How to Protect Pokémon Cards

How to Protect Pokémon Cards

If you’re a collector, then you know how important it is to protect your cards. Whether they’re valuable or not, they’re still a part of your collection and you want to make sure they stay in good condition. There are a few things you can do to protect your cards, and today we’re going to talk about them. So read on for tips on how to keep your cards safe!

Protect Pokémon Cards

Sleeves and top loaders

Let’s start with sleeves, the most basic method of card protection. A sleeve is a small rectangular pocket of plastic that you can slip a card into. Pretty simple. You probably already know what a sleeve is since they sometimes are included with trading card products.

Which cards get placed in sleeves is up to the collector, but most recommend sleeving any holofoil or precious cards. The holofoil can scratch easily, and the sleeves prevent scratching especially when rubbing against other cards. 

The sleeves we recommend (Link to Amazon)

Top loaders are kind of like sleeves, but larger and made of semi-rigid plastic with rigid edges. These come in many sizes but the standard size is 3” x 4” (76.2mm x 101.6mm). 

A standard size top loader (left) and a perfect fit sleeve (right)

Cards are not meant to be placed inside of top loaders without first being sleeved. Top loaders are too large and have a small gap between the panes that would allow for an unsleeved card to move around inside, risking scratches, dented corners, and more. 

Always sleeve your cards before placing them inside top loaders.

A sleeved card inside a top loader with a sticky note

Additionally, many collectors choose to add a small post-it note on the sleeved card, to act as a pull tab to easily remove the card from the top loader with ease. 

Another option is to use one-touch magnetic holders. These are hard acrylic cases that sandwich your card and stay closed with a magnet. These are highly rated among collectors and do not cause any damage to the cards themselves as long as the cards are first sleeved.

The top loaders we recommend (Link to Amazon)

The post-it tabs we recommend (Link to Amazon)


If you collected cards as a kid, you probably had some pretty cool 3-ring binders to store them in. However, the classic 3-ring binders that we used to use are now frowned upon in the hobby by collectors, due to the potential damage they can cause to cards. 

Sometimes the pages and cards can get pinched by the rings if you’re not careful enough. In addition to this, the pages can sometimes get pressed by the rings if not stored vertically, leaving three indents along the page and on your cards. If you keep adding pages until the binder is past its capacity, the cards will end up taking damage from the rings.

No more ring binders!

Today, enthusiasts gravitate towards binders that have the pages stitched in, kind of like the binding of a book. The obvious disadvantage to this is the inability to add and remove pages, but it’s an easy compromise to keep your cards safe.

As these binders become more popular, more are made. Recently The Pokémon Company has even begun to distribute its own. 

Another bonus to these new style binders is that you have the option of larger pages. The pages you used to buy for the ring binder were always 9-card pages. 

Some high-quality brands to check out would be Ultra Pro, Ultimate Guard, and VaultX. (Amazon Links)

Another benefit of these pages is that they are side-loaded. This means that the cards are inserted into the pockets from the side and not the top. If the pages are top-loaded, you run the risk of cards falling out if the binder is tipped or held upside down.



When you have thousands of cards, binders might not be able to store everything. 

Elite Trainer Boxes (ETBs) come in a handy card storage box. These boxes are a little wider than the cards themselves, so they’re more suitable for cards stored in top loaders. However, they are capable of holding over 750 cards if sleeved or unsleeved. 

There are also boxes made specifically for storing cards. Check your local hobby shop and ask if they have any card storage boxes. These are sheets of cardboard with perforated lines that allow you to fold it into a wide shallow box with dividers built-in. These boxes are dirt cheap ($3-$10) and hold thousands of cards. 

ETBs, booster boxes, and booster packs 

Some collectors like to purchase sealed products and keep them sealed. In this case, you still want to keep your products free of any dents or scratches. 

Acrylic cases are available for the main Pokémon products such as ETBs, booster boxes, and booster packs. Check Amazon or eBay for these boxes. 

A booster pack protected inside an acrylic case

Most collectors keep the plastic wrap from the factory on their ETBs and booster boxes. This helps collectors authenticate the product and, of course, ensure that it has not been opened. 

Display units

If you want to display your cards or products, there are hundreds of display units to pick from. 

Displaying single cards is as easy as buying a stand for the card or a frame. Sometimes frames can be found that fit a set of cards, like the 16 holofoil cards from the 1999 Base set.

Displaying something like a booster pack is easy too. Acrylic cases can be made to order in any size. But popular sites like Amazon or eBay usually have a wide selection when it comes to the more popular products like booster packs or booster boxes.

Grading services 

Having cards graded is probably the most expensive option for card protection if that’s all you’re interested in achieving. However, it is the best way to preserve a card for the long term and bump up the value while you’re at it. 

Grading services can be expensive or affordable depending on the service you use. If your goal is purely protection, you can find a company to grade your cards for as low as $15 per card. 

Many grading companies branch out beyond card singles and grade booster packs and other products. 

UV protection 

Have you ever left a card out in the sunlight, only to find it a couple of days later with all the color sucked out? 

UV rays take the color out of cards. This can crush the value of an expensive card, so all cards should be kept away from sunlight all the time. If you want to display your cards, there are frames and display units available that have UV protection built-in. Check collector websites or any local hobby shops for these. 

Some grading companies offer slabs with UV protection. This is a great option and is probably the best way to protect your card long-term. However, not all grading companies have UV-protected slabs, so call or check their website first.


Holofoil cards are at risk of absorbing moisture from the air and developing a curve. If you want to know how and why this happens, click here.

To avoid this unfortunate issue, you can purchase silica packets or moisture-absorbing packets from most grocery stores or Walmart, or Target.

To prevent this from happening, always store your cards in a cool dry area. 


Sometimes you have to ship some cards.

Perhaps you’ve decided to get some cards graded, or maybe you’re just sending some to a friend. Whatever it is you’re shipping them for, you need to prep your cards accordingly to avoid any damage. 

Once the package leaves your hands, there’s no knowing how it will be handled or if it will even arrive at the destination. For these reasons, precautions need to be taken.

Always purchase shipping insurance. This can be done right at the post office and will ensure you if the package gets lost or damaged. Insuring your cards is a form of card protection. 

When packing cards for shipping they should be placed into a top loader or card saver, then sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard. Line the box with bubble wrap or something similar, and make sure your cards cannot move.

For packing instructions, check these popular links.





Protecting your cards is critical to keeping your collection’s value in a positive state. There are options to protect everything from single cards to unique pieces like the gold Burger King cards from 1999. When the time comes that you may choose to sell a piece or maybe all of your collection, shipping may be required. This is the final form of card protection, as it is out of your hands after shipping. Purchase insurance, and secure those bad boys in place.

Oliver Copeland
Oliver Copeland

Hi, I'm the founder of Sleeve No Card Behind. I hope you enjoyed your read and learned something. Learn more about me on the About page.

About Oliver