The 5 Best Sleeves for Pokemon Cards
To some, they may just be colourful cardboard, but for you, Pokemon cards are collectables. And when you’re collecting something, you want to ensure they’re safe and protected to preserve their condition. You can’t start that process with cards unless you use card sleeves.
The best sleeve for your Pokemon card is one that fits it snugly without bending the card but gives you enough room to slide the card in safely. It should also be clear enough to showcase the art but without any acids that could leach and affect the card over the years.
Choosing the right sleeve for your collection can take time and effort. Is a penny sleeve sufficient, or should you buy a different one? Do you opt for clear sleeves or coloured ones? How do you display sleeves with unique designs on the back?
We’ll answer these questions to help you pick the right sleeve and list the five best ones you can buy today.
Why do you need sleeves for your Pokemon Cards?
When you’ve already spent a fair amount of money on buying packs or the specific card you want, spending more money on sleeves is the last thing you want to do. But if you want to preserve your card so you can enjoy it throughout the years, you need to do this final step.
That’s because sleeves protect your card from scratches and prevent dust from accumulating on the card’s surface. Sleeves also prevent oil and other particles on your fingertips from coming into contact with the card.
If you’ve ever wondered how a 20-plus-year-old Pokemon card from the 90s managed to keep its pristine condition, sleeves are the answer.
Can you use any sleeve you can find?
Finding the right sleeve for your Pokemon card can be intimidating and confusing if you don’t know what you want. With different terms, designs, and sizes available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Thankfully, Pokemon cards are “standard-sized” cards, meaning most trading card sleeves you’ll find in stores will fit them. Their exact measurements are 63.5 mm by 88 mm (2.5 in by 3.5 in). Sometimes, their packaging will even mention that the sleeves are compatible with the Pokemon Trading Card Game, which is your cue to buy them.
If you’re unsure, you can bring a spare card for a size comparison or go to a gaming store and ask for advice. Also, be aware that the other popular size for card sleeves, called “small” or “mini,” are a few millimetres smaller than the standard size. You risk damaging your Pokemon cards if you try to use them.
Pokemon Go Elite Trainer Box Sleeves
Are clear or coloured sleeves better for your cards?
When shopping around for Pokemon card sleeves, you’ll notice that you can buy three different kinds of sleeves: a completely clear sleeve, a solid-coloured back, or one with a graphic on its back. Whichever one you choose is entirely dependent on your preferences.
Clear sleeves are great if you wish to put the card in another holder, such as top loaders or hard cases. They allow you to showcase both sides of the card.
On the other hand, sleeves with a solid-coloured back are great for organisation, such as when you’re trying to keep cards from different sets separate. It’s also ideal for keeping the focus on the card’s art; after all, there isn’t much need to admire the back unless there’s an error.
Lastly, sleeves with a graphic on the back increase your attachment to the card. These sleeves are great for your favourite cards because you can showcase something different on each side – the card’s art on the front and the sleeve design on the back.
What kinds of sleeves are there?
Once you’ve decided which sleeve colour you want and found the standard-sized ones, it’s time to pick which sleeve type to buy. Their prices differ but also reflect the differences between them. Let’s examine each type closer.
These inexpensive sleeves are named as such because a pack of 100 usually costs around $1. They’re thin, flimsy, and clear all around. Penny sleeves work great as temporary sleeves for your cards, providing adequate protection until you have thicker ones.
However, penny sleeves aren’t recommended for your cards’ long-term storage. That’s because the cards don’t get a snug fit from the sleeve, giving them more room to shift and gather dust. And when you’re storing a card, even the slightest movements throughout the years can cause whitenings on the card edges.
Lastly, penny sleeves are thin and are only about 40 microns in thickness. They don’t provide much protection when it comes to stability; for that, you’ll need thicker sleeves that are at least 100 microns thick.
Thicker than penny sleeves but more expensive, perfect-fit sleeves are what you get when you’re ready to store your cards for the long term. With a thickness of around 100 microns or so, depending on the brand, perfect-fit sleeves will provide the protection you need while showcasing your card’s beauty.
Brands like UltraPro and Dragon Shield dominate the market, so you’ll see them almost everywhere. Other brands exist, although you’re more likely to find them in specialist shops.
When buying a perfect-fit sleeve, ensure the fit matches your preference. Some sleeves keep the card snugly inside while leaving a small border around it; others are so precisely measured it’s as if the card was made with the sleeve already around it.
And then there’s the option of matte vs glossy and solid colours vs graphical designs. Regardless of which one you pick, these sleeves will perform the same job: protect your card so you can show them off safely.
Plastic Trading Card Sleeves
Are there different sleeve sizes?
Different trading card sleeve sizes are available, so make sure you pick the right one for your Pokemon cards. Thankfully, Pokemon cards are considered standard-sized, so their sleeves are easier to find in stores.
Remember that while cheaper, penny sleeves are typically larger than perfect-fit ones. If you just need temporary protection, such as when the card’s fresh out of the pack, penny sleeves can do the job. But if you need to transport the cards safely, you want a thicker sleeve that provides a snug fit.
Lastly, make sure the card sleeves are 63.5 mm by 88 mm (2.5 in by 3.5 in). They should be labelled as “standard size,” removing confusion. If the packaging doesn’t mention any dimensions or doesn’t say “standard size” anywhere, it’s likely the wrong size.
What happens to a card if it’s not sleeved?
Any Pokemon card collector wouldn’t be caught with an unsleeved card in their collection. That’s because the risk is too high for one or more of these to happen:
- Scratches on the card’s surface, especially on the holographic layer
- Whitened edges, more visible from the card’s back
- Creases, especially near the edges
- Card warping, curling, or bending as it’s exposed to moisture and elements
- Visible fraying of the card’s fibres, especially on its corners
These are not the only dangers your card is exposed to when unsleeved, but they’re the most common problems.
The need for sleeves goes even higher if you wish to send the card for grading. Grading companies follow strict criteria when assigning grades to cards, and they can see microscopic flaws that our naked eyes can’t. For example, a slight scratch on the card caused by rough handling is enough to bring the grade down, even though you may not have noticed it.
Invest in some quality card sleeves to keep your cards safe and protected for a long time.
5. Ultra Pro Penny Sleeves
Any card sleeve list is incomplete without mentioning these inexpensive essentials. Penny sleeves are great to have around because they can protect your card without breaking the bank. They provide adequate temporary protection until you can move the card to its permanent sleeve.
One thing to remember about penny sleeves is that they’re not meant for anything other than temporary storage. If you need to protect a card while trading it to someone or place it in an album sleeve in the meantime, penny sleeves can do the job. But penny sleeves won’t cut it if you want to keep your cards in a binder for years or bring them to tournaments for playing.
Ultra Pro Penny Sleeves
4. Vault X Exact Fit Card Sleeves
Thicker than penny sleeves but thinner than other sleeves, Vault X Exact Fit Card Sleeves are a good step up for your card collection. At 60 microns of thickness, it provides more protection and stability for your cards.
And they’re not lying with the “exact fit” part of its name because it really is a snug, exact fit for the cards. They’re not quite enough for tournament use, but their size makes them perfect for double-sleeving. They should also make inserting the cards into toploaders or album sleeves easier.
Vault X Exact Fit Card Sleeves
3. Titan Shield Card Protection Sleeves
Sold in packs of 150, Titan Shield Card Protection Sleeves are a good value, especially when you need to sleeve a lot of cards at once. At 100 microns thick, they provide plenty of protection for your Pokemon cards, regardless of whether you’re storing them or bringing them to a tournament.
The only downside to these sleeves is their size. Even though its inner pockets fit a standard-sized card, its exterior is larger than usual at 66 mm by 91 mm. That extra bit of sleeve could make it difficult to slide within album sleeve pockets.
Titan Shield Card Protection Sleeves
2. Dragon Shield Trading Card Sleeves
Dragon Shield sleeves are excellent for those who want to organise their collection further using a colour-coded system. The company offers up to 20 different sleeve colours, including clear, and all of them are sold with an accompanying deck box (the box holds the sleeves inside). If you have many loose cards that need categorising and are waiting for a binder, Dragon Shield has you covered.
Dragon Shield’s sleeve thickness is also top-notch, measuring 120 microns. Not only does it offer excellent protection and stability, but it also looks great for presentation. You no longer have to worry about the sleeve ripping.
The only downside to this sleeve is the price. For 100 sleeves, it can cost around $12/£12, which can be pricey if you need to sleeve an extensive collection.
Dragon Shield Trading Card Sleeves
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1. Ultra Pro Pro-Matte Card Sleeves
Ultra Pro is one of the most well-known brands when it comes to trading card game accessories, so it’s no surprise that its thick card sleeves are at the top of this list.
Although it doesn’t come with a deck box like Dragon Shield, Ultra Pro is also an excellent choice for protecting your Pokemon cards. The sleeve’s front is 90 microns thick, while the back is 120 microns – a measurement that prioritises protection and presentation. It’s easier to determine which side is the front with two different thicknesses.
Even though these sleeves are also available in “Glossy,” we pick matte because it helps avoid glare when viewing the card. Glare is an even more significant problem when taking photos of the card; having a matte sleeve helps resolve that issue.
And although it doesn’t come with a deck box like Dragon Shield, Ultra Pro ultimately wins by having better store availability.
Ultra Pro Pro-Matte Card Sleeves
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