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HOW TO STORE TRADING CARD GAMES (TCGS)

Updated: Apr 13


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Trading card storage has come a long way–we aren’t rubberbanding and shoeboxing them anymore (right?). These days we’re worried about even the slightest alteration, because everything affects value. But we also want to enjoy our collection, without obsessing over damage–we’re both/and folks here. If you’re planning to resell, then you know condition matters most, and that excessive handling or exposure can ruin an otherwise perfect card. So today we’re focused on practical ways to retain card value while still sparking joy. Environmental Factors Wherever you live, there is some environmental hazard that could spell ruin. Excessive heat?You’re looking at warping and ruined finishes. Unbearable humidity? Think mold, mildew, bricking, and alterations to the shape, finish, or structure. Extreme dryness? Desiccated cards could end up literally turning to dust. Intense UV rays? Colors will fade and finishes will be ruined.Super cold temperatures? Well, ok, you’ve got us. So long as cold isn’t accompanied by high humidity, it’s pretty harmless. The risk lies in potential condensation when moving from cold to warm. But we know you’re on that one like a hawk. Clearly, storing your trading cards outdoors or in a hot attic or humid basement isn’t an option if you want to preserve their best selves. Keeping them indoors is usually a safe bet if your home is temperature controlled year round, including any adjustments for humidity. If you want to be extra sure, get fancy with a combination thermometer/hygrometer (great for plant parents, too!) so that you know the precise humidity and temperature in your storage space–45% to 55% relative humidity and between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Adjust the atmosphere using a humidifier/dehumidifier as needed. And you can always rent a temperature-controlled storage unit if your collection is too large to accommodate or too valuable to risk. Another factor you want to have on point is ventilation. Avoid musty odors or pockets of humidity with a basic fan to keep air circulating. And whatever you do, keep your collection out of direct light, be it from a window, skylight, or even a desk lamp. There’s nothing you can do to change your outdoor environment, but you can most definitely alter the climate in a controlled space. Here are some top tips to guard against humidity, specifically:

  • Keep cards in separate plastic covers

  • Avoid stacking cards

  • Avoid too much time outside of protective coverings

  • Keep all cards in the same room

  • Store cards up and off of the floor

If you absolutely must have your cards in a less-than ideal (read: humid) environment for a time, use the small desiccant packs that come with any number of retail goods to keep them nice and dry. In general though, a good practice is to treat every card as fragile, no matter its age or value. Best Storage Options Plastic sleeves–whether penny sleeves or deck protector sleeves–are a first line of defense against deterioration. Use a sandwich stacking style for the best dust exclusion. But plastic sleeves can also be on the basic end of things. Maybe you want to go bigger. Semi-rigid card savers andtop loaders are stronger still and are also smaller, so they demand less space. Lots of TCG collectors keep their cards in boxes, and that can work just fine. But if you want to regularly view your cards, consider a binder. They can be as affordable or as bulletproof as you want, just be sure to use crystal-clear display sheets and acid-free, archival quality materials. Encasing cards in layered sleeves before going into the binder helps to stave off dust and other nasties. If your collection includes graded slabs and screw-down holders, larger sleeves are your best bet. When deciding between boxes and binders, the size, value, and typical use of your collection could be the tie breaker. Super huge card compilations that you’re not going to be transporting might benefit from box storage. Meanwhile less extensive collections that you're going to access often could work better in binders. At the same time, collectors generally find binders to be more secure and durable, especially for those prized specimens. Your sweet spot could lie somewhere between the two–a combination of binders and boxes, one for cards going with you to conventions, the other for those treasures that you can’t risk damaging. Stay Organized You want to devise a storage system that allows you to interact with your collection as much as you’d like, without risking damage. For some, that could mean pulling out cards a few times a year to admire those Gem Mint 10s and other graded cards. Others might like to carry their collections with them, or share with family, friends, and fellow players. How can you have the best of all worlds? It really comes down to organization. A well-organized storage system is a sure-fire way to easily find what you need and cut out frustration. This could be a keyed or tiered method, where you use years, colors, age or alphabetic order to keep things organized. If your cards have a defining feature–like lands and artifacts in Magic The Gathering–those can be the perfect way to differentiate. Using sectioned dividers helps here, especially if your cards are stored in boxes. Stay consistent with your ordering of cards and this method should serve you well. Alongside physical storage, a digital record can really up your organization game. Many collectors use spreadsheets where they include card information along with the location of the card. Boxes, sleeves, binders and other holders need to be marked for easy retrieval, but once this is set up, it’s foolproof and simple to expand. Displaying Your Cards Display is really just another form of storage, but instead of being tucked away in a box or binder, the card is visible for all to behold. If this is the route you’re going with your prized card gems, just be sure that display cases are both protective and don’t unintentionally cause harm. Instead of card holders that have a display window that sits directly on the card–like a screw down model–be sure you opt for recessed cases. Otherwise, the card could sustain slight damage that will move it from being a perfect specimen, to holding an “altered” status–no collector wants to hear those words, we know. Materials should be of archival quality, UV-resistant, and dust-proof. If you get cards graded by one of the prevailing grading companies, then it will come back to you in a sealed, tamper-evident holder. Once that magic happens, then you know that whatever display you choose, you’re starting with a good foundation. Things To Keep In Mind Start small. If you’re a beginner collector, then budget is likely a huge factor in how you choose to store your cards. At the same time, you don’t want to degrade the investment you’ve already made by not storing them well. There’s a balance to strike, and we trust you’ll find it. Start with plastic sleeves in cardboard boxes and move on from there. Another thing to think about, once you have storage ironed out, is where exactly will you keep the cards? We know you'll have them in a climate-controlled room, but there can be a big difference between cards stored any old where, and those kept in a dedicated spot on a shelf. This allows for ideal air circulation and easy access when you want to admire your collection or find some trade bait. A metal standalone shelf works great, and they’re readily available. Remember too, that if you enjoy looking through your cards, be sure to choose a storage system that allows for that. If you build a Fort Knox TCG storehouse, how often will you really be able to rifle through them? In the end your ideal storage method will depend on collection size, card value, and accessibility, and you’ll need to weigh these three to find the best option. Does all of this sound like a lot of work? Not enough room to store your entire collection in your home? That's where collectible storage comes in! Wündervault (https://www.wundervault.com/) is a collectible storage provider that will store your collection in their secure, climate-controlled storage facility. Your membership includes free shipping, temperature and humidity control, and 24/7 security so you can rest easy knowing that your collection is safe. Wündervault has been an incredible resource for PMC customers who need their collectibles stored away from home - visit their website to learn more about collectible storage. Insurance for Your Collectibles Whether you’ve got a card from childhood or you just scored the rarest of rare, both deserve to be protected. Every time cards are handled, viewed, shared, or leave their storage space–even if you’re ridiculously careful–is an opportunity for loss, theft, or damage. That’s why Protect My Collection from Zinc offers affordable, practical collectibles insurance. We know, we get it (we’re collectors too!) and we want to help. So chat us up with all the questions, and let Will fill you in. We were created and founded for you–reach out to learn more or get a personalized online quote.



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This blog post does not provide insurance advice and is intended for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional insurance advice from a licensed representative. Never ignore professional insurance advice because of something you have read in this blog post. Contact your licensed representative if you have any questions about your insurance policy.

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