Fire!

Posted on 8/1/2005

The type of holder your collection is housed in could be even more important than first thought.

Proper storage techniques are essential for the future stability and preservation of one's coin collection. Avoid holders containing the plasticizer PVC and seek chemically inert, hermetically sealed holders such as those offered by NCS and NGC. Reduce humidity as much as possible and store your collection where a constant temperature can be maintained. What if, despite these good measures, your collection is the unfortunate victim of a fire? NCS has recently faced the challenges presented by coins from four very different fires with differing results.

Of the four groups, the least affected by the fire was a collection from Washington. These coins were all in NGC holders inside an insulated safe. Only one coin had any permanent surface altering effects from the fire resulting in a downgrade. The remaining coins had any residues removed by NCS and were then graded by NGC. Though all of the NGC holders were partially melted, the coins inside were not harmed.

A group of coins from North Carolina were also in certified holders. In this fire, much more intense than the previous, the holders had deformed, blackened, and many had adhered to one another. Some clumps were so deformed and burnt that it was not known how many coins were in the group until after conservation was complete. The conservators at NCS were able to safely remove the coins from the melted plastic. All of the coins were still able to be graded by NGC after the conservation. Though the coins' original holders were a loss, the surfaces of the coins were not altered by the fire to a point that would prevent them from being graded by a major grading service.

Few coins in a large group from California were in certified holders. This group of coins had been in a large metal cabinet in a very devastating fire. Many coins had been adversely affected by the fire with spots of environmental damage remaining on the surface despite the best efforts of NCS conservators. Many of the coins adhered together in clumps by their holders, which were plastic flips (likely the PVC-laced kind), hard plastic snap-together 2x2's, and plastic tubes that had melted and oozed between the individual coins and hardened. Despite the devastation and lesser protection from the fire compared to the previous two fire groups, many of these coins from this fire have been freed of the residues and encrustations resulting from the fire, then graded and encapsulated by NGC.

The fourth group, also from Washington, displayed the most ill effects of being in a fire. This group, primarily made up of world coins, arrived at NCS as mostly blackened disks. This fire had uniformly deposited a black glossy substance on the surfaces of all the coins. Removal of this substance revealed coins that had been severely environmentally damaged. Most coins were unsalvageable as graded coins due to the extent of this heavy damage.

The type of holder your collection is housed in could be even more important than first thought. Considering the details of the four groups of fire coins recently conserved, the coins in the best holders were best protected and best brought back to life through NCS professional conservation efforts. Certified holders, such as those offered by NCS and NGC, offer the best protection for a coin not only in typical environmental circumstances but also in extreme environmental occurrences as well.

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