Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the Houston area last week and the
damage is catastrophic. Millions are affected, and dozens have lost
Now Hurricane Irma steamrolls through the Caribbean before smashing
into Florida. As of now, Irma is one of the most powerful hurricanes
on record. Mandatory evacuation orders for Florida’s Keys went into
effect Wednesday, and the storm is expected to make landfall on Saturday.
In July of 2010, conservation specialist Susan L. Maltby laid out
options for protecting your coins when disasters like these occur.
Here’s what she suggests:
How can collectors determine a coin’s value when
price guides assign it different values?
Also in this week’s print issue, we learn of the first report of a
2017 doubled die variety, found on a Lincoln cent.
It is important to plan for a disaster and know how to respond if
In a disaster, your collection would likely end up wet.
Part of your disaster planning should include determining if your
collection can survive this. Think about how you store and curate your
collection. Have you used indelible ink when labeling? Will labels
float off or disintegrate when wet? Are your notes and coins in
archival quality holders? If not, the holders may fall apart when wet.
Connect with Coin World:
Sign up for our free eNewsletter
Follow us on Twitter
Or, when wet, holders made from acidic paper and cardboard can leave
your collection sitting in an acidic soup that would accelerate
corrosion of coins and degradation of paper notes. Noncolorfast
materials – that is, colors that “run” when wet — can irreversibly
stain paper notes.
After answering these questions, you may decide to rehouse some of
your collection as part of your disaster preparedness planning.
If a disaster occurs, the following damage should be expected:
➤ Metal coins could corrode from sitting directly in water or in a
➤ Notes printed on inadequate quality paper may disintegrate in the water.
➤ Mold, which favors a warm damp environment, could grow and spread
throughout your collection. Paper money is far more susceptible to
mold and much harder to disinfect than coins.
➤ Silt or other foreign matter could coat coins and notes.
➤ Plastic coin and bill holders could trap moisture next to the coin
Time is of the essence when recovering collections. Once it is
considered safe to enter the building, work quickly to limit damage.
Planning in advance will help you at this stage.
First, survey the situation to get a sense of how much damage has
occurred. You should then implement triage beginning with the items at
most risk and of the highest value. Mold will be one of your biggest
concerns. Paper notes and important paper records should be bagged and
frozen right away. Freezing will not kill mold, but it will put it in
stasis, allowing you to deal with it later.
Thankfully, a number of resources are available to help the
collector respond to a disaster. Clearly, these should be consulted in
advance of a disaster so you can plan accordingly. First, and
foremost, consult the Conservation OnLine (CoOL) “Disaster Preparedness and Response” section
of their Web page.
Although other lists exist, CoOL’s is the most concise I have found.
The list is easy to use, allowing the viewer to surf quickly through
the available resources, including sample recovery plans.
The Western Association for Art Conservation has made paper
conservator Betty Walsh’s excellent summary chart, “Salvage at a
Glance,” available online.
The chart succinctly outlines how the materials should be handled,
packed and dried. Collectors of paper notes and numismatic ephemera
will find this chart a helpful resource.
The Heritage Preservation Emergency Response and Disaster Wheel is
another handy resource. Like the “Salvage at a Glance” chart, it
offers recovery information in a handy and concise format. One side of
the wheel outlines the critical stages of disaster response, which
include stabilizing the environment and assessing damage. The second
side summarizes disaster recovery measures for photographs, framed
artworks, books and paper, electronic records, textiles, furniture,
ceramics, stone and metal, organic materials, and natural history specimens.
The wheel can be purchased for $10 plus shipping and handling.