Baseball Card Collecting Tips: How To Organize Your Collection

How to organize, preserve, store and best protect your baseball card collection from damage or being lost.

Baseball cards and I have had a long 35 year love-hate relationship. While I have steadily collected them since I was five years old, my disorganization and neglect them in the early part of our relationship has been an occasional source of pain. There was the day when I was in 5th grade, that my mother, tired of picking my cards off the floor, burned a whole box of them. Gone were Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose, Sandy Koufax and a host of others. Then a few years later when the hobby became mainstream, I scrambled to the nearest price guide to put a value on my collection. It was at that time that I began to realize that the condition of the card affect its value. Bundling them together with rubber bands was a big no-no, as was storing them in shoe boxes. So began my quest to learn more about how to take care of and store my cards.


My first attempt at organizing my cards was to put them card into 8" x 11" vinyl sheets that held 9 cards to a page. These sheets were then placed into 1"-3" wide Binders for added protection and viewing. Albums of these types are still rather popular with collectors. But there were a few draw backs to storing my cards in albums. For one, not all manufacturers of vinyl sheets were created equal. The material used varied. Some used a hard type of vinyl that was rigid and often damaged the cards that went into them. Others had pockets that were cut short and the top ends of the cards dangled out. When storing cards into vinyl sheet, be sure to examine the sheets for fit and flexibility. These sheets go for about 20 cents a piece in discount stores, 15 cents a piece at sports memorabilia stores, and about 10 cents a piece at card shows. For even better pricing, they can be bought in larger quantities on line.

Penny Sleeves:

Only a short time after I began using the vinyl sheet for protecting my cards, I discovered the wonders of the penny sleeve. Penny sleeves are exactly what the name implies. They are tiny translucent single card vinyl sleeves that offer individual protection for cards. These sleeves measure 2 5/8" x 3 5/8"and generally cost about a penny a piece. They are sold in packs of 100 sleeves each. Penny sleeves can be used in many ways. They can be used to hold an individual card that later is put into a box for additional storage, or the sleeved card can be put into the individual pockets of the vinyl sheets. Like with the vinyl sheets, not all manufacturers produce sleeves to the same specification. Some sleeves are wider or longer than others, and some of the wider sleeves do not fit the pockets of the vinyl sheets. Be sure to sample the brand of sleeve before ordering a large quantity of them.

Top Loaders:

No sooner had I graduated to penny sleeves that I started to acquire some pretty expensive cards for my collection. For these cards the penny sleeves did not offer adequate protection. Top loaders, like penny sleeves are holders for individual cards, only they are not thin and flimsy. Top loaders measure 3"x 4," and are made of thicker and more rigid acrylic stock. They offer a really good layer of protection at a very affordable price. Top loaders are normally sold 25 to a pack and cost from $1.25 to $2.50 a pack. Recently, manufacturers are also offering top loaders for cards made from thicker card stock. These holders have a wider opening to accommodate very thick cards, like game worn jersey cards. Personally, I tend to stick my more valuable cards into penny sleeves first, and then into the top loaders. This protects card corners from getting damaged when placed into the more rigid holder.

Screw/Snap Holders:

For cards that require the highest level of protection, screw down or snap tight holders are the way to go. These molded holders are thicker and more durable than the top loaders.

Their tops snaps or screws into place sealing the card inside. Unlike the top loaders where an opening remains along the top, with these holders the top lid has to be removed to let the card out. These types of holders come in various sizes and cost from 50 cents to a few dollars a piece. Like with the top loaders, these types of holders are available for regular cards as well as cards made from thicker stock.

Card Boxes:

Unfortunately, along with the valuable cards in a collection comes a slew of more common cards. These may accumulate over the years as pack after pack of cards are bought and opened. For these cards, you may buy inexpensive card boxes that can help store your collection with little damage. The card boxes are made to hold standard size cards in a snug way that prevents damage. Card boxes come in an assortment of sizes from those that hold 100 cards each to larger 5,000 count container. The price ranges with the size of the box selected. Cards sold in sets generally come in similar boxes.

With the high values of certain cards, and the potential value of some of the other cards in a collection, the days of storing them in shoe boxes or bundling them up with rubber bands have passed. Fortunately, finding the best way to organize and protect your cards has been made easy by the number of storage methods available to today's collector. Take advantage of these options to help maintain the value of your collection.

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