If your hobby is collecting trading cards, then you are probably aware that keeping your cards in the best condition as possible is your number one priority. If you are going to invest in trading cards, then you will certainly want to invest in the right kind of storage for your cards, especially your high-value cards such as vintage cards (pre-1980), rookie cards, numbered cards, autographed cards, etc. How will you store your trading card collection so that it is best preserved over time?
An important point to realize in today’s current market is that trading cards is an investment! There are many things people invest their money in with the hope that their asset will appreciate over time; for example, gold, silver, coins, art, real estate, stocks, etc. Well, trading cards is certainly on that list and if it is on your list of investments, then you are going to want to invest in the proper storage options in order to preserve and show off your collection.
There are many options for storing your trading cards today. These options are listed below along with my thoughts about each one for you to consider what is right for you.
Individual Card Storage Options
“Penny sleeves” are thin, plastic sleeves that you slip your invdividual cards into and quite often, they are an essential first step for the proper storage of your trading cards. They are very cheap, hence the nickname “penny sleeves”, but can be an effective way to store your cards especially if you have hundreds or even thousands of semi-valuable cards (i.e. any card worth $1.00 or more). Often as well, slipping your cards into a penny sleeve is the first step before you then store them into something else, like a toploader or some kind of storage box.
Penny sleeves come in different sizes for your different size trading cards. The one that I like the most and I believe is the one most commonly used is the Ultra Pro Card Sleeves 2 5/8″ X 3 5/8″. They are made of clear polypropylene, are acid free (no PVC) and are ultra clear / translucent so that you are able to see your card, front and back, with no obstruction. This is the size that I would recommend as it fits all standard trading cards perfectly, but note that they do come in different sizes. Penny sleeves are also inexpensive and each pack quantity is 100. I would recomment buying several packs at one time.
A few last notes about the use of penny sleeves for the storage of your trading cards. First, if you are going to go through the trouble of putting your cards into penny sleeves, then please make sure you store your collection in a temperature controlled environment (i.e. NOT the garage or the attic). If your cards are not stored in a temperature controlled environment, then it is not uncommon for your card to stick to the plastic over time as a result of the plastic essentially melting onto the card from long time exposure to hot temperatures. Second, when you place your cards into the penny sleeves, take your time so you don’t damage the corners. Even though the penny sleeves are very thin, they still could cause microscopic damage, especially to the corners, if you force or jam your cards into the sleeves. Third, thicker cards like jersey cards, for example, are difficult to put into penny sleeves, so an appropriately sized toploader may be your better option.
Click here to get your penny sleeves.
Toploaders are also very popular and similar to penny sleeves in that they are also plastic covers into which you slip your card in from the top. They are rigid or semi-rigid and they are available in different thicknesses for your different card varities (e.g. jersey patch cards, bat barrel cards).
If you are going to store your cards into toploaders, then I would first recommend putting them into penny sleeves before putting them into toploaders. One reason for this is it helps to protect your cards as you insert them into the toploaders. Another reason is it helps to slide your cards out of the toploaders for when you want to pull them out.
Toploaders are also inexpensive and is a very common way to store trading cards. One thing to note, however, is that take up more space than penny sleeves. If this is your preferred way of storing your trading cards and you have a large quantity, then you will also need to buy the right storage boxes that hold toploaders.
Click here to get your toploaders.
Card Savers are another option of a toploader. The are plastic and a little more flexible and thinner than the rigid toploaders mentioned above. If you are going to use these, again, I would recommend first placing your cards into a penny sleeves before putting them into card savers for the same reaons mentioned above. Also, if you are going to send your cards into PSA for grading, then it is a PSA requirement for your cards to be submitted in these card savers. Card savers are also good for long term storage.
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Snap-tights are plastic holders that “snap tight” for a perfect snug fit around your card. These come in various thicknesses and can hold cards of various thickness. On the sides of the case are little indentations for you to slip your fingernails in order to open the case. It is important to get the right size and thickness snap-tight for your card, otherwise, if it is too tight, it could damage the surface, sides or corners of the card. I find that these can be a bit more difficult to open and close as the top plastic piece fits snugly into the bottom plastic piece and I always get a bit nervous of fitting them together too snugly and damaging the card; however, these are a nice option if you intend to display your card in a card stand.
Click here to get your snap-tight holders.
These are thick plastic holders that are held together by a small magnet at the top of the case. On the top plastic holder, there are two little plastic knobs that are inserted into the two openings in the bottom of the back plastic holder. Then, the two pieces essentially snap togther by the magnet at the top. This is very easy to do. Also, at the top of the holder is a little indentation for you to slip your finger nail in to pry the case open, which does not take any strength at all. These also offer UV protection to protect those autographs from fading over time.
Click here to get your magnetic holders.
Screwdown Plastic Holders
These are two thick plastic pieces that are held together by a small screw (i.e. phillips head) at the top of the holder. These essentially work the same way as the magnetic holder whereby the two little plastic knows at the bottom of the top plastic holder are inserted into the two openings in the bottom of the back plastic holder. Then, after closing the two pieces together, they are help in place by a screw at the top.
The thickness of these screwdown holders is about the same as the magnetic holders, but thicker than the snap-tights. They are much sturdier pieces of plastic than say the toploaders and even the snap-tights. Please note, however, that in order to open and close them you will need a phillips head screw driver and also, over time, it is not uncommon for cards to become damaged if the case has been screwed too tight. I think today, the magnetic holders are the more commonly used option for this reason and also because they eliminate the need to also carry a phillips head screw driver.
Click here to get your screwdown plastic holders.
Bulk Card Storage Options
Trading Card Albums
For bulk card storage, we are all probably most familiar with placing cards into plastic pages that hold 9 cards per page and then placing those pastic pages into a three-ring binder. This is still a valid option for certain kinds of collectors, but I have found there they are some drawbacks that you should note.
First, it is very easy to damage the corners of the cards as you insert them into the tight fitting plastic pages. Second, there is a natural tendency to load as many pages into the three-ring binder as possible and this causes the pages to not lay flat, which could in turn, damage the cards. Third, if you stand the album on a shelf like a book rather than laying it flat, then over time, gravity works its magic pulling the pages down, causing them to sag and this in turn could damge the cards as well. Fourth, I’ve found that over time, the pages could also stick to the cards especially if the albums have not been stored in a temperature controlled environment. Fifth and lastly, to purchase the album and all of the pages that you need could be more expensive than other bulk storage options.
Lastly, it is important to note that they do many archive quality trading card albums that essentially eliminate the long-term page sagging issue by the use of a cardboard sleeve.
Click here to get your storage album and click here to get your sleeves.
Cardboard Storage Boxes
Storing trading cards into one-row, two-row, three-row or four-row cardboard storage boxes is definitely my favorite way to store my trading cards. First, trading card cardboard storage boxes are inexpensive and quite sturdy. Second, they will hold cards that are first placed into penny sleeves. (I always recommend placing your cards first into penny sleeves before using any kid of bulk storage). Third, depending on how size of the box (i.e. the number of rows), these could hold up to 4,000-5,000 cards…wow! Fourth, they are easy to carry and are very transportable. Did I also mention that they are inexpensive?
Click here to get your cardboard storage boxes.
Plastic Storage Boxes
Plastic storage boxes are another option for bulk storage. They typically hold a smaller amount of cards than the cardboard storage boxes (i.e. anywhere from a handful of cards up to several hundred). Obviously, it goes without saying that plastic provides more protection than cardboard, but please be careful of which one you purchase because some plastic cases hold only raw cards; that is, cards not in penny sleeves.
Also, the cases where the top plastic case slips over the entire bottom plastic case always makes me nervous that if I grab it on the sides with a light grip, then the bottom half could just drop out and fall to the floor, damaging the cards within. This may just be my own anxiety about these types of cases, but if I have that fear, then maybe somebody else does as well and it’s therefore important to note so that you purchase the right kind of storage box for you.
Click here for a plastic storage box (800 count) that I would recommend)
Wooden Storage Boxes
Wooden storage boxes are typically for the collector who is not concerned with cost and wants the best most impressive way of storing and/or showing off one’s collection. Also, one would typically put only their best cards in such a case, so they are not for large bulk storing (i.e. not for thousands of cards).
Leather Storage Boxes
Aside from the high quality wooden storage boxes, I also like leather storage boxes. These are very nice and affordable for your more storing, displaying and transporting your more valuable cards. Some come with straps that sling over your should that you can easily transport from one destination to another. Again, you want to make sure you get one that holds cards that have already been placed into penny sleeves.
If you have any comments, questions or additional suggestions, please do leave a comment.
Click here to get the leather storage case in the above picture.