Collecting paper money can be an interesting hobby if you're fascinated by the unrecognized art that adorns banknotes, or if you're a political history buff. Unfortunately, paper is fragile material, and aging paper marred by years of frequent handling can deteriorate quickly, taking a toll on your collection. According to Banknotes.com, some countries now make their banknotes from a plastic polymer substrate to increase their useful lifespan, but most banknotes are printed on some sort of paper. To ensure that you enjoy your collection for years to come, take the proper precautions to preserve your paper money.
Purchase acid and PVC-free holders for your banknotes to guard them from dirt, moisture and debris. If your album or individual holders contain acid or PVC, you'll be contributing to the demise of your collection rather than protecting it. Banknotes.com recommends mylar-polyester holders, as used by the US Library of Congress for preserving old paper documents.
Use gloves when you need to handle your paper money outside of its protective album or holder. Wearing cotton or nitrile gloves minimizes the transfer of harmful oil and dirt from your hands to your precious collection.
Display your collection out of direct sunlight. Sunlight can cause the images on banknotes to fade, and prolonged exposure makes paper yellow and brittle. If you need bright light to closely examine your paper money, use a halogen lamp instead.
Never try to repair or clean your paper money yourself, even if you notice obvious damage and imperfections. Cleaning and repair by untrained hands often decreases the value of a banknote collection. If you need to have some banknotes repaired, the Bank of Canada's Currency Museum suggests contacting a well-known art museum or archival library for advice.
Store your paper money in a cool, dry place, away from excessive heat and humidity. The dampness of most basements makes them a less than ideal storage space, and the heat in attics can also cause irreversible damage to your collection.
The life of your paper money is proportional to the amount of handling it receives. To protect your collection, strive to handle your banknotes as little as possible.