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What is a Top Loader (Card Holder)?

what is a top loader card holder

A toploader is a rigid plastic card holder that is specifically designed to protect your card from damage. There are other types of card holders available, but the topholder is one of the most common options for sturdy protection. Usually, these are saved for cards with higher rarity or value, and they are practically an essential tool for building any collection.

In recent years, the popularity of Trading Card Games has skyrocketed, with card games like Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, and Yu-GiOh! seeing more interest than ever before. With people spending a lot of time indoors and many influencers getting involved, demonstrating the value and joy that can be found in a pack of cards, the Trading Card scene is really blowing up.

Veteran collectors have been using toploaders to protect their cards for years, but there are many new people who are just now getting involved – experiencing the joy of cracking open a new pack and the excitement of those rare finds. Whether you’re a collector, a trader, or a player, protecting your cards should be right at the top of your priority list when building your collection.

What Cards Should You Use a Toploader On?

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One of the most exciting parts of pack openings is the thrill that you get when you spot something shiny and rare, or just a special card that you’ve been hoping for. These are the cards that you want to look after once you’ve got them and placing them inside a toploader is the perfect way to do that.

Depending on which cards you are collecting, there will be some individuals and types that have greater value. Rare cards are distributed throughout all Trading Card Games, and they are usually obvious because there will be a difference in how they are printed. Shiny, reflective material, alternative colourings or backgrounds, and differences to the border artwork are good clues that you have something rare on your hands.

Not all shiny cards are particularly special, and some of the cards which look valuable can actually be pretty cheap to pick up online, so it’s worth exploring what rare and exciting cards are available in a set before you start opening.

There are also many rare and highly valuable cards that you might not know were worth so much just from looking at them, like alternate artworks or basic cards with a very low distribution rate, so do your research to know what is worth protecting!

Toploaders, or other protective cases, are particularly important if you are looking to sell a card or have one graded, to keep them in good condition and retain their value.

To check the current price and availability of Ultra Pro Top Loaders, click here to view the listing on Amazon.

Toploaders vs Card Sleeves and Penny Sleeves

Card sleeves are also small plastic card holders, but they are much flimsier and more flexible than toploaders and they don’t offer the same level of protection. One of the cheapest versions of these is known as a penny sleeve.

A penny sleeve or a card sleeve is an inexpensive option that can help to stop your card from getting scratches on the front or back, but it can easily be bent, and it doesn’t provide much protection for the corners.

A toploader and a penny sleeve often go hand in hand, because a penny sleeve is a great way to stop your card from getting scratched while you are putting it into, or taking it out of, a toploader. Think of a penny sleeve like the plastic film that covers a phone screen whereas a toploader is more like a sturdy case.

How to Use a Toploader

Toploaders are pretty easy to use, and most people combine them with a penny sleeve to ensure that they are fully protected. It is easiest to do this with your penny sleeves and toploaders in front of you and ready when you start opening packs. You also want to try to hold every card by gripping the edges and avoiding touching the front or back with your fingers.

First, place your card into a penny sleeve, sliding the base of the card in first. Hold the card inside the penny sleeve the right way up, and your toploader in your other hand with the opening at the top before gently pushing the card inside.

When you start putting the card into the toploader, it is sometimes easiest to guide in one of the bottom corners before changing the angle and gently sliding the card the rest of the way in.

Many collectors like to tap the base of their toploader onto a hard surface once the card is inside, so that it sits snugly and is flush with the bottom.

Are Toploaders Good for Cards?

The whole purpose of a toploader is to ensure that your card is safe and protected. As long as you are placing your card inside with care, they will keep it free from damage for years to come.

Storing your cards inside of a toploader is a great way to stop them from getting bent or scratched, and it keeps the edges clean and neat. If you keep them out of direct sunlight, they can also prevent your card from ageing over time.

There are a couple of ways that a card can get damaged inside of a toploader if it’s not used properly. If you don’t use a card sleeve, dust inside of the toploader has a small chance of scratching your card. Toploaders are also not ideal if your card is going to travel a lot because they can move around inside and knock their edges.

It is worth ensuring that you are buying toploaders that are of a reasonable quality because poor quality ones may not offer the same level of protection.

Toploaders vs PSA Slabs

If you are wanting to sell your cards, or simply want to know what they’re worth, you may want to get them graded by a company like PSA. PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) is the most commonly used authentication and grading company for trading cards in the world, and they will give your card a rating that officially designates what condition it is in.

The PSA grading scale goes from 1-10, with a 10 being as close to perfect condition as you can get. To achieve a 10, a card needs to not only be perfectly preserved by the collector but also have no printing or cutting errors, and have developed no imperfections throughout the manufacturing or distribution process.

When you get a card graded by PSA they will return it in a very sturdy card saver that is stronger and more tightly sealed than a toploader. These “slabs” also have the grading information labelled above the card, to show off exactly how good their condition is.

What Size is a Standard Card Toploader?

The standard size for a toploader matches the standard size for most trading cards and it measures 3ʺ by 4ʺ. There are also other sizes available, such as the tobacco size for mini cards which measures 1 7/16ʺ by 2 5/8ʺ.

The other consideration when it comes to toploader size is the thickness. All trading card thicknesses are measured in “points” (pt), with the most common thickness being 20pt. Standard toploaders have a 35pt thickness, which is ideal for storing one card that is between 20pt and 35pt thick.

There are much wider options available as well that can store thicker cards, or even multiple cards in the same topholder.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are just getting into the wonderful world of card collecting, or you’ve been building a collection for years, it is worth investing in the right kit to keep your favourite cards safe and secure.

Toploaders are a fantastic way to make sure that your most valuable cards stay that way, and they are easily the most popular choice when it comes to serious card protection. There are other card protectors out there but for most people, the toploader is the king.

Ultimately, a toploader gives you a sense of safety and security. If you ever traded on the playground, you know the pain of seeing a beautiful card covered in sticky fingerprints and ugly creases. When you see the glint of something shiny in your pack, a toploader is the first thing you should be reaching for.

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