, Rounds and Coin Storage

When it comes to bar or coin storage, you should know both how and where you need to store and protect them from any potential damages or risks. But before describing the best places for gold and silver bar storage or coins storage, it is important to know what kind of boxes, tubes or capsules you must preserve your bullion in. The best containers in which you can store your bullion must be airtight and made of natural materials, such as protective coin slabs, lined wooden boxes, wooden shadow boxes with glass display panels, or Mylar flips and containers. If you prefer storing your coins in albums, then opt for one with cardboard folders or slots, not plastic sleeves. Never store your coins and rounds in a binder or album with plastic sleeves – as organized and attractive as it may look, it is completely unsafe. Your precious coins or rounds may become discolored if you place them in these plastic sleeves – since they aren’t airtight, they can potentially trap moisture and cause damage to your coins. 

Don’t opt for coin storage in any plastic or PVC container, sleeve, or bag - they release acidic gasses which may contribute to the corrosion of certain metals!

PVC containers are very dangerous bar and coin storage options. PVC decomposes when it reacts to light or heat, releasing hydrochloric acid that will eat away the metal in your bullion and diminish its resale value –  and cause irreversible and permanent damage to your coins or bars. It’s also surprising that many people use tape to stick their bullion to a piece of paper or card. Avoid sticking anything to your precious metals because it will leave marks that will destroy your bullion.

For the majority of coins, the best coin storage is the Mylar "flip"- a cardboard holder lined with Mylar - it has a circle cut out in the middle, covered with this special form of a heat-resistant plastic sheet. When the coin is placed in the Mylar "window", the other part of the cardboard holder is folded over and stapled on its three sides. This way, both sides of the coin are visible through the Mylar plastic. You should be careful and flatten the staples against the card to avoid accidentally scratching other coins.

If you choose to place your coins or bars in Mylar capsules or containers, consider placing inside them some carbon or “charcoal”. Carbon will help you trap some of the hydrogen sulfides which causes tarnish. You can get carbon from pet shops because it’s also used for fish tanks. You can also pack your metals (e.g. silver) with silica gel - it will stop rust, spoilage, mildew, and corrosion. For large silver bar storage, use dehumidifiers.

Never store tarnished and untarnished metals together. Avoid hazardously placing them together to prevent rubbing them against each other -this can lead to friction or abrasive marks. If necessary you should stack them in piles, or separate them with plain cardboard sheets or other non-reactive materials, but the best way is to simply store them separately.

Now that you know the main rules of how to store your bullion, you must decide where you will store it. Consider that $20,000 gold can fit in your pocket, but $20,000 silver weighs about 50 lbs. and fits a 2-gallon bucket. Also, coins always take a little bit more space than bars, and you should never store different types of metals together. Thus, before buying your precious bullion, you must be sure of the best place for bar or coin storage.

Although many recommend using safe deposit boxes in banks, there are certain risks associated with this storage type. Safe deposit boxes aren’t FDIC or bank insured and are susceptible to “Bank Holidays”, that are usually the exact days when you may need extra money. The IRS or government can also freeze and seize your box, as it has happened in the past. This means that by law you would need to have your safety deposit boxes checked and cleared before you would have access to your holdings. For this reason, although this type of storage is considered the safest and most convenient one, it doesn’t ensure your full access to your belongings.

A storage type that you should consider avoiding is self-storage facilities. Even though they might seem a cost-effective option, they are not ideal for storing physical bullion. First, there is an increased likelihood of theft among storage employees because they aren’t so rigorously checked as bank or vault officers. Second, these facilities may be not so physically solid or closely monitored as bank safe deposits or vaults; thus there are more attractive to opportunistic thieves. Third, this kind of storage is usually placed in industrial areas or cheap lots that are far away from your neighborhood.

This is why you may think of storing your bullion at home. Before rushing to opt for original storage compartments, like “secret bookcases”, you should first consider buying a good safe. The right safe must be waterproof, fireproof, and large enough to hold your potential collection (especially if you’ll be investing in silver). Besides choosing the best safe for you, based on its size or features, you should also decide whether you need a standalone safe, a floor safe, or a wall safe. Also, you should think of what kind of lock you need: a digital lock, a fingerprint lock, a manual combination lock, or a combination of locks.

Once you decide on the safe that will suit you the best, keep in mind the following tips on your home bullion’s storage and safety:

  • Make sure fewer people know about your belongings – limit the number of people that know about your bullion.
  • Avoid posting any images of your bullion on social media websites.
  • Diversify your location – consider buying two safes – one will serve as a decoy safe for tricking robbers.
  • Be creative with your home storage means – get inspired by books and posts, but avoid using the same locations. Keep in mind that if you can read about where to hide something, the burglars can read, too.
  • Make sure the space is cool and dry (low humidity) – moisture and heat can lead to corrosion.
  • Avoid using wood surfaces due to fire hazard – your bullion may be damaged.
  • Leave a letter for your relatives - in case the worst happens, write a detailed guideline about where your bullion is stored.

Thinking about storing your bullion at home, but not in a safe? This method of storage isn’t recommended. First, you expose your bullion to natural hazards (fire, flood or corrosion) that can certainly damage it. Second, you risk having it easily stolen. Don’t bury or hide your bullion in your yard or house: it will probably get damaged or stolen.  Instead, consider storing your bullion with a specialized and highly secured third party. The best method for you would be to choose a professionally segregated vault storage service. Before making a decision, you have to be sure that your vault storage service meets certain conditions. Make sure that you will have your precious metals sealed and held separately from other client’s metals. Then ensure that you can visit and access the facility anytime, meaning that you have direct title over your storage account and precious holdings (no middlemen involved). Also, a professional storage facility will always allow you to choose mail delivery and will offer you third-party annually or semi-annually auditing services that will certify the existence of your holdings. As a bonus, you can choose a vault that has a convenient location for you.

Final thoughts

Now that you know everything about how to take care of coins, bars, and rounds, you are ready to own precious metal bullion of the highest quality. Check our impressive collection of gold, silver, platinum, and palladium bars and coins, as well as bullion storage supplies, here at Bullion Exchanges. If you have any questions, just reach out our associates by phone (800)852-6884, send us a message, or, if visiting New York City, come to our retail location at 32 West 47th Street, Booth 41, New York, NY 10036, where we will happily assist you and provide you with all the answers that you may need.