Collecting challenge coins is a bit different from collecting regular ones. That’s because many of the most valuable challenge coins have been manhandled a bit and may have spent time in some of the harshest places in the world. Of course, this is true of other coins, but with challenge coins, it is often the stories behind them that give them their special value, and not necessarily the quality of being in mint condition.
There are countless ways of organizing challenge coin collections, whether they’re military coins, civilian coins, or a mixture of different types. Some collectors may organize them by unit or service, while others may organize them by whether they are known authentic originals, novelty coins, or coins of unknown provenance. Some collectors organize their coins by the level of quality of their workmanship. There are probably as many ways to organize a collection of challenge coins as there are collectors, and there is no right or wrong way to go about it.
Even though there isn’t an agreed-upon “right” way to organize your collection of challenge coins, it is a good idea for each collector to come up with some system of organization. The fact is, it is far easier to enjoy a collection that is well-organized than it is to enjoy one that is scattered and haphazard. So, if you have a collection, even if the organizational method you create is unique to you, you’re doing yourself a favor and making it easier to enjoy the objects you’ve spent so much time and effort collecting.
Just as there are many ways to organize a challenge coin collection, there are many ways to display one. Glassed-in frames that are clear on both sides are great for being able to see coins both front and back. Many collectors use lined wooden display cases with glass tops. Others use slim, stackable drawers, and some collectors use pharmacy cabinets with their shallow drawers. There are special notebooks that you can use to store coins, as well as wooden racks. “Stadiums” are larger wooden racks with several rows rather than just a few. You can also get open-faced display cases that can go on a wall.
You should be careful to avoid PVC-based plastic holders as well as wrapping coins in paper, because the acids and chemical byproducts of these materials can damage your challenge coins over time. It is not a good idea to store challenge coins in your attic or basement due to the potential for extreme temperature and humidity conditions that can accelerate oxidation of the coins’ surfaces. And to keep your coins looking their best, you should try to always handle them by their edges rather than the faces.
Sometimes people will really get into collecting and then find that after the first few months they’ve bored themselves. In many cases this can be traced to a lack of organization of their collection. If you’ve lost some of your enthusiasm for collecting and have not organized your collection, try putting it into an organized display. Chances are, once you see your beautiful collection displayed and organized nicely, you’ll regain your enthusiasm quickly.
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