Millions of people collect one thing or another, be it coins, art, vintage jewelry, or vinyl records. Whether you’re collecting for amusement, profit, or both, you may feel a connection to every piece.
There are threats that can ruin some or all of your items, such as damage, theft, or simply long-term degradation. It’s important to follow the precautions so you can get the greatest rewards from your collection for many years to come.
Maintain an ideal environment
While this will vary for different items, such as between coins and manuscripts, learn the recommended conditions for best preserving your collectibles. Pay special attention to these factors:
The temperature where you keep your collectibles should be kept at a cool room temperature. Excessive heat can be damaging to nearly everything apart from metals and ceramics. Extreme variation in temperature is also risky, as heating and cooling causes expansion and contraction that can warp surfaces and loosen connections.
Wherever you keep your collection, place a device that monitors air humidity. High moisture is bad for any absorbent materials like books or stamps, and can lead to rot and mildew; too little can dry out objects. Keep humidity at around 50 percent or slightly less, and use humidifiers or dehumidifiers to adjust the level if needed.
Particles in the air will collect on surfaces. Keep your items covered, enclosed, or behind glass, and use filters in your ventilation system meant to remove dust and microbes. Never use hard brushes or chemical cleaners on collectibles, especially on antique metals as it may strip off the natural patina.
Bright light can also damage surfaces over time. Direct sunlight should be avoided, as it can fade colors or heat surfaces. If you need more light, try multiple low-wattage bulbs or soft LED lights rather than placing delicate items under harsh spotlights.
How to organize and display your collection
How your collection is organized and displayed may depend on your available space and how you intend to enjoy your collection. If you don’t intend to display it, keep your items secured in hobbyist organizers such as stamp or coin albums that are designed for this purpose.
Knowing what you have is important. Keep an inventory in a ledger or spreadsheet with as many details as possible, and preferably a photo. In some cases, such as with coin collecting, you can buy collector software that helps with this.
Collectibles should always be displayed in a locking cabinet with a glass top or front to resist the elements and tampering. How large the case is, and what items you choose to display at any particular time is up to you. But if you want to take them out to study or share them with friends, always insist they be handled over a flat, soft surface and while wearing clean cotton gloves.
You may choose to display your most impressive items in a place of prominence. Be sure that any hardware, frames, mounts, or wires are in good condition and securely attached to support. Never place breakables like porcelain or glass where they might be dislodged accidentally, and never put flammables like manuscripts near a source of
Wherever you store your collection, you’ll want to be sure that it’s in a place that’s climate-controlled, whether it’s a separate room or even a large cabinet. For larger items, get sturdy racks or bookcases to maximize storage space and stay organized. Avoid keeping valuables in cardboard boxes that can attract moisture or be easily damaged.
Collectibles are inviting targets for both thieves and the merely curious. Leaving items out in the open makes them easy pickings, but can also tempt visitors or children who may pick them up with good intentions but inadvertently do damage. Depending on the value (both sentimental and monetary) of your items, start investing in locks and other hardware that will keep them safe.
Here are some suggestions:
Steel cabinets, safes, or strong boxes
Buy and place these items with security in mind. A container that can be easily carried off or pried open isn’t secure. Also, think about biometric or electronic locks rather than traditional key-and-tumbler locks.
Cameras and alarms
This should be a must for any home or office. Just showing that you have a good security system in place, such as with posted warnings or visible cameras, can deter thieves. Have at least one camera placed where you can document whoever may approach the spot where your valuables are stored.
Modern technology uses sensors to create a protective grid. A smart sensor gets information from the physical world and inputs it to a computer program. Sensors for heat signatures, movement, images, and more can be integrated in a network as large or complex as you want, and communicate wirelessly so they can’t be disconnected.
Consider an insurance policy as your collection grows in value. Check with your insurer on what your homeowner’s or renter’s policy may cover. Have your collection appraised regularly and adjust your coverage to reflect any changes.
It wouldn’t make sense to spend years building a collection and then not take care of it. Caution and common sense on how your items are stored, handled, and secured will help to preserve them.
How will you protect your collection?
About the author:
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate tech enthusiast. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie enjoys reading about latest apps and gadgets and binge-watching his favorite TV shows. You can reach him @bmorepeters