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Why Does Handling Coins Cause Hands to Smell?

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Many rare coin dealers, collectors, and enthusiasts may assume that the metallic, dusty smell that lingers on their hands after handling old coins comes from the coins themselves. But science tells us that there’s actually a different reason as to why hands smell after touching coins and other metal objects. Here’s an explanation of the true origin of that metallic smell and why it’s so identifiable.

A Human Scent

When human hands handle rare coins and other objects made of metal, the human body generates an iron-like smell. It’s actually a human body odor caused by the breakdown of skin oils after touching objects made of certain metals. When hands touch iron, for example, perspiration on the skin adds two electrons to the iron atoms. It then reacts with skin oils and decomposes. This decomposition creates an organic molecule known as 1-octen-3-one, which is largely responsible for that infamous smell. Formaldehyde and acetone are also made of such compounds. Hence, it makes sense that these substances also give off strong, distinctive odors.

Minimizing the Smell

It’s nearly impossible for dealers and collectors to completely avoid handling their collections. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to minimize the metallic smell that lingers after touching coins. Wearing cotton gloves, for example, can stop the hands from smelling. Wearing gloves can also benefit the coins themselves, preventing damaging fingerprints, smudges, and oil deposits. It’s also helpful to handle only the coins’ edges in order to limit the surface area that comes into contact with skin.

The rare coin experts at Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers always handle coins with the utmost care to protect our clients’ assets. We buy, sell, and appraise coins made of gold, silver, and platinum, including rare and old coins. To learn more about our fair and generous offers, 24-hour price lock guarantee, and exceptional customer service, contact us today at 404-236-9744 and schedule an appointment.

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Tony Davis
Tony Davis is the owner of Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, a full service Atlanta based coin and bullion dealer specializing in buying, selling and appraising coins and coin collections of all types and sizes. Tony frequently writes on various economic and numismatic related topics affecting the coin and bullion markets and has been published on some of the industry’s leading websites, including Coin Week, the American Numismatic Association, Coin Collector, Coinflation, and Coin Auctions Help, just to name a few. Visit Atlanta Gold & Coin’s website at atlantagoldandcoin.com to obtain additional information on the products, services and educational resources offered by his company. Tony can be reached at sales@atlantagoldandcoin.com or at 404-236-9744

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