From the November 2001 issue of ACCent, the newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club:
Our For Pinholes In Your 2X2s!
Look out for pinholes in your 2X2 coin holders! Pinholes are tiny holes in the thin clear Mylar windows that allow you to view the obverse and reverse of the coins in your collection. These holes do not have to be large at all to cause problems with your collection. Even microscopic holes will lead to toning spots on your coins that are far from microscopic!
Toning spots are the result of allowing air to enter the otherwise relatively airproof space in a properly sealed cardboard 2X2. In general, the toning spot will be roughly circular, spreading out from the spot where the hole is, and getting lighter as the distance from the hole increases. In my experience, these toning spots are almost invariably black and quite unattractive. I have seen cases where a very tiny hole will eventually produce a black toning spot a quarter of an inch across!
How do these pinholes occur? Contrary to their name, they are not caused by pins; that is just a generic term used to describe any extremely small hole. Pinholes can be created in a great many ways, but I have found that they almost always occur in one of three areas: the highest point on the design, an area of rough detail such as Liberty’s hair curls on a Morgan dollar, or right on the rim. In the case of a pinhole forming in the highest point or on the rim (also one of the highest points on a coin) it may have formed simply by having two coins in their 2X2s rubbing together in a storage box. When the hole is in an area with rough design detail, it may have been formed by a light impact with another coin.
Whatever the cause, the fact remains that these pinholes do occur, so how do we find them and prevent them from happening? As for preventing holes in your 2X2s, I am not sure that you can. The fact is that they are susceptible to damage any time they are moved simply through normal wear and tear. Finding pinholes before a toning spot starts to form is not a simple task either. About the only way to find them is to check your coins regularly to look for the beginnings of any toning spots. If you see a spot starting to form, hold the 2X2 so that it reflects a bright light like a mirror and you will be able to tell if there is a hole in the Mylar window. This takes a bit of practice but you will pick it up with experience.
Curing a pinhole in a 2X2 is the easy part. Replace that 2X2! They only cost a few cents, which is probably far cheaper than the coin inside which is in danger of developing a big ugly black spot. Even if you are not certain if there is a hole or not, it is a good idea to replace the 2X2 just to be certain. Again, it is cheap insurance against a damaged coin.
Your 2X2 flips are not immune from ugly toning spots either. While I personally have never seen a pinhole in a 2X2 flip, the flips do have the unfortunate habit of splitting at their seams, usually at either the 3:00, 6:00, or 9:00 positions. This is especially likely to happen with larger coins, particularly silver dollars. When a 2X2 splits a seam, the result is not a toning spot but rather a dark toned area spreading in from the area of the split. Similar to the toning spots formed by pinholes, this is usually not an attractive form of toning!
So the moral of the story is: check your coins often! If you see any unusual toning pattern or spot developing, the cure may be as simple as butting that coin in a new, high quality 2X2, at a cost of only a few cents and about a minute of your time. While that will not get rid of the toning, it should stop it from increasing in size.
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