The Best Sleeves for Sports Cards

When you’re collecting cards, card protection is often the first thing that gets overlooked. I kind of get it. Buying penny sleeves is way less exciting than buying a new card.

However, I do laugh when people will drop a few hundred on a card and be like, “nah, that pack of top loaders is way too expensive”.

In this article, I’ll go over the best sleeves for sports cards, and the best options for collectors.

Best Penny Sleeves for Sports Cards: Ultra Pro Standards

When it comes to penny sleeves, or any card holder for that matter – Ultra Pro are the industry standard.

In fact, for many collectors, the brand name has become synonymous with the product – like you call a cola a Coke or a tissue a Kleenex.

There are a bunch of other brands out there, with more and more popping up every month (or so it seems). However, for me, I just use the Ultra Pro penny sleeves.

I wouldn’t use these sleeves for thick cards like ones that have jersey patches, or for game cards that you need to shuffle. However, if all you’re after is a cheap sleeve to store your cards in – or to have inside a top loader – this is the easy buy.

Buy a ton of these – you always run out of penny sleeves.

Best Sleeve for Thick Cards

Sometimes a regular penny sleeve won’t do for thicker cards.

And honestly, you don’t want to try and force the card into a sleeve that’s too small. Any damages to the corner can be the different between a PSA 10 and an 8 or 9.  Which is massive when you consider how cheap sleeves are.

There’s a few different brands of thicker penny sleeves. However, I like these. They’re a good price – and at 110 point, will fit a lot of thicker cards.

You won’t need as many as these as you do regular penny sleeves – but it’s likely that every card you do use these for will be expensive. You don’t usually see many 110 point base cards!

Best Sports Card Binder Sheet

If you’re one with a bunch of base cards, or just someone who likes to maximize space, then binders is always a top option.

When selecting binder sheets, I think it’s always pretty smart to buy the sheets that have holes for three, four, five, and six ring binders. You many not need it not – but it’ll save you a lot of time later on.

I remember one day I bought a bunch of new, bigger two ring binders to keep a lot of cards in. I thought it would be an easy swap between binders. Long story short, the binder I had was a three-ring and the sheets I bought were three-ring sheets. The pages didn’t fit, so I had to find larger three-ring binders that fit the sheets… Which is way harder to do than it sounds – or it was back then anyway.

It was that, or move every card individually to sheets that fit the two-ring binder.

Anyway, just buy the versatile sheets in the first place and save a lot of hassle.

Best Top Loader for Sports Cards – Ultra Pro

Looking at top loaders, it’s back to Ultra Pro.

Top loaders are, again, pretty similar form brand to brand. However, I do like a few Ultra Pro features.

They seem sturdier than most – and Ultra Pro are usually better than most when it comes to keeping stock up to date.

Keep in mind though. there’s a lot of Ultra Pro stuff that’s knockoff. So buying from the Ultra Pro store on places like Amazon will make sure you get actual Ultra Pro stuff.

The top loaders I’ve linked to here is for regular sized cards – but you can click through and find top loaders that suit your specific cards. In a similar way to buying sleeves – you don’t want to buy top loaders that are too small for your cards – damaging the card trying to squeeze it in to a top loader kind of defeats the purpose of buying a top loader in the first place.

I always, always, ALWAYS run out of top loaders – and like to stock up.

My favorite part of this combo is that it comes with penny sleeves. So it’s a bit of a two-for-one.

Best One Touch Case – Ultra Pro

Again, we’re going to Ultra Pro here (do you sense a theme here!).

One touch cases are great for those epic pulls form packs. I only really use one-touch cases for the big hits. The autos, relics, and any card that’s worth at least $1k or over – that’s a bit of a loose rule, and depends on the card.

Either way, you don’t need to go over the top with one-touch cases, but it’s always good to have a few on hand for when you do hit big. Nothing worse than pulling an epic auto and not having a one-touch to put it in (well, technically not pulling an auto would be worse, but you get my drift).

I like to buy these bigger packs of one touch cases so I always have a few on hand just in case I hit it big.

Best Semi-Rigid Card Holders

I only use semi-rigid card holders when I want to grade cards. Some use them for general card storage though – thinner than top loaders, but thicker and less flimsy than a penny sleeve.

However, lets be honest… 99% of collectors only use semi-rigids for grading.

So, if you’re looking to grade, it’s best to have a bunch on hand.

Actually funny story. At the time of writing this article, I’m actually waiting for a shipment of semi rigid card holders so I can send my cards off to grading properly.

Yes, semi rigids are only suggested by grading companies – but penny sleeves can be risky, and top loaders are a no-go for companies like PSA and BGS.

Best Sleeves for Sports Cards – Buying Guide

Different Types of Card Sleeves

Card sleeves are used to protect cards from getting damaged. They come in different types that are suitable for different card games.

For card games with a lot of shuffling, card sleeves with deeper than average pockets with a magnetic closure are recommended. Card sleeves with the dimensions of 2 ¾ x 4 ½ x 75 mm offer enough protection and depth to save the cards from damage during shuffling while also being large enough to fit most decks of playing cards for popular card games such as Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokémon, or any other trading or collectible card game.

Card sleeves that have the dimensions of 2 ¾ x 4 ½ x 102 mm are more suitable for card games where there is less shuffling such as poker or bridge where you don’t need to shuffle your deck

For sports cards, I like 2 5/8 x 3 5/8. It’s a versatile size that fits most main manufacturers and will fit in smaller soccer stickers too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Sleeves Damage Cards?

While they’re designed to protect valuable cardscard sleeves can actually damage cards if not used correctly. Card sleeves can damage cards if you use a sleeve that’s the wrong size for your card. So make sure you buy a range of sleeves to suit all cards. You don’t want to pull a thick patch auto and not have a sleeve to put it in.

Should I Buy Card Sleeves?

Yes. Card sleeves are almost a must-have for any collector. However, I guess it does depend on if you care about that card’s condition. If you don’t particularly care about condition and just like collecting sets, then you can probably get buy without sleeves. Otherwise, every card collector needs sleeves.

How can I Protect my Cards Without Sleeves?

There are ways to protect cards without sleeves. However, these should only really be a temporary fix. For starters, you can use binder sheets, or one touch cases. I’ve seen people use tape… DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU INTEND ON SELLING YOUR CARDS. Most buyers don’t want cards that are taped up and this will impact re-sale value.

Are Card Sleeves Important?

Card sleeves and protection are incredibly important as a way to keep your cards safe for future use, grading, and re-sale. Not to mention having a collection is mint condition.

Why are they Called Penny Sleeves?

Basic plastic card sleeves are also called “penny sleeves” due to their inexpensive cost. They may not be a penny any more, but they’re still the cheapest sleeve to protect your card with.

Final Thoughts

When looking for the best sleeves for sports cards, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Hopefully this article was a way to help your find your way.


  • Vince

    I'm a big time sports nerd, with soccer being my first true love. I've been collecting sports cards since I was a little kid, and now... well, not much has changed, but I write about it... and I have facial hair.

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