One of the things I find most puzzling about valuables is how many people insist on storing them in the cheapest containers possible. For example, my grandmother used to keep her old silver coins in leftover plastic pill bottles. A lot of women store their best jewelry in the same cheap Wal-Mart jewelry box that they use for their nastiest costume jewelry. Other people have no compunctions about tossing their treasured family heirlooms into cardboard shoeboxes.
Sure, I understand the reasoning behind the phenomenon. A lot of people keep their valuables in non-premium storage because it is convenient (and cheap) to use whatever is on hand. However, the Tupperware containers, plywood boxes and cardboard cartons most of us have lying around are rarely appropriate for the long-term storage of high value items.
As you can probably guess, I believe that valuables like antiques, jewelry and other precious items should be kept in premium storage. Now, this very much reflects my personal opinion. But it also makes a certain amount of sense. After all, an item that costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars deserves to be housed in a container befitting its price tag.
Is it reasonable to bury your grandmother's antique cameo brooch in your sock drawer? Is it sensible to store your treasured Rolex watch in a cardboard box at the bottom of your closet? Is it appropriate to dump your engagement ring into a plastic tray on top of your dresser at the end of a long day at work?
Sure, you can store valuables this way, but should you? Is it logical to treat rare, high-value or sentimentally-important valuables as if they were common, everyday items that aren't meaningful and can easily be replaced?
For many hundreds of years, the wealthiest members of society kept their very finest items in premium storage. When European nobility became obsessed with collecting ancient Greek coins in the 16th and 17th centuries, they naturally gravitated towards a storage solution that was as regal as the coins themselves - mahogany coin cabinets. Not only did cabinets made from mahogany look amazingly beautiful, but the wood was also chemically neutral. This ensured that any coins stored in a mahogany coin case didn't corrode or tarnish due to resins or oils exuded by the wood.
Of course, these days we have third-party certified coins, which are held in chemically inert, sonically-sealed, clear plastic holders. And while these slabs are certainly practical from a handling and preservation standpoint, many collectors feel they are clinical and impersonal.
I tend to agree with these assessments, which is why I bought myself a real Honduran mahogany coin cabinet by a skilled British woodworker, Peter Nichols. Peter Nichol's mahogany coin cabinets might be expensive, but they really are the ultimate premium storage solution for uncertified rare coins. I feel it was money well spent; so do most people who see it.
Of course, other valuables besides coins can benefit from the right premium storage too. This is one of the reasons I'm obsessed with fine hardwood boxes. The very best hardwood boxes are typically hand-crafted from the finest woods known to man. They can be made from either deciduous or tropical hardwoods, including walnut, mahogany, cherry, rosewood and ebony. These beautiful hardwood boxes are the perfect premium storage pieces for high-end jewelry, wristwatches or objets d'art. The best of the best are even signed by their makers; they transcend being mere boxes and become works of art in their own right.
I'm also a fan of antiques that come with their original cases. These can be tough to find, but they are a real treat when you do come across them. Vintage fountain pens, cigarette holders and estate jewelry are among the most likely antiques to come with their original (sometimes fitted) cases. Original cases not only provide stylish premium storage, but they also raise the value of the antiques in question, provided they are still in good condition.
However, an item doesn't have to be old to come with a great original case. In 2008, the U.S. Mint decided to update the packaging for its 1 troy ounce proof American Buffalo gold coin. These coins are the collector's version of the popular American Buffalo gold bullion coin. The mint ended up going with an aesthetically-striking, leatherette-trimmed hardwood display case that evokes images of the Old West. It perfectly captured the rugged zeitgeist of the American Buffalo gold coin.
I have no doubt that in the future coin collectors will ardently seek out these proof gold coins in their original mint packaging. And they may not be as easy to find as you think either. Many of these coins are removed from their original cases and sent to third-party grading services shortly after leaving the U.S. Mint. In 40 or 50 years, these masterpiece proof coins in their original issue packaging may be quite scarce.
I believe that plastic and cardboard are acceptable for some applications. I expect my kitchen appliances to make liberal use of plastic, for instance. I expect the items I order from Amazon to arrive entombed in (a multitude) of cardboard containers. But I don't think the most monetarily valuable objects that I own should be wrapped in cheap plastics, chipboard and cardboard.
Luckily, premium storage made from high end materials, like hardwoods, velvet and leather, offers a great solution. Yes, buying a fine hardwood valet or jewelry box will cost more than a few dollars. But I think it is worth it to avoid having yet another cheap, mass produced, "made in China" box floating around the house.
Read more thought-provoking Antique Sage editorial articles here.
Read in-depth Antique Sage investment guides here.