US Coins

Readers Ask: Should you use gloves or not?

A glove is being used in this image to hold a Reverse Proof 2013-W American Buffalo gold coin recently struck at the West Point Mint.

Coin World photograph by Paul Gilkes.

I was always taught to handle rare and higher priced coins with gloves on. However, I have noticed some advertisements in Coin World including one where a grader is handling a gold coin without gloves on.

I am not a dealer or a speculator. I am a collector who has been collecting off and on for several years.

Is this appropriate handling of a coin?

Ron Schoenberger

Imperial, Neb.

Surprisingly, most professional graders do not use gloves when handling most rare coins. Assuming that one has clean hands, most coins can be safely handled without gloves, using a proper coin handling technique where a coin is held by its edge.

In fact, many believe that it is safer for many coins to be handled without gloves. They find that cotton gloves make gripping a coin more difficult and increase the likelihood that it may drop while being examined.

Of course, the glove or no glove question does not have a clear yes or no answer.

Some coins with delicate surfaces, such as Proof coins that have mirrored fields, are often handled with gloves to protect the surfaces from skin’s oils.

As collectors know, even a light fingerprint on the reflective surfaces of a Proof coin can have a dramatic effect on a coin’s value.

Copper coins — especially those with original red Mint color — also are particularly reactive to skin oils and should be handled with gloves when possible.

Gold coins are less reactive than silver or copper coins to skin oils, but their softer metal makes them more susceptible to damage if dropped.

Regardless of the metal of the coin that is being examined, one would be well-advised to not spit on a coin. This can happen even during the calmest conversation, and saliva can cause spots, especially on copper coins.

General consensus in the hobby is that wearing cotton gloves when handling coins makes someone more clumsy, and the risks of a possible dropped coin outweigh the benefits.

Regardless of whether one uses gloves to examine a coin, it’s always prudent to hold a coin by its edge, above a padded surface.

That way, if a coin does happen to drop by accident — even the most careful people occasionally drop coins — the threat of possible damage is minimized.

Coin World’s Readers Ask department does not accept coins or other items for examination without prior permission from Coin World. Readers Ask also does not examine error or variety coins. Materials sent to Readers Ask without prior permission will be returned unexamined. Please address all Readers Ask inquiries to or call 800-673-8311, Ext. 172.

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