Last Updated On: September 21st, 2023
This is a detailed guide for learning the best way to store baseball cards, and protect them from damage.
We’ll discuss how to store baseball cards in the most popular baseball card holders, including where to buy baseball card sleeves, top loaders, Card Savers, baseball card storage boxes, graded storage cases for PSA and BGS slabs, and even glass storage cases to show off your collection.
Keep in mind that these baseball card holders will work to store other sports cards, too, including basketball, football, and hockey cards, along with gaming cards such as MTG and Pokemon. Be sure to read about our best Pokemon cases as well.
Trading Card Cases Summary (TL;DR)
|Type of Sports Card Case||Best Used For||Price Estimate|
|Baseball Card Sleeves (aka “penny sleeves”)||Minor surface protection from dust, scratches, residue, or other moisture causing cards to stick together.||$1.00|
|Top Loaders||Stacking cards on top of each other without worry of weight or surface damage. Firm and durable plastic best used in combination with penny sleeves. Must have among your sports card supplies and great for shipping.||$4.00|
|Card Savers||Equivalent to hard sleeves for cards, and a flexible alternative to top loaders or plastic penny sleeves. Preferred card holder type when submitting cards for professional grading via PSA.||$5.50|
|ONE-TOUCH® Magnetic Cases||Storing your valuable cards. ONE-TOUCH® magnetic card holders are $2 each, so buy them sparingly as only one card will fit per case. Very sturdy, and crystal clear, your shiniest cards will look beautiful in these.||$9.98|
|Team Bags||Loosely storing baseball cards from a ‘team’ set, or storing not-so-valuable cards in one bag. Particularly great for protecting stacked graded cards from scratching each other.||$3.00|
|Nine-card Binder Sheets||Storing a high quantity of baseball cards in a display-ready binder (e.g. complete or partial set) without a focus on sturdy protection and if you don’t intend to grade the cards.||$6.50 |
|Baseball Card Storage Boxes (with row-separation)||Baseball card storage boxes are perfect to store lots of lower valued cards (e.g. cards worth pennies at best). Cheap and easily portable, also great for saving space.||$3.00 |
|Glass Display Cases||Showing off your sports card collection whether it be at home in your man (or woman) cave, or at a sports card show or convention.||$50-$200|
|Professional Grading Cases||Storing expensive/valuable cards. Grading authenticates your cards, encapsulates them in a sturdy tamper-proof case, and could increase their value.||$20-$100|
|Graded Storage Cases||Storing and transporting PSA, BGS, SGC, or other graded cards/slabs securely.||Varies from $50-$150|
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Best ways to Store Baseball Cards
Let’s walk through each of the most common types of cases recommended for protecting your cards.
Baseball Card Sleeves (plastic card sleeves)
Most card collectors learn how to store baseball cards by being introduced to baseball card sleeves — also known as plastic card sleeves or penny sleeves — right when they first start collecting. They are the most basic baseball card holders.
Plastic card sleeves are a mandatory supply if you have any baseball cards laying around, and plan to keep them in mint condition. Given they’re super cheap, flexible, and work well with other types of trading card storage cases, just decide how many you need and buy them.
Using baseball card sleeves ensures your trading cards are protected from any dust, debris, fingerprints/oils, or minor surface damage from simply moving cards around.
Very Affordable: Baseball card sleeves usually come in counts of 100 per pack, and are priced just around $2.00 for a pack. A quick look on Amazon and you can see a 10-pack of 100 count (so 1,000 sleeves) for around $20. Or simply check on eBay if you just need a single pack or two for under $5.
Flexible: Baseball card sleeves are very flexible as they are made of thin plastic. It is very common to store a trading card inside of a plastic card sleeve first, and putting the sleeve inside a Top Loader as well. This prevents the card from shifting around in a Top Loader case (discussed in the section that follows below).
Not robust: Penny sleeves are not an ideal way to protect your baseball cards. Outside of superficial baseball card protection, don’t expect to simply use penny sleeves alone when storing your cards safely.
Hard to maneuver: While penny sleeves are flexible and affordable, you can easily cause corner wear on your trading cards if you’re not careful loading and unloading cards.
Most collectors preserve their sports cards by putting raw (ungraded) cards in a penny sleeve –> then into a top holder –> then into a team bag just for extra security. Also store them in a cool, dark, dry place (e.g. in a closet).
Watch this quick video on how to properly use penny sleeves without damaging your cards.
Top Loaders are arguably the best way to store baseball cards. They stack very well, are durable, and very affordable as well. Top loaders are also sturdy, so they are a popular choice for shipping cards.
Affordable: A count of 100 top loaders is usually going to run about 10 cents a case.
Sturdy: Top loaders are made of a hard plastic, unlike baseball card sleeves. They’re a standard way to ship trading cards given their sturdy exterior, and can hold up really well over time (outside of minor surface level scratches or scuffs).
Minimum space consumed: Top loaders are not much larger than a standard baseball card size. They square up and stack well, and can be aligned inside a box without consuming much additional space.
Easy to use: The amount of space at the top edge of a top loader makes it fairly easy to insert cards. Taking them out can be like trying to get Ketchup out of an old school glass bottle, but with a little finesse you’ll get the hang of it.
Need penny sleeves: Top loaders alone are just not that great without the use of penny sleeves. Trading cards will bounce around between the edges of top loaders, so you’ll need to always plan on buying penny sleeves along with them to make them effective baseball card holders.
Open from top: The slot at the top of a Top Loader makes it easy for inserting cards, although can be a disadvantage in protecting baseball cards from flying out of the top of the case.
Top loaders are a must-have in your baseball card supplies. While they may not be a silver bullet to protect your cards from sunlight or moisture, if used in conjunction with baseball card sleeves and possibly team bags they’re almost always the best way to store sports cards that are not professionally graded.
Check out this video to learn how to load your cards into a top loader.
Card Savers (several variants)
A Card Saver looks like what you would get if a penny sleeve and top loader made a baby. The folks at Cardboard Gold appear to have created a case that is sturdier than a penny sleeve, more flexible than a top loader, and that keeps a firm grip on a card enough to render the combination of sleeves and top loaders borderline useless.
Easy to load: The extra ‘lip’ at the top of a Card Saver makes it easy to expand the case open and insert a trading card without much trouble.
Flexible yet not loose-fitting: As alluded above, the benefits and drawbacks of penny sleeves and top loaders have been corrected in the Card Saver.
Affordable: As with penny sleeves and top loaders, the Card Saver is an affordable plastic case. About the same price as top loaders (without needing to buy penny sleeves as well), a 100-pack of Card Savers can run about $10 (10 cents a piece). Note there are a few variants in size on the PSA card website.
Not as sturdy as top loaders: Card Savers have more give/flex versus top loaders, so while they’ll do a great job with baseball card protection when stored in your closet or under the bed, they’re not quite perfect for transport given the potential for bending.
Easy to break the top lip: The top lip of the Card Saver can easily crack and flap around. While this will not impact the usage of the case, it will get annoying fairly quickly.
You’ll need these if you’re ever grading your cards with PSA. Definitely buy a stack as they’re really good (right up there with top loaders as a must have). We highly recommend surrounding the Card Saver with two pieces of cardboard taped together when shipping to any destination (e.g. to PSA, or someone who bought your card, or if you’re gifting).
Watch this tutorial on how to insert a trading card into a Card Saver.
ONE-TOUCH® Magnetic Card Holders
ONE-TOUCH magnetic cases by Ultra Pro are a popular card case for storing individual cards. They have a thick, sturdy design with an easy-to-use magnetic closure that snaps into place. Many collectors store high-end cards in magnetic cases given they can get quite expensive for larger collections. They are also great for showcasing refractors, prizms, and patch cards.
Sturdy: Made of two thick pieces of plastic, the magnetic card holder is almost as thick as three stacked top loaders.
Stylish: Crystal clear casing along with a diamond-corner design (the corners of the card do not touch the interior case lining) makes your card truly stand-out from the rest. It’s the modern day screw-down holder.
Easy to load: Cards can be easily loaded and unloaded thanks to the snap-in magnetic design.
Pricey: At roughly $2 per case, they are over 10 times more expensive than top loaders.
Clunky for storage: There is a big trade off for pretty ONE-TOUCH cases — stacking them takes a ton of space. Plan to use up to 3x more space than top loaders, or 6x more space than card savers.
Buy a pack of 5 or 10 to get started and you’ll see why they’re so popular.
Check out this video by TCG Collector to learn how to load a card into the magnetic ONE-TOUCH case, and also get a good look at the diamond-corner design. You’ll notice TCG uses penny sleeves first, along with the 35-point size case for Pokémon cards to eliminate any wiggle wiggle.
Team Bags (like a Ziploc bag for sports cards)
The team bag was primarily designed to store multiple cards in a ‘team set’. Typically they’re a good way to loosely store multiple cards of the same set (e.g. 1993 Fleer case cards), or players from the same team (e.g. Chicago Bulls players). Even many of the sets produced by Star Company were actually sold and distributed in sealed team bags.
Baseball card collectors absolutely hate scratched cases, or cases with tape all over them. A more common use case for team bags is to protect cards already stored in a case from scratching one another. It is very common to put graded cards inside of team bags — or particularly sleeves designed to fit graded cards — for minor surface protection given grading can cost $15-$50 per card.
Protects cases from scratching: As mentioned above, team bags can provide an extra level of surface protection for preventing cases from scuffing or scratches.
Extra security for Top Loaders: It is common for collectors to place a trading card inside of a top loader, and then also inside of a team bag to prevent a card from flying out of the top edge of the top loader (especially when shipping).
Super easy to store & remove cards: With a sticker adhesive mouth and loose fit, it’s easy to load and unload cards from a team bag very similar to how you would use a Ziploc bag.
Affordable: Team bags are designed from a basic plastic, so it’s no surprise they’re an affordable storage option. BCW team bags go for just under $3 a pack of 100 count.
Minimal surface-level protection: Like penny sleeves, team bags only provide very minor surface protection for your cards, and can’t be used reliably as a robust storage option.
As mentioned previously, team bags come in handy when you have several top loaders or graded cards encased and want to protect the cases from scratching or wear (yes, basically protecting the protector). Sports card collectors can be pretty picky, so just make sure when you’re selling your Tom Brady PSA 10 Rookie the case isn’t scratched up, dinged, cracked, or has any sticker residue.
Watch this video to learn how this self proclaimed UFC SuperFan uses Team Bags.
Standard binder sheets come in a 9-card format with hole punches in the left edge, or a 6-card variant to fit in a smaller binder.
Great for high-quantities of cards: As with team bags, binder sheets are a good option for multi-card storage and conserving space. They’re made of a more sturdy plastic than team bags or even penny sleeves, and fit well inside of binders for additional exterior protection. A complete set of 300 cards can be stored inside a binder with just 34 binder sheets.
Easy display: Binder sheets are one of the more display-ready types of cases. Most of the cases we have covered thus far are good for storing one or a few cards in a case or bag, but the binder sheet is an affordable display option relative to using glass display cases (covered below). They also make it easy to rapidly look through cards and stay organized.
Minimal card protection: Without an exterior binder, binder sheets alone are slightly better than penny sleeves for storing baseball cards given they are made of a thicker plastic. The top of the sheet is also open so there is risk of cards falling out. Needless to say, binder sheets are a poor storage type for storing high-value cards as well.
Hard to maneuver: As with penny sleeves, you must be careful loading and unloading binder sheets given just a little slip can cause corner wear to your trading cards.
Binder sheets are difficult to beat when it comes to high-quantity sets given their affordability and ease of display and portability. For example, if you have a complete set of 1981 Topps Football (Joe Montana’s Rookie Year) or Pokémon TCG cards, you may find that putting the whole set in a binder makes sense. You can isolate the higher end cards worthy of grading otherwise.
The UFC SuperFan has a good video tutorial on how to use Binder Sheets.
Baseball Card Storage Boxes
Cardboard storage boxes will come in handy as you build up a collection of baseball cards. I’ve used them to neatly store my graded card cases, cards in top loaders, or even raw cards (with no sleeves or anything protecting them) that aren’t worth much. You can also remove a row to create a larger area to place other larger items..
Great for high quantities of low-value cards: If you’ve ever opened a sealed box of baseball or basketball cards, you’ve ended up with hundreds of crappy cards you may want to store away in a storage box for later. Those cards may help complete a set some day, or you find out a 2nd year card of Lebron James you may have boxed up jumped in value from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars in value recently.
Great for storage and portability: As mentioned above, not only can you store hundreds of raw cards in a single file line, you can also keep your graded cards, or cards in team bags, and top loaders neatly organized in one or two boxes. It makes it super easy to store away, or transport.
Affordable: The price of a larger box that can house 5000 trading cards only runs for around $8.49 on BCW’s site (use coupon ONLYGREATS for 10% off).
Minimal protection: Baseball card storage boxes are best viewed as a good way to organize your sports cards, but not quite protect them. Given they are large by design with excess space inside, cards will fly around without proper padding until you fill enough of each row or box.
They’re bulky: Needless to say, storage boxes are fairly bulky, so only buy what you need without getting carried away. The good news is, you don’t need to assemble the box until you need it, so at least it will stay flat until the time comes.
Just buy a few. It’s hard to imagine any collector with a fair-sized baseball card collection not having a handful of cardboard storage boxes.
Rather than show you how to use cardboard storage boxes (duh), check out this video tutorial on what it takes to assemble a BCW monster storage box in case you buy one!
Glass Display Cases
So you’ve graduated from novice collector to baseball card expert. You rent a table at the National Sports Collectors Convention and need a fancy glass display case to show your stuff. Glass display cases are very common at sports card shows and conventions. You may also simply want one in your own home rather than tucking away your cards in closets or under the bed.
Great for showing off your collection: Obviously the whole point of a glass display case is so that you can see inside without needing to open the case. Alternative cases can also be purchased such as briefcases, or even cardboard storage boxes mentioned above, of course.
Additional layer of security: A glass display case creates another level of protection given your cards can sit inside, and it takes that much more work to get inside (think jewelry display case).
Key lock: Continuing with the similarity of jewelry display cases, some glass display cases also come with locks and keys for yet even more security.
Expensive: As you probably expected, a glass display case will usually run for more than $50, and even over $100 for a solid case with locks/keys. Check out a few variations on Amazon.
Bulky: Glass display cases are indeed bulky, and heavy. They’re best for handfuls of high-end cards in your collection only.
If you plan to setup shop at the Sports Card Convention, or head to local/regional sports card shows, you may need a countertop glass display case. Also, if you have high-end cards you’d like to simply display in your own home as you would fine art, a glass display case is highly recommended.
Check out this video for an example of a glass display case (no need to go beyond the first few minutes). The guy in the video mentions having bought his case from http://www.sfdisplay.com.
Professional Grading Encasement
You may be thinking “what the heck is professional grading encasement doing in a review about storing baseball cards?”
The short answer is simply the popularity of grading has exploded over the years, and it felt incomplete not having a section about it.
Naturally, if you send cards in for grading, or simply buy them graded already, your cards will come locked in a hard case for protection.
Sturdy: The picture above illustrates the benefits and structure of PSA casing. PSA graded cards (and also BGS, or SGC) come stored in a hard plastic case that almost feels like plexiglass. You can read about all the benefits on the PSA site.
Tamper-proof (mostly): Along with a unique certification number, a PSA case is also tamper proof. Not to say you can’t crack one open to get your card out, but it would be pretty darn obvious if a card protected in a PSA case was tampered with.
Side benefits of authenticity and potential value increase: A neat side benefit of PSA graded cards is that buyers and sellers can be confident the card inside the case is indeed authentic, and not a reprint or fake. PSA also expertly scores the card based on its overall condition (10 point scale with 10 being the highest score for GEM MINT), and potentially increasing its value in the marketplace.
Expensive: Grading your cards is an expensive proposition. PSA’s pricing page lists several different tiers of pricing, although you can assume anywhere between $20 and $100 for most cards (don’t forget shipping costs). For comparison, check out Beckett’s grading service pricing as well.
Time consuming: Depending on the service-level chosen (e.g. Express, Economy, Regular, etc.), it can usually take weeks to months to receive your card back from PSA or BGS. The COVID crisis has also lengthened the turnaround time for your cards, so be sure to keep that in mind!
From a storage prospective, your graded cards will remain safe in PSA or BGS graded holders. Be sure to use team bags, and graded card storage cases (section below) when stacking graded cards so that they are not sliding across each other and causing scuffs or scratches on the cases. As mentioned earlier, collectors hate to see a beautiful card in a shitty case.
Check out this PSA submissions 101 video from the gurus themselves to learn about the different kinds of grading services, including crossovers, reholders, selecting minimum grades, and more.
Graded Card Storage
Graded card storage cases, such as Preza’s, are a popular choice for storing and transporting professionally graded cards/slabs (mentioned in the section above). The sturdier structure of the storage case will provide better protection than a cardboard storage box, and with different capacities available you can store anywhere from a handful to over 100 PSA, BGS, or SGC graded slabs. Several come with numerical locks as well for added security.
Sturdy: Most storage cases are made of thick plastic, with several columns of foam inserts to keep slabs from scratching one another. Pro tip: also get yourself some graded card sleeves to protect slabs from getting scratched when taken in and out of storage.
Easy Transport: Like a briefcase, storage cases usually come with a handle attached and are a fairly easy way to move high quantities of graded slabs when you attend a local show or trade night.
Versatility: There are several different capacities to choose from, and many support the ability to restructure the interior foam to fit your needs (view the video below to see how). You can also load storage cases with top loaders or other types of cases in addition to graded slabs. Lastly, the added benefit of numerical or key locks help protect your slabs from easy access.
Price: Relatively speaking, trading card storage cases are not super cheap when compared with cardboard storage boxes (the one pictured is around $85). They’re great for storing higher end, graded cards, although if you have high quantities of slabbed cards, costs can get out of hand quickly.
Odds are you’ll end up buying a storage case to house your best cards at one point or another. If you’re looking to show off your cards, consider a glass display case instead. Otherwise, the most affordable way to store high quantities of cards or slabs is with cardboard storage boxes as mentioned earlier.
More Storage & Protection Tips
This article has covered most of the common sports card supplies needed to ensure your baseball, football, and Pokemon cards stay protected from pressure, scratching, and other types of typical damage. The best way to store baseball cards doesn’t stop with just card holders alone, as the following tips should be taken into account to ensure the long term protection and value of your cards stays intact:
- Store your baseball cards in a cool, dry place (e.g. in a closet).
- Keep your cards away from sunlight exposure, or any bright lights as this can cause fading or loss of color and destroy the value of your cards.
- Keep your cards elevated off the ground to ensure pets can’t reach them, or any potential for water damage doesn’t also ruin your cards.
- As your collection’s value increases, assess whether you need additional security such as from fire or theft. For example, you can consider:
When shipping your sports cards, be sure to pack and secure them according to our detailed shipping guide as well!