One of the most overlooked aspects of the hobby is how to safely store a baseball card collection. While our opinion is not a one-size-fits-all, it is based upon decades of collecting and witnessing the successes and the failures of collectors through the thousands of collections we have purchased.
One of the worst things that we see, aside from cards that are just tossed in bags and boxes, are valuable cards that have been entombed in thick, Lucite screw down holders.
Why is this so bad?
Over time, the changes in humidity and the pressure under which the screw down was sealed impress upon the Lucite so that the card surface adheres to the Lucite and when the holder is opened, the card's surface tears away from the cardboard stock, rendering the card far less valuable than had it been stored more safely.
If the card surface isn't torn, it is not uncommon for the torque to press the card's corners and flatten the stock. This creates a "glaze" or shininess from the flattening and may prompt a third-party grader to reject the card as exhibiting evidence of being "altered."
When a collector contacts Just Collect and has high value cards in these screw downs, we ask that the card(s) be removed before shipping or before providing images for a preliminary evaluation.
A majority of the products that are mentioned in this blog are produced and/or distributed by Cardboard Gold, BCW Diversified and Ultra Pro and can be purchased directly from reliable sellers on the Internet and on eBay.
What Does Just Collect Recommend
Here are some of the materials that you might want to consider (and some to avoid) when you're storing your valuable sports cards. We have added some pros and cons for each.
These thin, clear polypropylene sleeves should be acid free and archival safe for storage of cards. They are referred to as "Penny Sleeves," because they used to be sold in bags of 100 for $1.00 (a penny per sleeve), although they are now a bit more expensive Offered in varying sizes, they are great for secondary protection when using several of the other items listed below. We have also seen them used as protection for cards that will be housed in shoe boxes, monster boxes or set boxes.
Penny sleeves are available in a variety of sizes fitting standard sized cards as well as over-sized and undersized cards. Not all penny sleeves are created equal, so shop around and make sure that the ones that you purchase are archival safe.
Many collectors have expressed concern about damaging cards while attempting to slip them into the sleeves. A simple trick is to take a pair of scissors and clip off a corner of the top of the sleeve. This allows the sleeve to open a bit easier and provides an angle for the collector to more safely insert the card.
PROS: Inexpensive and readily available. CONS: Can nick cards when being inserted. They do not stack well and can be very slick.
Top Loaders (Rigid)
Top loaders have been around for quite some time and when used with penny sleeves, may provide some of the best protection at an affordable price.
These are very popular and come in a wide variety of sizes and thicknesses. With the much thicker patch and relic cards that are currently being produced and issued in some of the higher end products (ranging from 20 to 360 points of thickness), the wider opening top loaders provide the easiest and best protection. The most secure way to utilize a top loader is with a penny sleeve -- assuming that you are able to have one that meets the thickness requirements of the card. The penny sleeve limits the amount of impact of the card against the top loader.
When using a thicker top loader for some of the thicker cards that are currently available, many people will put a piece of tape over the top. We do not recommend this practice as the adhesive of the tape may transfer to the edge of the card. Instead, we would suggest sealing the top loader inside of a self-adhesive team bag.
PROS: Good protection. Fits most sized cards. CONS: Cards may slip or slide out.
Card Savers (Semi Rigid)
These are one of Just Collect's favorite baseball card holders in the hobby. They are resilient and offer a wide range of applications without the limitations of being too big or too small. CardSaver 1 is Just Collect's preferred holder (also the preferred holder for PSA, SGC and Beckett for graded card submissions). We love the flexibility of using one holder for a wide range of card sizes. Whether a large 1950's Topps or Bowman card, a smaller Leaf, Bowman, tobacco and strip cards or the standard sized cards of today, the CardSaver 1 is the answer.
PROS: Holds most sized cards in one size holder. Are relatively inexpensive and do not take a lot of space. CONS: Can be flimsy when stored singularly.
We have seen many collections that were stored in the 1990's and early 2000's with key cards screwed tightly into these holders. Many thought the thicker, the better. Unfortunately, these holders put too much pressure on the cards that were stored in them. The pressure that was created by tightening the screws would often cause the cards to stick to the holder or to flatten or "glaze" the corners -- rendering them worth much less.
Eventually, collectors and manufacturers realized this flaw and created a holder with a recess that would reduce the pressure and the contact the card would have with the holder. While still not the best option, the recessed screw down holder would be preferred over the non-recessed version.
Eventually, the 4-screws would be replaced with a smaller, single screw and then a magnetic closure.
PROS: Very secure. CONS: Can damage cards. They are heavy, expensive and take up a lot of space.
After the advent of the screw down holders and the complications that they eventually presented, the hobby adapted and worked to create a smaller, more efficient storage vehicle that also allowed for quality display. The Snap-Tite holder was a clear plastic holder that snapped together. These were inexpensive, but often would separate or loosen, allowing the contents to shift or slip out and become damaged.
Taking the single screw holder a step further, the recessed one-touch holder was a great alternative and was sealed by a magnet where the screw was previously. The one-touch holders come with a wide array of thicknesses for storage of standard as well as many of the thicker jersey and patch cards.
PROS: Good protection. Easy to display and easy to handle. CONS: Can become expensive when housing a large collection.
Boxes and Binders
For collectors who are interested in viewing their cards, keeping them easily accessible or having them in a format that allows for showing them off on a regular basis, storing them in small two row shoe boxes makes storage and retrieval easy. Storing them in pages and securing them in binders makes sets and collections easy to flip through and store nicely on bookshelves.
Make certain that whatever you use for storage is acid-free and archival safe. There is nothing worse than going back to your collection and finding that the plastics that you've used have deteriorated and damaged your collection.
PROS: Boxes are relatively inexpensive and provide good protection. CONS: Binders and pages can be expensive and take up space.
Don't do it! Laminate your prom pictures. Laminate pictures of your children or pets. Laminate your driver's license. Do NOT laminate your sports cards! While this might seem like a great way to seal and protect your card, it will render it virtually worthless.
Always Consider and Prepare for the "Worst Case Scenario"
When putting your cards away for storage, keep in mind the worst case scenarios. What if a pipe bursts? What if the basement floods? What if the attic or garage gets too hot or too cold? Find a place that has some climate control and isn't not subject to large temperature changes or humidity.
Remember, the most dangerous things to your cards are; moisture, light, heat and insects. Protecting your collection from these concerns isn't as difficult as one might think, but being proactive is the important step.
Video of Some Storage Suggestions
Schedule an Appointment to Meet Just Collect at a Show Near You
Just Collect travels to several shows on a regular basis. In the New York area, we often attend the White Plains Show at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY. If you're in the New England area, you can make an appointment to meet with one of our specialists when we're in the area for the Shriner's Show at the Aleppo Auditorium in Wilmington, MA. We also visit the Metro-DC area when we attend the CSA Show in Chantilly, VA. If you're in the South Jersey or Delaware area, you can also schedule appointments while we're in the Philadelphia area when we do The Philly Show in Valley Forge, PA.
We set up at The National Sports Collectors Convention every year and this year. Next year, 2020, The National will be at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, NJ. It has also been in Cleveland, Chicago and Baltimore in recent years. Additionally, we travel to the Sports Card and Memorabilia Expo in Mississauga, Ontario for those of you in the Toronto area that want to meet with us in Canada.
We've run into a wide range of people and collections over the past decade. Although we are known for buying vintage sports cards and especially vintage basketball cards, we are also extremely interested in buying non-sports cards, also!
Every collection and every collector is different and we treat EVERY collection with the respect and attention that we show for our own collections. We understand that many have put their heart and soul into building their collection. So when you're ready to sell, Just Collect understands the feelings that you're going through and we will work with you to help you reach a decision that is a WIN/WIN, because if you're not happy, we're not happy.
Won't They Be Worth More if I Grade Them Myself
We discuss all of the selling options with everyone that we meet with. In most cases, selling the collection on their own will put the most money on the bottom line, but it will also take an large commitment of time and energy and one that most are not ready or able to undertake. Another misconception is that grading the collection will return more money. When I hear people say, "You're just going to grade them and get ten times the money," I almost cringe. Grading a collection can be a money losing proposition, especially if you don't know what you're doing. And most times, we grade very few, if any cards, from average collections that we buy.
We value a collection based upon the condition and the value. If a card is worth $100 in a PSA 7 NM, we're going to value it at $100 whether it is ungraded or graded. You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars grading your cards, but we're still valuing them the same and paying the same regardless of how much you've invested in grading them.
We Are Always Buying
Just Collect is always buying vintage sports and non-sports cards from 1879 to 1979 as well as select modern cards. If you have a collection that you are considering selling, contact us today to discuss your collection and get our industry leading purchase offer. If you have a collection that you want appraised, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss your collection and help you understand the real cash value of your collection in the current marketplace.
Don't hesitate to check out our Google Reviews left by many of the great people that have considered selling collections to Just Collect.