Selecting a Coin Album
There are five major brands of coin albums that feature a large selection of titles. These album lines are Intercept Shield, Dansco, Whitman, US Mint and Littleton. While similar in many respects, each brand has some unique qualities that can impact a collector’s decision on which to select. In addition, there are numerous other brands with a more limited selection of titles (often limited to popular series like the State Quarters and Presidential Dollars). We provide a comparison of the major brands and more popular of the secondary brands below.
Our favorite line of albums is the Intercept Shield series. Thirty titles covering most of the major series from the late 1800s to date are currently available in this gradually expanding series. In addition, Intercept manufacturers a Type album that, in our opinion, is a better layout and mix of coins than that of any other manufacturer. As strong preservation proponents we are sold on the protective qualities of the Intercept Shield line. Intercept Shield albums go beyond just being constructed from archival quality materials. Each album is lined with Corrosion Intercept which traps and neutralizes corrosive gases before they reach the coins inside. The albums are sold with a matching slipcase that is also lined with Intercept Shield providing a second layer of protection. State Quarter and Presidential Dollar albums are available in multiple formats (Date Set, P&D, and P, D and S-proof). However, the other modern series are available in only in the with proofs format. We’d like to see Intercept continue to grow the number of titles available and offer a range of blank albums and pages so collectors could build their own custom albums so any collection could be protected in matching albums.
Dansco albums are by far the most widely used albums in the hobby. Part of this is the amount of time they’ve been manufactured. More important though is the wide variety of titles that are offered and the versatility offered through the selection of blank pages and binders. With 83 titles for US coins, virtually any series can be housed in a Dansco album. For modern coin series, Dansco offers albums both with and without the proof only issues. In addition, there are 23 Dansco world coin album titles and fourteen more albums for currency, sports cards, silver bars and rounds, gaming tokens and other collectibles. Unlike Intercept Albums, Dansco albums are not sold with a slip case, however, Dansco does manufacture six sizes of archival slip cases. Six sizes of blank binders are also available that hold up to 8 pages in the largest size. Dansco is aggressive about making update pages available for developing series and also sells a series of 27 titled, but otherwise blank, extra pages and a series of 31 millimeter pages (with holes ranging in size from 16 mm to 55 mm). These pages can be mixed or matched in a blank binder to make a custom album or added to other albums for extra coins in the collection. While most manufacturers have now abandoned use of non-archival materials in their albums, only Dansco’s slip cases are advertised as being manufactured from archival materials. As a result, we frequently see coins stored in these albums developing toning around the rims.
The Whitman Classic series of albums is made by the hobby’s supply powerhouse manufacturer and publisher, Whitman Publishing. At 43 album titles, this series exceeds that available in the Intercept Shield line but still falls short of Dansco’s breadth. The attractive deep blue albums are imprinted in gold and are made entirely of archival materials. Whitman offers a blank binder and a line of eight titled but otherwise blank pages and 31 completely blank pages with ports ranging in size from 16 mm to 55 mm. As a result, almost any collection can be housed in a custom combination of pages. Slipcases are not available for the series. While Whitman updates the new albums it sells with pages for the latest issues, update pages are not sold separately for collectors who have older version of the albums (note: Whitman does offer separate Territory quarter update pages for the State Quarter albums). This effectively builds obsolescence into albums for current series.
The US Mint brand of albums is also made by Whitman under license from the US Mint. The albums are similar in make although a different color. Fewer selections (38 titles) are available than for the Whitman Classic line and no slipcases, blank binders, or blank pages are available to customize the series to a particular collector’s needs. Still the line is broad enough to cover all the more popular series and would be sufficient for most collections. Whitman has not updated the US Mint albums to include a Presidential Dollar album which is the glaring omission for the series.
The Littleton coin album series consists of 50 titles leaving it well short of the Dansco breadth but larger than the other major album lines. Slipcases and corrosion protection inserts are not sold with the albums but are available separately for collectors who want them. Titled but otherwise blank pages are available in eight of sizes and Littleton also offers Territory update pages for the state quarter albums. The most striking difference of the Littleton line is how the pages are held in the albums. Littleton utilizes a three ring system which effectively makes the pages “loose leaf” style in contrast to the other brands covered above which are held in place by pins and look more like a traditionally bound book. This allows the albums and pages to lay flat and makes it easier to study or enjoy the coins in the album. On the other hand, it makes the Littleton albums much thicker on the spin than the other brands of albums. This takes up more space on the book shelf or in the safe and gives the album a wedge shape that can be frustrating when trying to line them up on a shelf. We highly recommend the slip cases to help keep the albums in order on the shelf. In addition to the traditional albums, Littleton also offers a matching line of collection portfolios that hold US and world banknotes, certified coins and coins in the popular 2x2 cardboard holders.
Now that we have covered the pros and cons of the major album lines, we turn our attention to the secondary brands. While typically not for collectors that pursue multiple series and have a strong desire to house their collection in a series of matching albums, these albums still have their own appeal for many collectors.
HE Harris is another Whitman Publishing owned brand that has a pair of state quarter albums. While similar in construction to the Whitman and US Mint lines, the Harris coin albums are labeled as “deluxe” and indeed do have a luxurious look to them. For ten years the only album in the line was a 50 State Quarter Date Set album that is very popular with collectors of this series. With the introduction of the DC and Territory Quarters in 2009, Whitman added a second title for P&D versions of the 2009 quarters.
Lighthouse, a German coin and stamp supply manufacturer, entered the US album market with a State Quarter album and followed with a Presidential Dollar album when that series was introduced. These high quality albums have a rich leather look and come with a matching slipcase. Lighthouse albums provide P and D slots for both series and a Territory page update is available for the state quarter album. The pages are held in place with rings (similar to the Littleton albums described above) so that the pages lie flat to view the coins.
SuperSafe coin albums differ from all of the albums above by the construction of the page and mechanism to hold coins in the albums. The other albums described above use a heavy cardboard page with holes cut in it for the coins. Clear, acetate slides fit in each side of the page to protect the coins while still leaving both sides visible. SuperSafe albums, instead, utilize clear vinyl pages with pockets that hold the coins. The pages are completely clear allowing for viewing of both sides of the coin (and even the rim). This allows for a much more compact and inexpensive album. The line includes five titles consisting of Date Set and P&D versions for both the State Quarters and Presidential Dollars as well a Sacagawea album.
Armored Brand USA 360
Armored brand albums also differ even more from the broad album lines in the design of their pages. These molded pages have raised ports that hold the coins above the page so one can easily view the rim (making them ideal for rim lettered series). The completely clear pages have a front and back portion that snap together covering the coin from both sides while leaving both sides and the rim clearly visible. Armored Brand albums also differ from the other brands in the design of the outer holder. Rather than a traditional binder, the pages fit inside a plastic case that resembles the type of case used to hold VHS tapes. The series includes albums for the Presidential Dollars (date set, PD and PDS), Anthony Dollars, Sacagawea Dollars (PD and PDS), small dollars, $10 gold, ½ ounce gold eagles, ½ ounce platinum eagles, and gold presidential spouse coins (uncirculated and proof).