The Container Store

What are the different kinds of sports trading cards? What are their sizes? What card holders do I need?

For those who have been out of the hobby of collecting baseball cards or other sports / trading cards for a while, it might surprise you to know that there are many types of cards nowadays. With this newness of getting back into the hobby or even those who have been in the hobby for a while, there are a number of questions that commonly come up. For example, what are all the different kinds of cards today? What sizes are they? What kinds of card holders do I need?


Trading Card Sizes and Thicknesses

First, let’s talk about card size. Most cards today are 2 1/2 X 3 1/2 inches. In fact, this is true of almost all cards since 1957, which is when Topps started manufacturing cards with these dimensions. This is now known as the “standard card size”. Prior to 1957, cards came in several sizes, which I will not get into in this particular post, but if you have a card from this era, then I would recommend measuring it to find out its exact dimensions or taking it to your local card store (LCS) for help.

Given that all cards since 1957 are virtually the same size, then how are they different? Cards are different today in terms of thicknesses. The thickness of a card (i.e. its paper stock) is measured by points. For example, the thickness of all standard cards is 20 points because they are made using 20 point (pt) paper stock. Cards today also come in various thicknesses up to 180 pt, but the most common are as follows: 55 pt, 75 pt, 100 pt, 130 pt and 180 pt. At the extreme, there are even really, really thick cards that can go up to 440 pt paper stock.

All other cards thicker than the standard 20 pt standard cards could arguably be labeled under the overarching umbrella term of “memorabilia” or “relic” cards. Below is a list of the various types of “memorabilia” or “relic” cards that exist today. Again, in general, they can range in thickness from greater than 20 pts to 180 pts, as stated in the above paragraph.

Types of Trading Cards Related to Thickness

Below is a list of the types of cards that exist as they relate to the topic of “thickness”. (There are other types of cards, but those are all variations of the “standard” card, which is printed on 20 pt paper stock. I will write more about those in another post.)

  • Standard Card – A “standard card” or “regular card” that is printed on 20 pt paper stock.
  • Jersey Card – A card that contains a piece of a player’s jersey embedded into the card itself. A jersey card can claim to be from a “game-used” jersey (i.e. from a jersey that the player wore in a game), but always be very cautious about the authenticity of such a claim and do your due diligence, if that is even possible.
  • Patch Card – Very similar to the “jersey” card, the patch card is a swatch or patch of a team jersey that is embedded into the card itself. Common examples of the patch could be of the team name, team logo, jersey number, or player’s nameplate.
  • Letterman Card – This is essentially a “patch” card that contains a piece of the player’s nameplate.
  • Logo Patch – This is essentially a “patch” card that contains a piece of the team’s or league’s logo.
  • Logoman – This is essentially a “patch” card that contains the entire league’s logo (e.g. NBA, NFL, NL, AL).
  • Bat card – A card that contains a thin slice of a player’s bat. Bat cards claiming to be from a “game-used” bat can demand a premium, but again, be very cautious about doing your due diligence to verify the authenticity.

It’s easy to understand that the reason these cards are thicker than standard cards is because they contain some piece of embedded memorabilia (e.g. a piece of a jersey or bat).

It’s important to note here that these “memorabilia” or “relic” cards can also contain additional variations that make them more or less collectible / valuable. For example, some could be autographed with a hand-signature, autographed with a “cut” or “fax” signature, numbered, contain more than one player, etc. Lastly, they could also be graded and/or authenticated by one of the recognized card grading services and depending on the grade, this could make the card even more valuable because of its rarity (i.e. census).

Aside from pulling out your tape measure in an attempt to get a precise measurement of the thickness of your card, a quick and easy way that is commonly used is to stack standard cards on top of each other:

  • 1 standard card = 20 point
  • 3 standard cards = 55 points
  • 4-5 standard cards = 70-75 points
  • 6-8 standard cards = 120-130 points
  • 9-12 standard cards = 180 points

What Kinds of Trading Card Holders Do I Need?

Now that you’ve determined what kind of cards you have, the next question is: what kind of holders or storage supplies do you need in order to keep them protected and safe from damage?

Let me start by saying this: no matter what kind of card you have, it should be in some kind of holder; unless it’s a “common” card and then it doesn’t really matter much since it’s not really worth anything and could otherwise be used for kindling. (That’s a topic for another post….what to do with your commons?)

In a previous post, I went into some of my recommended options for storing your individual and bulk trading cards. To expand further on this, which is also very relevant to this section, I created the below table to give you a high level overview of your available options, whether you are dealing with individual cards or a boat load of cards.


Individual Card Holders

For individual cards, my preferred option is the middle column, which is to first put the card into a penny sleeve, then into a toploader. (The card within the penny sleeve slides into the toploader). From there, I then load the cards into a storage box that holds toploaders. I like this option because penny sleeves and toploaders are cheap to purchase and they don’t take up much space (meaning they are thin and I can, therefore, fit a lot into a storage box). Lastly, I don’t display my cards or show them off very often, so storing them this way is a good option for me.

  • 1 standard card = 20 point – (use standard penny sleeves (2 5/8 x 3 5/8) and standard toploaders (3 x 4))
  • 3 standard cards = 55 points – (use up to 130 pt penny sleeves and 55 pt toploaders)
  • 4-5 standard cards = 70-75 points – (use up to 130 pt penny sleeves and 75 pt toploaders)
  • 6-8 standard cards = 120-130 points – (use up to 130 pt penny sleeves and 130 pt toploaders)
  • 9-12 standard cards = 180 points – (use 180 pt penny sleeves and 180 pt toploaders)

However, some people prefer the right column of individual card holders: snap-tight, screw down, magnetic or acrylic for a few reasons. One reason is that these protect the card better as the plastic is thicker and they leave virtually no possibility to for the card to get damaged. This is especially important if your intention is to display your card somehow, transport it frequently or show it off, which would be another reason to prefer these choices over the toploaders. If this is your intention, then these holders would also be a better option because they are more aesthetically pleasing and can also protect the card from UV light. A couple down sides to these types of card holders is they take up more space, which is an important factor to consider if you have a larger collection of valuable cards, and they are also more expensive, as you would probably expect.

I’d like to point out here that there is one more step that you can take to protect your individual cards that a lot of people do nowadays. If you decide on the middle column (i.e. penny sleeves and toploaders) or the right column (i.e. snaps, screw downs, magnetics, acrylics), then one last step you can take is to put your toploader or card holder into a “team bag”.

“Team bags” are essentially plastic bags that you can slip your toploader, card holder, or even your graded cards (e.g. PSA) into in order to provide that additional protection from dust and any potential damage, like scratches, to the actual case or card holder.


The third and last category are albums / binders. This option is not something that I prefer, but again, these choices are all personal preference. If this is your preferred option, then you would also purchase the binder pages, which typically hold 9 cards per side.

Binder

One reason why I don’t prefer albums / binders is you have a higher likelihood of damaging the corners of the cards when inserting them into their slotted pages. It is not uncommon for cards that have been in and out of binds for the lower corners to be “dog-eared”; that is, the corners are folded back either in the front or the back.

Remember in my “About Me” section when I said that I’ve been collecting cards since I was a kid? Well, what I have found is that over time, it is not uncommon for the pages to stick to the cards. This then makes it very difficult to extract the card without damaging the edges or the corners; and even if you are successful in doing so, then you may find that it left some visible damage to the face of the card to where it had previously been stuck.

Another reason I don’t prefer albums / binders is that when you turn the pages, the cards could slide out from the top ever so slightly. These cards could then verily easily go unnoticed and could result in damage to the top of the card. Lastly, it’s natural to want to try and  jam as many pages into a binder as possible in order to get your money’s worth out of that binder, but since the pages then are no longer laying flat, they could bend the cards out of shape. Also, it makes turning the pages more difficult and the pages could pop out of the binder as a result of the binder being too full, which is just plain annoying.

With all that said, this still may be a good option for you if you know how to do it correctly (e.g. buy high quality pages, store in temperature controlled environment, don’t overload the binder, etc.). It’s also a good option for kids who want to get started collecting cards where more of their focus may be on simply having a collection at all versus keeping high valuable cards safe for a lifetime. There could be other reasons as well where albums / binders are a good option.


Bulk Card Storage

In terms of bulk storage of your ever growing collection, this is going to be a short section because I am a big fan of the trading card boxes and not so much a fan of the card cases. One reason I am not a fan of the card cases is that you need to put the cards in them raw; that is, without first putting them into a penny sleeve, top loader or card holder. This leaves the card vulnerable to damage and wear over time. Also, they generally only hold a very limited amount of cards, as opposed to the boxes, which can hold up to thousands of cards.

Therefore, for reasons of affordability, excellent protection, and maximum real estate, my recommendation is for storage boxes that are large enough to hold toploaders and storage boxes that can hold graded cards.


Summary

In summary, I hope you found this review useful as you continue to grow and hone your trading card collection. A disclaimer that I’d like to make is although I have my preferences, that doesn’t mean the other options are not good or right for you. This ultimately boils down to your personal preference when it comes to what kinds / types of supplies to use to store and display your cards.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions regarding this post, please do feel free to make a comment and I will respond as soon as possible.

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