Collecting trading cards has exploded in popularity in the last couple of years, and has brought so many new people into the trading card community.
Whether you’ve started collecting rookie baseball cards, or playing games like Magic the Gathering, Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh with your friends, keeping your cards in pristine condition is important to maintain the value of the individual card and the collection as a whole.
If you’re new to collecting cards, you might be overwhelmed at all the different types of sleeves, and you’re probably wondering why you even need to store your cards in a certain way. In this post, we will go through the different protection and storage options and the benefits of each.
The Best Way to Protect Trading Cards
The easiest and least expensive way to protect your card collection is with card sleeves. These come in a few different styles and thickness options — which one you choose will depend on whether you plan to handle the cards regularly, display them, store them long-term or sell them.
The value of your card is directly connected to its condition, and the smallest stain or tear can reduce that value by tens, or even hundreds of dollars.
Standard Card Sleeves
Often called soft sleeves or penny sleeves (because of their low price point), standard card sleeves are the base layer of protection for your cards. They will mainly protect against stains and the natural oils in your hands when you handle them.
As a side note, you will want to make sure any sleeves you buy are labeled acid-free, because prolonged exposure to acid will eventually cause the picture to yellow and harden.
Premium Card Sleeves
Premium sleeves are made out of a thicker plastic and offer better protection against bending, folding or edge damage, which would significantly decrease the value of any expensive cards.
They are ideal if you are going to be handling your cards frequently, such as when playing a game like Magic the Gathering or Pokemon, or if you trade your sports cards regularly with other collectors. Below are some different premium sleeve options.
Top loaders are most commonly used with graded cards. Card grading is an extensive process that involves sending select cards to a company that evaluates their condition and “grades” them by suggesting a certain value. This process lends authenticity to your cards and helps you sell them more easily.
Top loaders are made with a stiff plastic and offer the most protection against folding or bending. However, because top loaders are usually larger than the card, there is a possibility of damage if the card is frequently moved or jostled (for example if it is transported by mail).
Semi-rigid sleeves provide a tighter fit than a toploader, but as the name suggests, they are not as rigid. They provide better edge and corner protection which is necessary for gameplay that involves shuffling and dealing the cards.
Some vintage sports cards from the 1970s were made in a taller size, and up until recently, collectors didn’t have a specific sleeve to protect them. A common solution was to put one regular size sleeve on each end of the card, but now most companies provide an appropriately sized sleeve.
Screw-Down Card Holders
To keep your cards pristine, you can opt for yet another form of card preservation. Screwdown card holders put your rare and high-value cards between two plates of acrylic, then, all four corners are screwed into place.
You’ll want to be very careful when choosing the right screwdown holder. Recessed screwdown card holders are often preferred because there is a card-shaped indentation where you card can safely sit — this protects the edges from being pinched down and compressed by the acrylic.
If you flatten the edges by storing your card in a non-recessed card holder, you won’t be able to submit it for grading. If you don’t plan to grade your card, you can easily opt for a flat or non-recessed holder.
The Best Way to Store Trading Cards
There are a couple of options when it comes to storing trading cards and your choices depend on the amount of storage space you have available and how accessible you’d like your cards.
Note that you should never put unsleeved cards into a box or a binder, because you risk damaging the corners or scratching the artwork. Remember, your cards are like vampires; they should be kept in a cool, dry place, and whatever you do, keep them out of direct sunlight.
Storage boxes are the cheaper way to store your collection, and one box can hold more cards than one binder, unless you are storing cards in thick top loader sleeves. Boxes, however, take up more space in your home and can be more cumbersome to rifle through.
Binders are a little more expensive than boxes, but they are more compact to store and can be placed on a bookshelf so you can have your favorite cards at your fingertips. They are also better for seeing what’s in your collection at a glance, since each page holds multiple cards.
Protect Your Trading Card Collection at Collectible Supplies
Deciding how to protect and store your card collection largely depends on your intended use of the cards and how much space you have available.
If you want to keep your collection in mint condition, you need to use semi-rigid or top loader sleeves to protect against bending and folding.
Collectible Supplies has a variety of card protectors to fit any baseball or gaming collection, whether you are a novice or a seasoned collector.