How to Protect and Display Your Autographed Cards
It seems like such a trivial thing. You have finally tracked down an elusive autographed card or pulled an autograph from a recent box break. Now you are done and you can just enjoy your card. Well, you're not quite done. You need to decide how to protect this card. As time has passed and the hobby has evolved, a whole new world of supplies has emerged and collectors are faced with a decision. While many collectors develop a preference and stick with it across the board, the best thing to do is determine the purpose of the card. Unless you solely buy singles for your personal collection, the chances are good that you will end up with autographed cards where the future is unknown.
It may be difficult to properly assess the long-term plans for a card, especially right after the card is pulled or obtained. The key thing is to immediately get it into some sort of protection. The easiest thing is to have some soft sleeves on-hand to quickly get an element of protection in place. Ideally you would have both standard sleeves and thick sleeves. From there, it is good to have a general idea of what you plan to do with card.
The next thing to figure out is the sizing for the card. Many autographed cards feature standard card stock, but premium products are shifting more to thicker card stock. If you are unsure, our Ultra Pro Magnetics guide can help you determine the correct size.
Personal Collection (PC)
Boom. You just pulled or purchased an autograph for your guy or team. In situations like this, the answer is generally simple. This card will never leave your personal collection. However, this still does not answer the question of which protection is best suited for a certain card.
If you are tracking down a complete set or just have a lot of low-value autographs, pages might be the best way to store them. The pages allow quick access to enjoy and view the cards, while still protecting them. Pages are also one of the easiest things to find on a whim. Most major retail stores, like Target or Wal-Mart, sell them. Also, the pages normally feature UV protection, which is very useful when dealing with autographs.
Some people are always going to go the toploader route. They are cheap, effective and easily grouped for storage. Given the lack of UV protection and their PVC composition, it is advised that they are used in conjunction with soft sleeves and stored in something that prevents regular exposure to light. Cheap cardboard boxes are easily found online and at most card shops, and you can also repurpose that old shoebox. If you are interested in further information, check out our complete Ultra Pro toploader guide.
One cool concept that doesn't appear to be as well-known, is the toploader page. It works exactly as it sounds. The special binders and pages are actually made to hold sheets of standard individual toploaders. Although it is a little pricey, this is a great idea and makes for a convenient way to display stacks of topladers.
Magnetic cases are the premium option for collectors to protect their cards. They cost the most but also offer the best attributes. Magnetics are specifically recommended for autographed cards because of the UV protection. Unfortunately, autographs fade, and heat and light can expedite that process. Magnetics have replaced screwdowns as the preferred method for long-term storage. There are also magnetic cases for premium booklet cards.
If you are a hardcore autograph collector / hoarder, you may just have too many cards to store and protect using the previous options. Cardboard boxes are a great option for storing large amounts of signed cards because they are cheap and make efficient use of space. At the very least, make sure to place all the cards in soft sleeves. It would be advisable to also utilize toploaders for added protection. Then you can use dividers to organize by team, player, brand or some other grouping.
Display cases for cards are more of a niche item but can be very helpful for protecting and displaying your top cards. These wall-mounted units come in a variety of sizes and feature versions that hold either ungraded or graded cards. Although they generally come with UV protection, you should double-check that fact since it is a very vital addition for something that will normally be exposed to light
Cards for Sale or Trades
Just like you may know immediately that you have a card for your PC, you may also know when you have an autographed card that others may value, but you don't care for. Ugh, not another Tyler Wilson autograph. Even if you don't want it, you might be able to get something in return. This will only be the case if it is in good condition. While not many collectors would be interested in your Tyler Wilson autographed cards right now, it is safe to assume that no one one wants your Tyler Wilson card that you spilled some soda on and looks like you were dragging the corners against the wall. In case you don't know, Tyler Wilson is a quarterback that was taken in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. He attended the NFLPA Rookie Premiere, which means that his autograph will be in a ton of 2013 products, but did not make the opening day roster and is currently on the practice squad.
Obviously, if we are talking about a card that is likely to sell in the hundreds or thousands or would be the centerpiece in a huge trade, it might be good to opt for a premium case. This will give your buyer or trade partner piece of mind that the card will make it safely through transit.
Again, toploaders are a great option based on their cheap cost and level of protection. They are also the preferred option for mailing cards. Don't forget the soft sleeve.
Semi-Rigids are a cousin to the toploader. They offer the same basic function as a toploader but are cheaper and include less material, so the case is thinner and more flexible. Obviously, soft sleeves are a necessary element.
An easy thing to do is keep a box where you put all autographed cards that you are not interested in keeping. That way, if an opportunity presents itself for a trade, just go to the box. Cardboard boxes are a good option because they cut down on clutter, protect cards from light, and can be organized to easily find cards in your possession.