Some days do I wish I was a kid still? Of course. But do I also enjoy growing up and becoming wiser in my ways? Definitely.
When I was a kid I had tens of thousands of cards. Not a flex—I used to go around to flea markets and garage sales with my dad looking for big card collections to buy and we’d come home with bins and bins.
Problem is, the cards would forever stay in bins and bins.
When I’d want to go through those cards, which was basically every weekend, I’d drag the bins out, scoop up the cards buy the handfuls and go through them. I’d catalog, sort, and separate, but when the time was up, I’d throw them all back into the bins.
I cringe now thinking back to those moments, but as a kid, it was the only thing I knew.
Point is, that isn’t the best way to store cards. In fact, it’s one of the worst ways to store cards. I know that now, and I also know how you should store cards.
In addition, though, as an experienced card collector, I also know that while cards are meant to be stored, they are also meant to be enjoyed. Some get that enjoyment from physically touching the cards while others like to look. I’m a little bit of both, which is why I’ve put together a number of different ways for you to store (and enjoy) your cards.
First of all, it’s important to know all that is at your disposal. This includes the basics like boxes, binders, and sleeves—the basics, right? But you also want to know there are a number of different items under each of these product umbrellas.
Second of all, it’s more than knowing which box is best—combinations between holder and box is also important. If you want a quick primer, here are some thoughts.
- Always use penny sleeves when storing cards in top loaders
- Some people place penny sleeves on top of cards in top loaders
- Screw downs can cause a lot of damage to surfaces and corners
- Don’t try and force Card Savers into boxes that weren’t made for them
- Don’t try and force thick cards into standard top loaders
- Use penny sleeves for valuable cards in binders
- Top loaders and one-touches can fit in monster boxes
With that, let’s dive in!
When it comes to boxes, there are a number of different shapes and sizes. While size might mostly mean “how many cards do you need to store” it can also mean the height of the box and the width of the rows. This is an important point because not all types of cards should go into just any box, and incorrectly forcing cards into a box can cause damage to the box, sure, but also the cards.
Single Row Boxes
The most basic type of card storage box is this “single row” box that can hold anywhere from 50 to 1,000 cards, or maybe even more. They come in different sizes in terms of card count and are best for cards placed in penny sleeves or no sleeve at all.
They are probably best for storing entire sets of cards, with the end caps on either side providing a convenient place to write the set name, etc.
I personally only use these boxes transitionally. Meaning, if I open a hobby box of cards, I’ll place the contents into one of these boxes until I figure out what I want to do with them. Because I store my sets in folders, I don’t have much other use for them.
Going back to my childhood story, if you have a lot of cards you just need to get into better protection, then a monster box might be your option. While the single row box can only hold up to 800 cards, a Monster Box can be available in 4-rows, which means storage for 3,200 cards. I’ve also seen larger boxes with 5 rows that can hold 1,000 cards each, or 5,000 cards total.
I personally utilize a few of these, housing commons and rookies I simply don’t have the time to sort out and do anything with, but stored in a way to preserve their condition in case a big rookie pops up out of nowhere and I need to all of a sudden scramble to find them.
Now, if you don’t have as many cards but perhaps cards you want to put into top loaders or magnetic one-touches, then listen up.
Shoe Boxes come in lesser quantities, as in 2 or 3 rows with 800 cards each so 1,600 or 2,400 cards total. That said, these shoe boxes can accommodate cards in cases, and if so, will hold far fewer.
Here you see one shoe box with 3 rows for cards in magnetic one-touches, and another with 2 rows that are being used for cards in top loaders. (If you want quantities of each,
Graded Card Boxes
So far we have covered how to store raw cards, or cards in a penny sleeve, top loader, or magnetic one-touch. But what about graded slabs?
On quick look, graded card boxes might resemble shoe boxes—a couple of rows and a lid. But upon looking closer (or trying and failing), you’ll see that graded cards won’t fit in standard shoe boxes.
So, there are boxes specifically made for slabs. These have wider rows but also leave more space at the top for the lid to be placed comfortably.
With card holders, you’re going to see a lot of the same thing—some thick, others thin; some rigid, others flexible. A lot of your choice here depends on what you plan on doing with the card once it is in a sleeve or holder.
The penny sleeve can be thought of as your first line of defense. Sometimes it fights on its own, and other times it teams up with other holders to wage the war against card destruction.
(If you don’t know what a penny sleeve is, I’m sure you’ve seen one before and just never knew the proper name—it’s the flimsy plastic card sleeve you see a lot of cards in.)
On its own, the penny sleeve is good for storing cards not yet worthy enough of a top loader. Or, if you’re ripping a box of cards and/or going through a big collection and don’t have time to put everything worthy of a top loader in a top loader at that moment, a penny sleeve is a good first step.
Reason being, before you place a card in a top loader (or binder page), you’ll want it to be in a penny sleeve anyway.
I don’t know about you, but when I was young, the good cards went in Card Savers…I don’t even remember having any cards in top loaders. These days, things have changed a bit, but semi-rigid card holders still very much have their place within the hobby.
Some prefer such holders because they keep the card snug and in place better than a top loader. They also take up les space in your boxes. Not to mention that if your plan is to get a lot of your cards graded at some point, PSA prefers/recommends/requires(?) cards be submitted in Card Saver I, specifically (not Card Saver II).
Please note there are specific storage boxes for Card Savers!
As mentioned above, the top loader doesn’t hold your card as tight, but it sure does offer a barrier of rigid plastic that keeps your card nice and protected while inside your different boxes.
Also noted earlier, you don’t want to try and slide your cards into top loaders without a penny sleeve on them first. There is simply too much that could go wrong, and that extra jiggle can easily lead to a corner ding, while that fleck of whatever on the inside can cause surface issues.
The nice thing about top loaders is that they come in different sizes, with holders to accommodate basic cards, thicker stock, or chunky relics.
Read More: Card Savers vs. Top Loaders
Perhaps my favorite card holder, which makes sense because I use them to hold my favorite cards! The magnetic one-touch comes apart into to pieces—a holder and a top.
The holder has a recessed inlet where the card can lay flat, and then the top piece is placed into grooves and brought together by magnet.
Here is a video showing what I mean, and also showcasing some of that sound and feel that just makes the one-touch so amazing for your cards:
Ok, I’ll be honest—I don’t think many people use screw down holders any more. For me personally, I know for a fact the only cards left in a screw down are those I acquired in a screw down, and don’t have enough value for me to care to pull them out for placement into a different type of holder.
One thing I’ve seen floating around is that a screw down can damage a card’s corners and/or its surface over time. Part of the reason is because when the card is pressed or sandwiched, it starts to adhere it self to the case.
One-touches took the place of screw down holders many of us used in the 90’s as it was found they did damage to cards over the long term— Primetime (@primetimesc2) April 21, 2020
Not to mention the inconvenience of having to physically uncrew the case any time you want to make a change.
Last but not least, one of my favorite methods—the frame. Listen, I think cards can be art more than anything at times, so I definitely treat certain PC items as so. There came a point where I was just collecting autos aimlessly, but then found purpose thanks to these frames, and now collect autos in themes so that I can frame them up and display them nicely.
The frames I use are custom made, but I believe Michaels and other stores offer these in at least a 9-card holder and potentially more or less.
Another extremely popular method for storing cards over the years has been pages, as in a card binder or folder.
If you’ve been around cards at any point over the last 40 years, you’ve definitely seen a card binder in action. And, for good reason—they are convenient, can protect your cards, and do so in a way that you can also sort and look at them with no problem.
Perhaps the biggest drawback is potential damage when adding or removing cards from pages. For this reason, putting cards in penny sleeves before they are inserted into binder pages can help alleviate some of that risk.
Now, while I like binders, I’ve recently developed a love for folders!
As you can see here, they are similar to binders, but offer these main differences:
- Sleek thin design
- Multiple colors
- Black pages instead of clear
Given the above, many of the reasons I like these is simply because they look better. I don’t believe they offer any better protection except for the fact you load cards from the side, and the bigger edge on the side of the card doesn’t so much pressure on the bottom edge and corners.
One drawback, though, is that you can’t view the cards from the back. Another is that the binder offers the hard back and front covers, while the folders are much softer (but also take up less room as a result).