4 Reasons NOT to Use Tape on Top Loaders


Tape Dispenser

By Ryan Cracknell | Hobby Editor | Commentary

Taped top loaders are common. It’s what many of us do to keep cards from flopping out and getting wrecked in the mail.

But is putting tape on the end of a top loader the best and safest way to protect cards headed out in the mail?


Some types of tape are better than others (clear packing tape and scotch tape are the worst), but you may want to avoiding it all together. Here are four reasons why.

1. It leaves a sticky, gunky mess or rough edges.

When I get a card in a taped top loader, I have two choices: break the seal or keep it like I received it — with the tape covering up my view of part of the card and breaking with the rest of my top loaders.

Peeling tape off a top loader often leaves a sticky residue that’s both ugly and makes other top loaders stick to it. Butter, nail polish remover or other things could be used to remove the residue, but that takes time. Not cleaned properly, these things might also leave behind something that could damage any cards inside. They might be safe, but is a top loader worth the risk?

One can also free the cards by cutting the top edge. That still leaves tape on the holder. Cards are a visual medium. To me, tape on a top loader is like crayon stripe on the wall of my kid’s bedroom. I can live with it, but there’s part of me that know that it’s there.

It’s not ideal and I want it gone.

2. It’s wasteful.


I don’t keep my cards in taped top loaders, freed or sealed. That means whenever I get one, I need to transfer it to another, tape-free holder and the old one is tossed.

“But you could recycle that top loader.”

Yes, I could. If I sold or traded regularly. But I don’t.

I’d like to trade more, but life often gets in the way. So in the rare instances that I’m mailing cards, I use new top loaders. More than anything, this is about space and convenience. I don’t want to save boxes of taped top loaders. I need to store them in a separate place.

Plus, if I prefer not to get taped top loaders, why should I expect others to? “That’s just the way it is” are lyrics from a Bruce Horsnby song I’ve probably heard a few hundred times, not the way things have to be.

3. It can damage the cards.

Tape on top loaders can damage cards a couple of ways, one directly and one indirectly.

The first is that it can stick to cards if things shift around while in transit.


Maybe they can be unstuck without harm, maybe not. The point is that someone should never be put in that position in the first place.

I’ve hard a couple of cards damaged while trying to free them from taped top loaders. Regular Scotch tape can be pulled apart pretty easy, but the more plastic kind usually requires a knife or pair of scissors to separate. As careful as I try to be, I’ve had the scissors slip once the cut has been made, leaving a small indent in the top of the card. One could blame my unsteady hands but safe, tape-free shipping would have negated the need for a knife in the first place.

4. It could make you “uncool.”


Okay, the idea being “uncool” is silly and childish. But if you use scotch tape on your top loaders, it could damage your reputation.

That’s important if you’re looking for repeat business. Tape is a common practice and for the majority, it’s not a big deal. But some do have very strong feelings about it, especially if they’ve had a card damaged because of it.

Even if scotch tape across the top of a top loader is accepted by many, that doesn’t mean we can’t still strive to do things better. It’s one small step in offering the best possible service, whether that’s in sales or trades.

If the goal is always getting cards through the mail safely, there are other options, even in the world of tape. Colored painters tape gets rid of the gunk and waste issues as it peels off easily. However, it’s still sticky on the bottom and cards can still slide up and latch on.

Better still is the team bag route. They’re affordable and readily available at most hobby shops and online. Team bags are the perfect size for top loaders. They seal the card in with a simple flap that goes over top of the bag. That means the top loader is kept clean and no sticky stuff gets in the way. If you keep a stock nearby, they’re also extremely fast.

Team Bags

Ultimately, it’s up to you, the shipper, to get you cards to your customers and trade partners safe. If cards are damaged en route, either by taped top loaders or other forms of poor packaging, it’s your responsibility to make it right. Giving one refund or even losing one customer over a piece of tape might be enough to make you reconsider the practice.

Comments? Questions? Contact Ryan Cracknell on Twitter @tradercracks.


Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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  1. J.Wood S.R. 16 May, 2017 at 16:59

    Team bags are the way to go for sure. Keeps cards in, keeps alot of other things out! Protects cards well and makes for a very easy ship!!!

  2. Kerry 16 May, 2017 at 18:33

    Painters tape is great except for thick cards as a strip of sticky tape hovers over the card edge. I really detest scotch tape on plastic, but if you insist on using it create a flap to pull off!

  3. David Hollingsworth 16 May, 2017 at 19:34

    What I hate is sellers that tape the card holders together so tight that you need a surgeons hand to carefully get the cards apart and out of the card holder without damaging them.

  4. Jamie W 16 May, 2017 at 19:35

    Team Bags for the Win! Its the only way I ship! Scotch Tape is the crack of the sports cards world.

  5. cemians 16 May, 2017 at 19:40

    Well said. I haven’t seen where a tape ruined a card I received.. and many time, they kinda squeeze the top of the top loader with the tape so the card stays put inside the holder.

    Some of the better sellers actually send the card in a magnetic ultra pro holder with self sealing plastic bag. This is the best for me.

  6. Jamie carpenter 17 May, 2017 at 03:30

    why not rubber band(elestics)the jumbo 1’s and wrap it around tell snug on the one touch or stack of hard covers both horizontal and vertical…i do 2 horizontal top and bottem and 1 vertical

  7. IAmNotARobot 17 May, 2017 at 09:14

    Good article. I use team bags – no tape. I’ve had sellers tape cards in penny sleeves between pieces of cardboard and the same problems arise. It’s tough to free them without some damage. It’s better to place a stack of cards in sleeves between two top loaders in a team bag. I also reuse the team bags and bubble mailers as long as they aren’t damaged.

  8. Steve C 17 May, 2017 at 09:35

    I actually put the top loader in a sandwich bag, then use a rubber band to hold it together. Ive had no complaints from traders, or buyers. Tape drives me nuts when I receive, even on redemptions.

  9. Billy 17 May, 2017 at 15:02

    Use a sticky note over it. You don’t need to use the entire note…just the part of it with the adhesive. Works great and peels right off.

  10. David Rodrigues 19 May, 2017 at 12:42

    Tape! One of my pet hates, on top loaders terrible when used directly on top loaders. Doesn’t matter how new they may look I dispose of them instantly. Even if it’s 5 cent extra for s team bag just do it. 5 cents shouldn’t break the bank people


  11. Dana 19 May, 2017 at 13:14

    I like the mini Post-Its over the top edge, or a narrow strip of paper. Use painters’/masking tape to hold the paper in place.

    But yes, team bags are also recommended. I would prefer someone use Scotch tape on the top edge, rather than just shipping with nothing at all to prevent the card from slipping out of the toploader altogether, resulting in bent card or dinged corners.

  12. Dana 19 May, 2017 at 13:15

    Goo Gone or rubbing alcohol works wonders on getting stuck-on tape off of toploaders, by the way.

  13. Zachary R Polk 25 May, 2017 at 19:15

    Great article, coming from a fellow “tape hater”. Agreed, post it’s seem to be just as effective, without all the negatives of scotch tape!

  14. kate 19 June, 2017 at 13:00

    I rarely sell, but I am a tape hater myself. I didn’t have the bags, so I wrapped the top loaders in saran wrap. Received great feedback from buyer regarding the packaging.

  15. Bobby Sparling 23 December, 2017 at 20:34

    Scotch tape directly on top loader is the worst if you’re trying to save the top loader. The best way to ship your card it is to put the card in the penny sleeve in the top loader and then into a team bag. seal the bag and then put tape across the bag over the top loader. That way you can open the team bag and pull top loader out with no tape. If that makes sense

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