How to Store & Preserve Your Banknote Collection

How do I store and preserve my precious banknote collection?

It is a very important question that every SERIOUS COLLECTOR will ask at some stage of their collecting journey. While most people enjoy the thrill of the chase when they are acquiring a sought after coin or banknote but they tend to forget that keeping the collection safe from damage or environmental harm is also just as crucial in retaining its grade and value.  Here's a few quick and easy things DO's and DON'Ts to protect your precious collection from mishandling, fungus, fading, insect damage and foxing :


1. Use acid free banknote sleeves
The usual soft plastic like polyvinyl chloride or PVC will start to breakdown and will turn acidic. This in turn will harm the paper stored in it and may cause it to turn yellow. To prevent this from happening, please use ACID FREE type of plastic sleeves from well established brands like Lindner or Lighthouse/Leuchttrum for high value items. Another type of plastic sleeve made from Oriented Polypropylene or OPP plastic is can also be used.

But keeping them in acid free sleeves alone is NOT ENOUGH, you need to ....
Fig 1 : Acid Free plastic banknote sleeves

2. Keep them in a low humidity environment 
Humidity is the amount of water/moisture in the air around us. The humidity in tropical climate like in Malaysia and Singapore ranges from 70% to 90%, this can cause serious problems for your collection and it is one of the major causes of "foxing" i.e. the paper will start to turn yellow. Fungus is also another key enemy that thrives on wet air. So it is important that you keep your stuff in a dry environment and prevent the "wet air" around you from entering i.e. you need an air tight container.

Now the ideal condition to store and preserve paper based artifacts is 45% to 55% - that's the museum standard.  So you should aim to keep the humidity at that range as much as possible. So how to you know what's the humidity level ? You use a hygrometer which measures the "relative humidity".

Fig 2 : Digital clock with hygrometer (bottom right side) showing 77% humidity
Fig 2 : Digital clock with hygrometer (bottom right side) showing 77% humidity

There are 2 ways to do this :

A. Air Tight Plastic Containers + Silica Gels
You can keep your collection in plastic airtight containers along with some silica gel that absorbs the moisture from the air in the container. Please be sure to buy a small hygrometer (available in most local hardware shops) which you can measure the humidity inside the container. Needless to say, it will be good if the plastic container is transparent and you can see the humidity level without having to open the container. Once the contain is opened, the moisture from the outside will go in and the humidity level will increase. One disadvantage of this method is that that the silica gels will need to be replaced once they absorb all the moisture, which can be a hassle sometimes.

Fig 3 : Silica gel pack
Fig 3.1 : Silica gel pack
Fig 3.2 : BLUE is OK, when ti turns PINK, it's time to change it.

B. Dehumidifier Cabinet
These are fridge like cabinets that has a small dehumidifer motor inside it that maintains the humidity inside at a specified level. They are also known as "dry box". Most camera / photography shops will sell these black color boxes with a glass door and they come in various sizes depending on your needs. This is a much more effective option in the long run - the box has a digital hygrometer and you can set the humidity level you want and it will automatically maintain it at that level. Saves you a lot of hassle in replacing those silica gels!

[ If you need help in getting the right one, please feel free to contact us, we can arrange for home delivery too ]

IMPORTANT : Please DO NOT GO BELOW 30% humidity, if the humidity is too low, it takes the water out of the paper and the paper will become brittle and break off easily!!

Fig 4 : Dehumidifier Cabinet or Dry Box. This is an 88 Liter model (W380xD390xH623 mm).
Fig 4 : Dehumidifier Cabinet or Dry Box. This is an 88 Liter model (W380xD390xH623 mm).
This cabinet comes with a lock and key was well. Size wise, it is enough to fit about 8 Lighthouse banknote album/binders.

Fig 5 : The hygrometer is built into the cabinet, very convenient feature. 

Fig 6. This is the biggest one - a 155 Liter model (W380xD390xH1203 mm)
Fig 6. This is the biggest one - a 155 Liter model (W380xD390xH1203 mm) 

3. Stay Cool
Keep you collection away from hot places, room temperature should be kept between 20°C to 24°C. Do not place your items next to a wall that is exposed to the late afternoon sun. Paper will deteriorate faster under higher temperatures.

4. Keep away from dust
If you keep you banknote collection is files/binders, do try to get those with a box or slip case which the binder can slide into. If you put your album on an open bookshelf, the dust from the environment will most like it go in from the top of the uncovered binder and cause some serious damage. Best to keep your albums in a closed shelf or in a dehumidifier cabinet.

Fig 7 : Banknote albums/binders in slip cases.
Fig 7 : Banknote albums/binders in slip cases.


1. Expose them to direct sunlight for long periods 
Sunlight has a bleaching effect, that's due mainly to the ultraviolet light, the bright colors on the printed paper will fade when exposed to sunlight for long periods.

2. Touch the banknotes or worse, sneeze/cough into them
The human hand is perhaps the most contaminated part of the human body. It contains anything from sweat (which is salty), oil (from you face or other places like your food!), bacteria, fungi and God knows what else. The last thing you want is depositing these things on to your collection which will cause stains later on. If you must touch it, please wash your hand first. As mentioned earlier, please use the appropriate plastic banknote sleeves to protect it.

So there you have it, just a few simple rules to keep in mind and it doesn't take a lot of time to do or to comply with. If you need any help or advice in choosing / getting any one of the items described here, do feel free to contact us.

Happy Collecting!

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