A Guide to Buying Card Sleeves

Updated on January 20, 2020
Jeremy Gill profile image

Jeremy enjoys gaming when not working as a chemist and business manager.

Differences Between Card Sleeves

Today we'll discuss the benefits and types of card sleeves, protective cases that shield your trading cards from damage. I highly recommend these accessories for fans of Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, the Pokemon TCG, and sports cards.

But not all sleeves are created equal; today we'll explore the pros and cons of each to help you decide how to optimally store your trading cards!

Various card sleeves
Various card sleeves

Where Can You Buy Them?

Many local gaming stores sell sleeves, but you can easily find them at supermarkets like Wal-Mart. That said, I recommend shopping for sleeves online, where you'll find a greater variety, often at better prices.

Tip: When buying colored sleeves, it's smart to pick a color or design and stick with it on future purchases. This makes it easier to tweak decks without having to constantly switch out sleeves as well, as your protectors will already match. That said, some players opt for sleeves that suit their cards, like blue for an island-using MTG build, which can help keep things organized when crafting multiple decks.

But what kinds of card sleeves should you buy? Let's examine the options.

Penny sleeves
Penny sleeves

Penny Card Sleeves

Penny sleeves are the cheapest available, earning their name since you can buy a pack of 100 for a bit over a dollar. Now, you get what you pay for, as they're flimsy plastic and offer the least protection, but if you're on a tight budget, they're much better than nothing. Like other sleeve types, you insert your card through a narrow opening at the top of the sleeve.

Translucent on both sides, penny sleeves won't hide defects on a card's back, which means you'll probably want something else if your card backs are damaged (which might disqualify you in some tournaments).

Black matte card sleeves
Black matte card sleeves

Matte Card Sleeves

Matte sleeves are the most popular type, providing a great balance between protection and price. You'll shell out more money than with penny sleeves, but they're more durable and still won't break the bank. Popular brands include Ultra Pro, BCW, and Dragon Shield; to save a few bucks, try buying them in bulk (you can nab 500 black sleeves for twenty dollars)!

Matte sleeves are only see-through on one side, so they hide a card's back. They're also the most artistic sleeve; you can buy them in many colors and designs, though again I recommend sticking with one theme to avoid future hassle.

Top-loader card sleeves
Top-loader card sleeves

Top-Loader Card Sleeves

Top-loaders are the most expensive sleeve type, and they're translucent on both sides, so like penny sleeves, they won't hide damage on a card's back. However, they offer the most protection, providing a rigid case that's very resistant to bending and tearing, and they're the most spacious, useful for larger cards or if you want to store multiple units in one sleeve.

Many players (myself included) like to combine penny sleeves with top-loaders for their most valuable cards, and you can buy a bulk package containing 100 of each for less than thirteen dollars!

Which sleeve type do you prefer?

See results
Ultra Pro Deck Boxes
Ultra Pro Deck Boxes

More Trading Card Accesories

In addition to sleeves, you'll want a deck box to hold your cards (boxes usually take sleeves into account when tallying their maximum card capacity). Or, if you're more interested in collecting than gaming, binders offer a nice way to store large amounts of cards at once.

Even for casual gamers, I highly recommend sleeves—not only are undamaged cards more fun to play with, they fetch better prices when sold. Some tournaments even mandate their use, which helps prevent cheating through marking a card's back. But no matter your sleeve preferences, pay attention to dimensions—trading cards can fluctuate in size and you'll want a case with a snug fit. But for now, vote for your favorite sleeve type and I'll see you at our next gaming review!

© 2019 Jeremy Gill


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