Boxes or Binders? Choosing the Right Way to Store Your Sports Cards
Finding the cards for your personal collection is the easy part. Getting them at a price that you’re happy with can be a little harder. But once you get that rookie card, autograph or last card for that pesky set, how are you going to store it?
The cluttered desk may be the default option for many of us, but that’s probably not the best choice. If you have a shoebox full of loose cards from when your grandparents were kids, you might want to revisit that, too.
The options for sports card storage are numerous, each with their own pros and cons. So what to choose? Here are some things to consider when you’re deciding which sports cards supplies to get.
No matter what it is that you’re collecting, your budget is always an important place to start. That includes the sports card supplies you might need.
If your budget is limited, you’re not going to put all of your cards in magnetic snap tights. Depending on the size of your collection, pages might be out of the question as well.
Cardboard boxes are the cheapest way to store your cards. Your hobby shop should have them in a variety of sizes ranging from 100 all the way up to several thousand. Even the biggest custom cardboard boxes made specifically for sports cards are affordable when you factor in how many they can hold.
Pages can hold cards in bulk but the cost is significantly higher. A 3,200-count monster box should cost you under $10. A box of 100 nine-pocket pages is probably going to run you somewhere around $20. That’s double the cost for less than one-third of the cards. And that’s not even counting the price of the binder to put the pages in.
Understandably, good storage options for individual cards are the most expensive. Even a box of basic top loaders is going to be significantly more per card than even pages. That jumps even higher for premium holders like those that are sealed magnetically.
How much room do you have for your cards? Is it a corner of your closet that’s also filled with shirts, dress pants and Christmas decorations? Or are you one of the luck ones with a near-empty basement?
If you’re heavy into set building or busting boxes and live in an apartment, pages probably aren’t going to be much of an option. Instead the bulk route of monster boxes are going to be the likely route by default.
And that’s fine, although a good industrial shelf would be a good way to keep the cards safe from a five-foot stack. A good shelf can also make it easier for you to access your cards when you want to sort through them or grab some trade bait.
If space isn’t an issue, you have more options. You may opt to keep sets separate with a variety of smaller cardboard boxes. You may page everything up and make a library of binders. And if you have space, this probably isn’t going to be much of a consideration in the first place.
How Often Are You Going to Be Looking at Them?
How you enjoy your cards — in the way of looking and handling them — should be another major influence in how you store your cards. If you take them out often or show them off to friends on a regular basis, you’re going to want something that’s easy to pull out and can hold up to being handled.
Top loaders and individual holders are good for this if you’re talking about a few cards at a time. It can work for larger sets too, but it’s easy for things to get mixed up.
Pages are made for looking at. You can flip through a set or collection at your leisure and nothing gets mixed up, misplaced, dropped or knocked over.
If you handle cards regularly, bulk boxes may not be the best choice. Even if you’re careful, it’s easy to get small nicks and basic wear. Penny sleeves may offer a happy medium here, although that adds to the cost and space.
What Are the Cards Worth?
The value of your card collection is another consideration. At the extremes, it’s probably not much of a thought. You’re unlikely to put cards worth hundreds or thousands (or even tens) loose in a box.
Likewise, unless there’s some major sentimental value or you insist on being consistent for all of the cards in you’re personal collection, you’re probably not going to put a 1987 Topps common in a magnetic holder.
But there’s a middle ground in there where the choices might not be so clear. A binder page might not offer the same level of protection as a top loader or something even fancier, but as long as the binder is stored properly, you shouldn’t run into any condition issues. It’d still be wise to keep cards you consider valuable as safe as possible within the parameters of space, cost and handling.
Sports Card Storage Pros and Cons at a Glance
To summarize, here’s a brief look at some of good and bad things about major sports card storage options.
• Great for viewing.
• Relatively expensive.
• A large collection can take up a lot of space.
• Not the best protection, although adequate if handled properly.
• Different page types and sizes make it easy to keep cards with different dimensions together.
Top Loaders and Magnetic Holders
• Great card protection.
• Easy to handle cards and look through them.
• Take up a lot of space.
Cardboard Boxes and Monster Boxes
• Don’t take up a lot of space considering how many cards they hold.
• Easiest way to have cards get damaged unless other protection is used.
Chances are, you’re going to use a variety of storage options for your cards. I know I do. My favorite sets and the bulk of my personal collection are in pages. But even within those, I have pieces of those collections elsewhere. My John Jaha one-of-ones are in top loaders and magnetic holders. So are key pieces from my Expos collection. And as for the random parts of my card collection, they’re largely packed away in monster boxes so that, hopefully, I can find them when I need them.
What do you use to hold your cards? What do you avoid? Let us know in the comments below or keep the conversation going on Twitter.