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Protecting Your Sports Cards – Storage / Card Sleeves / Toploaders / One Touch

It’s time to learn about protecting your sports cards.

While many readers will already be familiar with this information, hopefully this article will contain some helpful and well needed tips for those new to the hobby.

Condition is key

The title says everything. ‘Condition’ is key! Collectors should keep this in mind at all times.

Quite simply, the better condition a sports card is in the more it is worth (obviously once it’s been graded – something we will get to in a future blog).

A cards ability to fetch top dollars tends to increase exponentially according to how well they have been preserved.

An example I found online was Joe Montana’s 1981 Topps Rookie Card

A Montana Rookie Card Graded BGS 9.5 can sell for a substantial sum of money, usually in the $1,500 – $2,000 range. However, 1981 Topps Joe Montana RC Graded BGS 10 Mint sold for $65,000!

Joe Montana – Rookie Card – Graded Pristine 10

Big difference hey?

Sometimes the smallest scratch, damaged corner etc. can devalue a card hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands in some cases. As you can see from the image above, this Joe Montana achieved 10 on all its sub grades ( centering, corners, edges) except for surface which was a 9.5.

There’s a reason sports card protection is a huge market in the world right now and is in such high demand. It has become a big business as more and more collectors look at their sports cards as long term investments.

So what is one to do?

Okay so now that we’ve established why protecting your sports cards is so important, what is one to do?

While there are several options available to you, I will be highlighting just a few of the basic ones.

Whilst there are not many reputable card shops in the UK right now, you can purchase most of these supplies online pretty easily. Just ensure you search around a bit to make sure you’re not overpaying – especially for Toploaders etc.


Storage of your cards is down to personal preference and how much space you have.

Essentially how much room do you have for your cards? Is it a corner of your wardrobe that’s also filled with shirts, trousers and shoes? Or are you one of the lucky ones where your mrs hasn’t claimed the spare room to be her designated dressing room?

I can confirm I am not one of the lucky ones.

There are two basic options available:

  • Binders
  • Card Storage Box


Pages within a binder are made for looking at. You can flip through a set or collection at your leisure and nothing gets mixed up, misplaced, dropped or damaged.

Image Credit – Amazon

There are available nine pocket pages of soft clear plastic. Each pocket can hold one card with both the front and back displayed or two cards back to back. These pages come with holes pre-punched in the side so that they can be easily stored in binders.

Image Credit – BCW

These type pages have been around for 30+ years, however much improvement has been made in their quality over that time. Older pages were either made of hard and brittle plastic that would continually break when the pages were turned. Today’s pages tend to be acid free and made of materials that will not damage your cards under normal conditions. 


Card Storage Boxes

These come in all kinds of sizes from a small box able to hold 100 cards to a five row “monster box” which can accommodate up to 5000 regular sized cards.

These boxes are affordable and are great from experience.

The boxes are made to the height and width of the average trading card meaning that you don’t have to worry as much about them shifting around inside every time you move the box. You can easily sort the cards within numerically, by year, by team or however you chose to and have easy access to them.

Monster Box – Image Credit – Magic Madhouse


Card Sleeves / Toploaders / One Touch

So we’ve looked at different ways of storing your cards up to this point. Obviously if you’re placing your cards in a binder then this part will become redundant, but if you’re planning on using the box method or another form of storage then this will heavily apply.

It’s quite simply a process that you should follow all the time, especially for any ‘hit’ card variations you may inherit when opening personal boxes / packs. You never know what these cards could be worth in the future, so like we said before condition is key!!!

Card Sleeves / Penny Sleeves

So as soon as you open that pack / box etc. first place your ‘hit’ in a soft clear plastic card sleeves, often referred to as “penny sleeves”. As the name implies, they are usually sold in packs of 100 for around £1 (you’ll be lucky, it’s a bit like the 99p flake).

Ultra Pro are a well known brand for Card Sleeves

Your sports card should easily slip inside these sleeves, being careful not to nick any of the corners on the way in. These offer a minimal amount of protection for the cards, but are much better than handling them raw. Many collectors insist on sleeving all of their cards, but this can obviously become rather costly as your collection grows. My personal recommendation would be to take your better or most prized cards and both sleeve them and place them into what are called “toploaders”.


So you’ve placed your card in a penny sleeve so to further protect it we are going to place it in a ‘Toploader’. Toploaders are more rigid than penny sleeves and offer a great deal of protection from handling. These come in a variety of sizes from 35 point (for the standard sized card) on up to 360 point (for much thicker cards). They can also come in rigid and semi rigid versions (usually for grading purposes).

Toploader – Ultra Pro

In the smaller sizes they come 25 to a pack, while many of the thicker sizes contain fewer usually 10. The cards you have already penny sleeved should slip right into these toploaders and can now be handled with much less fear of damage. If you’re not sure which size toploader is right for your cards, reach out to us here at Undrafted. Or use the guide below.

Click here for – Guide Link BCW

Please note – Currently there are a severe lack of toploaders available online, but this is down to manufacturing issues. This should be solved by the end of December I’m hearing – so don’t panic!!

So what about if I’ve got a really rare card e.g. one of one or a special variant? Keep reading.

One Touch

If you have any really nice or expensive cards that you want to buy the best protection for, there are also available magnetic cases, or “one-touches” as they are sometimes referred to.

Ultra Pro – One touch card protector

These also come in a wide variety of thicknesses, these offer an even greater amount of protection. The one above clearly states for a 35 pt card.

These cases are two piece Lucite holders which easily come apart to place the card inside and seal magnetically. Many of these also offer the added benefit of offering UV protection (incase you fancy sun bathing with your one of one Joey Burrow). Since these cases do come apart, and can be prone to scratching, it is also recommended that you buy a package of one-touch bags. These bags can be placed over the holders, are re-sealable and offer one more added layer of protection. These bags are also relatively inexpensive usually coming in 100 count packages for only a few pounds.


The next step up from magnetic cases is to have your cards professionally graded. Then encased by a leading authenticator such as Beckett.

This can be very expensive depending on how many cards you wish to have preserved. But hugely satisfying and beneficial in the long run. I pray one day to have my own black slabbed pristine NFL star. Look below at how beautiful this Kobe Bryant variant is……

We’ll save the more in depth grading chat for another day.

For now, I hope this provided a basic introduction into protecting your sports cards. There are tonnes of options available you just have to see what works for you. Thanks for taking the time to read and if you have any questions on this please get in touch.

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