A simple way to keep your most important sports card supplies tidy and organized

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By Ryan Cracknell | Hobby Editor

I’m not a fan of clutter. Yet, I regularly find myself surrounded by it. It’s always more fun to look at cards than organize them to the point where they’re put away. It’s easier to shuffle through a a handful and set them aside (with good intentions, of course) to be packed up or paged at a later date. Those handfuls become stacks. Those stacks seem to quickly multiply and become small mountains. And before you know it, even if you know exactly where a card is in case of emergency, it’s chaos.

Today, that chaos isn’t limited to just the cards themselves. Unless you’re careful, it carries over into the realm of supplies with strewn penny sleeves and all sorts of holders. Stacks of random top loaders are meant to be precise in thickness but instead they’re grouped loosely into small, medium and large. At least, that’s the way it is for me.

I should probably use the past tense. Although I’m still dreadfully guilty of letting cards stack up, one cheap and simple purchase has kept my most-used sports card supplies in order. It also lets me easily what I need to get when I make a supply run.


This is it. A plain plastic box about the size of a shoe box. I bought it at Target a while back for a dollar or two. It could probably use some Garbage Pail Kids or those holograms that came with early Upper Deck Baseball sets, but I’m just happy to be organized.

The easy thing to do would just be toss the supplies inside, attach the lid and walk away. And that’s pretty much what I did for years, albeit with shoe boxes.

And for a long time, that chaos method worked.

Cards were, pretty much, all the same size back then. And those that were larger could fit in a random over-sized page or one of my comic bag and boards. But as cards have evolved in their dimensions and thickness, the number of top loaders alone has soared. I don’t even keep every one on hand and I’ve got a half-dozen different sizes. And you pretty much have to. Even if you’re only buying cheaper products like Topps Baseball, you’re going to end up with a relic card or premium insert that needs something more than a basic top loader.

I tried lining them up on my desk but they’d often get knocked over and mixed up. That’s not to mention the fact that it cut down on valuable desktop real estate for my ever-present and always-growing card stacks.

A fluke discovery had me realize that the box is roughly double the width of a pack of top loaders. That means I can easily make two columns. I start with the thinnest ones (35 pt) in front on one side then proceed to load the next size up (55 pt) behind it. And keep going.


Another key part of this simple solution is keeping the top loaders in the thin tray packaging they come in. First, it keeps the sizes separate and from mixing up. More importantly, it’s an easy visual reminder for when I’m out of something and need to head to the card shop for more. Even if the tray is empty, it holds its spot until there’s a replacement.

Because I don’t keep a stash of all top loader sizes (living on the edge, I know), it leaves me with plenty of space for the other supplies I use with at least a little regularity — magnetic holders and penny sleeves primarily. I also like to keep a roll of blank labels on hand for boxes and my Expos team sets.

All in all, I’d say it’s pretty tidy.

I’m sure there are plenty of variations on this “box full of top loaders” method. A shoe box would be even cheaper, although probably not as durable. More elegant options exist as well. Whatever you choose, it’s a simple way to keep supplies handy, know what you need and keep a little bit of order in a world of happy collecting chaos.

What tricks do you have to keep your cards and supplies tidy?

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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. larry robidoux 20 August, 2015 at 18:59

    I do a similar method but with a little twist.. I have a separate container for the older ones but I still keep them in order. (recycle in an emergency) I also have a container for bubble envelopes that I can cut up to use as padding. Also I write on the penny sleeve bag if its reg size or for thicker or team bags. Another trick on top loaders that I know you will love is >>>> drum roll>>>> Everyone has a sharpie (I hope) and to make good use of it try putting dots on the bottom of them to show different sizes.. 1 for the thinnest (normal 35pt) up to 6 dots for thicker(180pt) and add dots to coincide with larger sizes.. more dots =thicker top loaders. make sure to mark them right after you tear the plastic off so just in case you drop it you will still be able to put them back in order cause it happened to me the first time…lol… :-) Hope these tips help.

  2. Steve-Dood 21 August, 2015 at 21:38

    Any tips help one another…….I believe.
    Maybe I could ask a question ?? I have used ‘Zip-Loc’ plastic bags for the ultimate resting place……..for some portions of my collection. Is using this form of storage (PVC’s I believe were used in the manufacturing process) good or bad on sports cards?? They are 1st put in a penny sleeve and then a top loader. I have read ‘mixed’ comments about the PVC world…….but never any direct comments about mixing the two ???? ANYBODYS INPUT would be helpful……..THANKS in advance

  3. Eileen Benson 30 September, 2019 at 11:57

    It was helpful when you explained that keeping top loaders in their tray packaging helps keep the sizes separate. My husband wants to start collecting sports memorabilia. Your tips should help him keep any baseball cards he buys safely and neatly organized!

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