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How to Store Top Loader Cards

how to store top loader cards

For the best long-term storage solution for your top loader cards, you should use high-quality storage boxes such as BCW. These are the ideal size and thickness for storing Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Yugioh, and other popular gaming cards.

People use top loaders in a surprising variety of ways; however, there is a right way – and a wrong way – to use these protective sleeves. The number one trick to using top loaders to protect your favorite or prized cards is definitely patience! No matter how you choose to store your cards, it takes time (and effort) to store your valuable collectibles properly.

When placing your card, try to hold it by the edges of the card rather than the middle to avoid leaving fingerprints/residues. It just takes a bit of finger dexterity to gently open a gap in the top and slide your playing card(s) into the sleeve without jostling it too much.

Storage Boxes for Top Loaders

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With top loader storage boxes, you have some options. There are heavy-duty, specialty cases for collector cards made out of practically any material, ranging from metal to archival-grade polypropylene; or plastic. Or, if you have your heart set on a particular container, you can also buy inserts to help organize your top-loader-protected treasures precisely the way you want.

That said, sometimes, the simplest solutions continue to be the best solutions. For instance, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and money by investing in either 2-row or 3-row shoe storage boxes. Hardcore collectors swear by the 2-row system as it is a bit easier to manage than the 3-row system, but if the volume of your collection demands it, the 3-row system is good too.

We recommend sticking with the shoe storage boxes for a few simple reasons-

  • They’re adequate protection against the elements; anything heavier duty is just unnecessary overkill.
  • They’re sized appropriately to not only store your top loader cards but also stop them from taking damage shifting around over time. Few other boxes have the exact dimensions needed for this feature to be functional.
  • The shoe storage boxes themselves are also easy to store. Binders and ornamental specialty cases take up a much greater storage footprint.
  • These boxes are highly affordable, making them a cost-effective long-term storage solution for hundreds (or even thousands) of valuable cards. As a bonus, that leaves you more money to focus on what you love- collecting!

To check the current price and availability of BCW Card Storage Boxes, click here to view them on Amazon.

How to Store Your Cards in Top Loaders

A top loader will keep your cards in prime condition for years if you use them properly. But the trick to using top loaders is often more about what not to do. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to follow when you are placing your trading/playing cards-

Dont’s

  • Hold cards by their face or corners
  • Shove stubborn cards that stick partway in
  • Wiggle cards back and forth
  • Use top loaders without penny sleeves
  • Recycle or buy used top loaders
  • Blow into sleeves or loaders
  • Align the card with either edge of the top loader
  • Push or pull with your fingernails to position

The list of things to avoid could go on, but these are the most common mistakes collectors make. For example, if you touch cards unnecessarily or blow into the sleeves to open them up, it leaves behind trace amounts of harmful residues on cards, such as dirt, saliva, or skin oils. Recycled or used top loaders also run the risk of getting your card dirty with these same substances.

Why Should You Use Penny Sleeves Too?

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Penny sleeves cost you 1-2 pennies and will help you avoid most of the major don’ts on this list. A card in a new, smooth penny sleeve will be much easier to guide as directed, down the center and away from the edges of the top loader. A penny sleeve also makes it possible to grip the top center of the card as described, without touching the card face.

To check the current price of Ultra-Pro Penny Sleeves, click here to view it on Amazon.

Do’s

  • Hold cards by their edges as you place them
  • Apply gentle, steady downward pressure on the top edge with forefinger and thumb 
  • Apply gentle pressure on the edges of the top loader to open a small gap at the top
  • Guide card into the center as accurately as possible
  • Tap the base of the card loader on a hard surface to settle your card into position

Once you have your cards placed satisfactorily in their top loaders, they’re ready to go into storage boxes! Deciding which storage box solution works the best for you may take some trial and error, though. Many collectors try 2-3 different storage box systems before finding the one that’s just right for them.

Should You Tape Top Loaders?

The use of tape of any kind to seal your card loaders, whether scotch, masking, etc., is a genuinely terrible idea and will almost definitely lead to card damage in the long run. 

The idea of protecting each open top of your card loaders seems wise, and it is. However, tape leaves behind a sticky residue that can eventually make its way onto the top edges of the same cards you are trying to protect. Even if the residue never gets on the card, it is tough to get the top loader open again in the future.

Top Loaders don’t provide extra space, so using scissors or razors to cut the tape off of your top loaders is a doomed plan from the start. First, you run the risk of cutting or scratching the top edge or face of the card while removing the tape. Second, picking the tape off is time-consuming and still leaves sticky residue along the border that the card will pass across.

Trade-in Tape for Sticky Notes

Using sticky note products is an ingenious hack to make your top loader storage system work even better! Sticky notes are like tape’s smarter and more sophisticated cousin, and they’re the perfect solution for keeping cards accessible but properly stored. In this video, you’ll see exactly how to place slim sticky notes on penny sleeves so you can retrieve them later for evaluation or sale.

In addition to this trick, there’s one more way sticky notes can be of use. Standard size sticky notes are the perfect size to make little envelope-style tops for your top loaders. You simply place the sticky strip 1 inch below the top edge and fold it over.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to store your top loader cards, as well as store them, you can get to the fun part! Sorting your cards by value is a favorite collector past-time, and it’s also the final step in organizing your stash before storage. 

Collectors have some difficulty agreeing on which cards deserve top loaders. For example, some believe that a card worth more than $5 is deserving of a top loader. However, collectors with extra-large collections typically reserve top loaders for cards valued at $10 and above.

Quality top loaders are available for less than $1 per piece, so it’s really a matter of personal preference for you as a collector. However, if you have the money and space to store all of your valuable collection in top loaders, it is a worthy investment.

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