If you are new to collecting a TCG, you may be wondering about what you can do to protect your cards and keep them in great condition. Maybe you intend on sending them to a grading service like PSA but you are nervous about doing something that could potentially drop their grade while storing them. In this beginner’s guide, we will go over the best ways to protect and store your trading cards.
Penny Sleeves –
Whether you play competitively or want to protect your trading card investment as a collector, the very first thing you should do is place your cards into a thin card sleeve, also known as a ‘Penny Sleeve’. The most popular brand among collectors are the Ultra PRO card sleeves, because they are cheap, have nothing harmful inside of them, and have a crystal clear finish to keep your cards looking their best. These can be picked up at your LGS or ordered online.
For collectors who want a snugger fit, or for competitive players who want to fit their Penny Sleeved card into a Deck protector sleeve, you can buy KMC sleeves. These are typically higher quality and leave no room at all around the edges of your cards.
A top tip for using a Penny Sleeve and a Deck protector sleeve together is to slip your card upside down into the Penny Sleeve. Then, slip the card into the Deck protector sleeve, with the bottom going in first. This will mean that every edge is covered by a protector and will help ensure no dust gets inside of it.
Deck Protector Sleeves –
Deck Protectors are not only a must for competitive players, they can also be used by collectors who are looking for more support when it comes to protecting their cards. These can come in a variety of themes to make them more personalised, with official ones released by most TCG companies. It is important when buying deck protectors that they are good quality and state ‘acid free’ on the packaging.
Many collectors prefer getting clear Deck Protectors because it allows them to see the condition of the card’s back. Deck Protectors fit into most card binders, which makes them ideal for giving extra protection when displayed in one. To take things one step further, you can buy oversized penny sleeves that can slip perfectly over the Deck Protector and then put into a folder (kind of like a TCG babushka doll).
It is worth noting that some trading cards can be slightly different sizes from others, so you will want to make sure that you get Deck Protectors that will fit your TCG cards perfectly. Trying to cram a large or longer trading card into the wrong sized Deck Protector can result in damaging your card.
Card Saver – Semi Rigids
Card Savers are flexible pouches that add another level of protection for your trading cards. Although Card Savers are designed to prevent any scratches, it is always a good idea to place your card into a Penny Sleeve first. Card Savers are easy to open up, which is great for getting your cards in and out without a struggle. For grading purposes, most companies require shipment in Semi-Rigids, so it’s worth reading their packaging guidelines before sending your cards for grading. Although these are a great way to protect your cards, many collectors prefer Top Loaders, as they are made from a sturdier plastic.
Top Loader –
Top Loaders are far more rigid than Card Savers, which gives an added level of protection. They are also smaller, which means they take up slightly less room. Although many people prefer to use Top Loaders, it is important to use a Penny Sleeve when placing anything in one, as the plastic edges of the Top Loader pose a risk of scratching a bare card. Also, it makes it much easier to pull the card out without causing any damage. Like with the Deck Protector, you can place your card into a penny sleeve upsidedown, then place the card into the Top Loader bottom first.
Card Binders are probably the most common way to store and display your collection. These not only protect your trading cards but allow you to organise them in any way you would like. Although most Binders do a great job, if you want crystal clear plastic pages, always buy a high-quality Binder or an official one sold by a TCG company like Bandai or the Pokemon Company.
One thing you should be wary of buying is the separate card sleeve sheets that go into a traditional ring binder. Often, the weight of the cards can drag down and damage the punched holes in the plastic sheet. This will not only look bad but also runs the risk of the pages ripping free and damaging the cards.
When placing cards into a Binder, always remember to place them into a Deck Protector first. This will stop your cards from moving around when you look through your collection or travel around with them.
Large Sleeves –
For some trading cards that are in graded slabs or screw-down holders, you can get large sleeves made from the same material as penny sleeves. These will protect your trading cards from dust and scratches and will leave your collection looking fresh. Ultra PRO do a number of varying sizes, which makes them fantastic to store other TCG related products like unopened packs, booster boxes or promotional material.
Storing Commons / Extras –
A good way to store your lesser value cards is by simply using promotional tins or strengthened boxes, like the Elite Trainer boxes in the Pokemon TCG or the Draft Boxes in the DBS CG. Many of these are big enough to fit Top Loaders too, which is helpful for storing away some of your higher value cards. You can usually find cheap card divider boxes from local Shipping and storage companies that will fit your cards perfectly in rows.
Keep Your Cards Away From The Elements –
Never leave your cards in the sun, as this can wash out the colour, warp and even cause peeling. Equally, you don’t want to leave them in a place that can get steamed up like a utility room. This can also lead to warping, layers peeling or the surfaces getting damaged.
Protection When Sending In The Post
When posting cards to be graded or to a buyer, make sure you use a Top Loader or a Card Saver. Remember to place the card into a Penny Sleeve first, as it will add further protection. Although a Top Loader paired with a Penny Sleeve can be perfectly adequate for posting to a buyer, grading services like Ludkins Collectables, prefer Card Savers over Top Loaders, as they are easier to take out of the pouch. Although you may have done your part, it’s important to remember that mail services aren’t always as delicate. By placing your Card Saver into a tough cardboard letter, you are giving your card the best possible chance of staying in perfect condition. If your card is of considerable value, you may want to explore insurance options in case of anything bad happening in transit.
By following the tips we have shared in this article, you can ensure that your trading cards are kept in immaculate condition, especially if you intend on getting them graded in the future! To learn more about PSA grading, check out our beginners guide here.
Mathew Parkes – Ludkins Media
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