How to Preserve Paper Currency

By David Stewart

The most painstaking of efforts spent collecting paper currency can be for naught if you don’t have a proper preservation system. If you thought that plastic is safe and have put your antique currency notes into just any plastic holder, it’s time to wake up: Not all plastics are good for your currency. Most plastics are composed of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a chemical that can, over a period of time, release hydrochloric acid, which damages the paper. PVC may also release another by-product, polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), that can cause discoloration. There are various other plastics that have been developed to meet the unique requirements of paper currency collectors.

Purchase the necessary storage materials. Normal household stationery made of plastic won’t do. Most plastic varieties commonly available contain PVC, which can leach out into the currency notes and damage them. Look for plastic envelopes made of materials like polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester, and buy those. The best option recommended by experts is a Mylar holder made of a special type of polymer.

Insert the currency into the holder. Wash and dry your hands. Carefully hold the currency note by the edges and slowly insert each one into a separate sleeve. To save space, place more than one note in a single holder, separated by acid-free paper. This will prevent the damage of notes due to friction.

Arrange the holders. Insert the individual Mylar holders into a binder.

Store the binder. Put the binder in a storage box and keep the box in a place that is not exposed to excessive heat and humidity. Don’t store the binder in the attic or the basement. Keep it in a clean place that is dry and not infested by insects. Choose a location that is not directly exposed to harsh fluorescent light or direct sunlight; light can cause subtle changes in the paper's composition and make the currency brittle.

Tip

If you notice any damage on the paper currency, don’t try to repair it using plastic tape – get it repaired by an expert.

Notes can be stored in paper envelopes, provided you take extreme care in handling the envelope.

Special Mylar holder albums are available to preserve paper currency – these hold around 50 individual holders, and you can add more if required.

The Mylar holders are not available at all stores – you may need to contact larger dealers to procure them.

About the Author

Hailing out of Pittsburgh, Pa., David Stewart has been writing articles since 2004, specializing in consumer-oriented pieces. He holds an associate degree in specialized technology from the Pittsburgh Technical Institute.