It’s fun to open dozens of packs and celebrate the best pulls. Like many, I sleeve my holographic cards immediately for extra protection. You can’t be too careful! But after any whirlwind pack opening, cards, code cards, and empty packs will be scattered about. How can you possibly organize this mess? With some of the best pokemon card binders.
Card binders are a lifesaver to any true card collector. They allow you to sort, organize, and display your cards while offering protection. Depending on the scope of your collection, you might want to display cards by rarity. It’s popular to include ultra-rare cards in the front of binders, such as gold cards, rainbow cards, other secret rares, and alternate arts.
Other collectors might look to complete sets (sorting by card number) or Pokédex number. Binders are good for that too. Binders also afford your cards added protection. No need to worry about them starting to bend or a child or younger sibling trying to “draw” on the card. The binder will give you peace of mind there.
There are so many binder options out there that it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. In general, your grade school math binder won’t cut it here. You need to go with something stylish and sturdy.
Bottom Line Up Front
Binders protect cards from many sources of damage, such as water, sunlight, dust, and overhandling. There isn’t a wrong binder to choose from, but there are approaches you can take to ensure your cards are protected for years to come.
My favorite binders are the small, 1/2″ three-ring binders that I can label and organize for my displays. They are relatively cheap and are perfect for holding specific sets of cards.
Selecting the Right Binder for You
When selecting binders, here are some things that I consider before making a purchase:
- Storage space. Does the binder have enough pages to fit all the cards you want to store? Is there room in the binder for more cards to add in the future?
- Function. Is the binder sturdy? Can I handle it without worry?
- Aesthetics. Is the binder the right fit for my Pokémon display?
- Price. Can I afford this binder and others like it, or is there a cheaper option to consider?
Binders, Binders Everywhere
If you were a 90s kid like me, you probably had more than a few three-ring binders for your grade school classes. Notebook paper and hole-punched assignments made their way into the binders. At some point, I took an extra school binder I didn’t need for class and converted it into my first Pokémon card binder.
Before I had a binder, most of my Pokémon cards were in a couple of stacks on top of my dresser. I shudder to think about the tragedies that nearly claimed my stacks of cards during that time. But luckily, most escaped free of damage and were protected once in the binder. The first binder pages I had were sports card pages that didn’t fit Pokémon cards particularly well, but they did the job well enough. From these early years of collecting, much has changed.
Today, binders of all sizes, binding types, shapes, and colors can be found specifically made for Pokémon cards. Once upon a time, the options for card storage were solid-color three-ring binders or nothing at all. Over the years, companies realized there was a market for selling quality card storage products. Many options now exist for storing Pokémon cards, and just because three-ring binders are the old guard doesn’t mean they don’t have their place in modern collections.
The Best Pokemon Card Binders
Three-Ring Binders—the Affordable Workhorse
- Cheaper compared to some other alternatives
- Come in several thicknesses
- Usually have hardcovers for added protection
- Have to purchase pages for these binders
- Rings can become wrapped over time
- If not stored properly, it can damage cards
Since my first three-ring binder back in the early 2000s, my collection has moved through several three-ring binders. These binders are a great option for most collectors for several reasons: they are widely available in many different designs, they come in several thicknesses, and you can buy them as single binders or in bulk for reasonable prices.
I own dozens of three-ring binders, though not all are used now. When I first started collecting, I purchased several vintage binders to go along with the one I have owned for over 20 years. There is something magical about the vintage three-ring binders, especially if you use them to store vintage cards. It truly feels like a nostalgic trip to the past!
As my collection evolved, I moved away from the traditional 3” three-ring binders into smaller, 1/2” three-ring binders. I bought mine in bulk from Amazon. For me, this made better sense, as I like to sort my cards by set for easy cataloging and viewing.
Smaller binders are perfect for holding smaller sets of cards. However, if you are someone who likes to display all of your rare cards as one group, then a few larger (3”) three-ring binders might work for you. Pokémon, Ultra Pro, and other companies still produce new three-ring binder designs, usually several per year.
Though I enjoy using three-ring binders, many modern collectors do not encourage their use, and there are a few downsides to using them.
The most obvious downside is purchasing binder pages to store cards. While inexpensive, binder pages are an added expense to think about, especially if you plan on adding hundreds of cards to a binder. As is the case for most things, buying binder pages in bulk is the best way to save some money.
Another potential downside some collectors have brought up in the past is damage done to cards by the binder’s rings. I have seen this sort of damage on cards before, which looks like a dent in the card where the ring is pressed against the card. Though it can happen, I have never seen any damage to any of my cards in over 20 years I have had them in three-ring binders.
With any storage option, the best advice is that whatever you pick requires gentle handling and care. By taking care of your binders, you also help to take care of your cards.
Miniature Pocket Binders—Fun-Sized Options for the Road
- The best option for traveling with a small set of cards
- Can flip through pages quickly
- Easily lost as the binder is very small
- Soft covers provide less protection to the cards
- You can only view 1 or 2 cards at a time
A newer type of binder, mini pocket binders, are single-card pages with a soft front and back cover. The small size of this binder is appealing. You can easily travel with something this size while still protecting and organizing your cards. In fact, I think that these binders are perfect for card trading or selling at your local card shop, official Pokémon event, or gaming convention.
You can flip the pages quickly and pull out any card without disturbing other cards in the binder. Pokémon usually sells these binders with a booster pack for newly released sets at big box stores.
Though they have their place, mini binders are not good options for long-term storage. They can’t hold many cards, and since you can view just one card at a time, it isn’t the best way to display and store an organized collection.
For storage safety, these binders also don’t hold up. They can get lost easier than larger binders, and the lack of hardcovers means that bending or pressing on the binder can quickly lead to damaged cards. Many kids like these binders because they are easier to hold and move. But if you find yourself using these for anything more than a travel binder, move your most valuable cards to a better long-term storage solution.
Oversized Card Binders—Specialty Binders for Unique Cards
- The best way to store oversized promo cards
- Binders are sturdy and offer adequate protection
- Can only view 1 or 2 cards at a time
- Not many varieties made other than official Pokémon products
For many years, these oversized card binders did not exist. Over the past year, they’ve been available everywhere in the 25th anniversary Celebrations oversized binder and Pikachu card bundle.
As the name implies, these binders only fit modern oversized cards, typically produced as promo cards in boxed sets. Older, vintage oversized cards (such as E-Reader series box toppers or Diamond and Pearl era oversized cards) or regular-size Pokémon cards will not fit snuggly in these binders.
However, these binders are still smaller than the average three-ringer binder and can be transported and stored without much difficulty. Since there isn’t a huge market for oversized cards, these binders are good for organizing and protecting the cards you enjoy. Any oversized binder produced by Pokémon will do the job here.
Side-Load Binders—the Modern Favorite
- Usually well made
- Offer the best protection from dust
- Stylish covers and card backing add to their visual appeal
- Generally more expensive than other binder options
- Limited (fixed) number of binder binders that cannot be increased
- Soft covers offer less protection to cards
In recent years, side-load binders have become one of the most popular options for serious collectors. Generally made with premium materials, side-load binders have a stylish and slim look and hold hundreds of cards. Prefilled with solid-color-backed pages, cards in side-load binders pop off the page for a pleasing visual display.
There are many varieties of side-load binders available today, but I would choose one made by Ultra-Pro when looking at options. Depending on the type of binder, some of them have zippers to seal the cards, further protecting them from light and dust.
The threat of dust is one of the main reasons people prefer side-loading binders, as it is much harder for dust particles to slip in sideways. Dust is an enemy of card collectors as it can scratch holofoils, an avoidable form of damage.
Less dust and no potential damage from binder rings are two of the major arguments for choosing side-load binders over three-ring binders. But side-load binders generally have a higher initial cost, a limited (and fixed) number of pages, and one flaw that I despise.
Removing penny-sleeved cards from slots in side-load binder pages can be difficult. Since I mostly use penny sleeves (sometimes with a perfect-fit sleeve, too), this is problematic for me but might not matter to others.
Displaying Card Binders
It’s tricky to display card binders. Most of them look the best from the front due to their design, but displaying them this way is difficult—how many books in your home are displayed with the front facing forward? Sideways or flat are the most popular options.
Sideways is my preference, as it allows you to display or store as many as you want since this option takes up the least amount of space. It also means you can grab the binder with a finger and pull it out, avoiding any of the cards within the binder.
I used to display more of my binders flat. I discovered that as my collection grew, my binders got too heavy and were too heavy to place on another full binder. This option could work if you have binders with thick covers that aren’t filled to the brim with cards.
Where to display your binders is another consideration to make. Generally, displaying them on a protected shelf, cabinet, or cube is your best bet to minimize unexpected accidents or dust. I keep all of my binders on display in a sealed cabinet, so I don’t have to worry about dust. But for those with open-top binders, be mindful of potential dusty areas, and avoid them if you can.
Other Storage Options
Like many people, I don’t store all of my cards in binders. That would be much too difficult to track and store. For a lot of my cards, I use specialized cardboard boxes made specifically for card storage. Since they are just in cardboard, I don’t recommend this option for high-value cards, but for bulk cards, commons, and uncommons (even some rares), this option is very space efficient.
Other options include deck boxes, metal tins, lunchbox-style tins, and card boxes in every Elite Trainer Box (ETB). The card boxes found in ETBs are a good option because they stack well, hold hundreds of cards, and can be purchased with any ETB.
One last option I used in desperation was gallon-sized zippered plastic bags. Though I don’t recommend them at all for any long-term storage, if packaged carefully, they can protect cards from dust short term.
Question: What is the best card binder to buy?
Question: Will three-ring binders damage my cards?
Question: Are all side-load binders the same?
Conclusion—Protect Your Cards!
The photo above is one of my display’s groups of three-ring binders. I have labeled each of my 1/2″ binders with the set name and logo to track down specific cards quickly. This is the best option for me as I enjoy collecting specific sets and have an easier time finding specific cards this way.
Whatever option you choose, the most important consideration is protecting your cards. I’m not talking about protecting them so you can submit your cards for grading, sell them, and become a millionaire. Most of us will never be that lucky. But we can all protect our cards while still enjoying them and ensure that whoever gets our cards after us—a sibling, child, or stranger—gets to enjoy the cards as much as we did. That’s what collecting is all about.
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