Magic is a collectible card game and like most collectible items, there is value in them, so protecting you cards needs to be a high priority. If I may delve into the MTG finance side of things for a moment, your cards are like stocks on the stock market. With stocks, the price can go up or down depending on how the business or the overall industry or the entire economy is doing. There are a multitude of factors that drive stock prices. Say you’re an investor and you buy 10 shares of stock in company A at $10 each costing you $100. There are two things that can and will happen: the stock price will go up, or it will go down. Let’s say the company makes a bad business move and shares fall to $5 each. If you were to sell your shares now, you would only get back $50 of the original $100 that you invested. That would not be good. Let’s now assume that the company makes a good business move and shares rise to $15 each. Now you would get back $150 for your original investment of $100. That’s a much better deal because your investment netted you $50 that you didn’t have before. There is a lot more to it, but this is the gist of trading stocks. Cards can work the same way. A recent example is the card Fluctuator. This card from the Urza block wasn’t highly sought after when it was released, and since then it has gotten to the $8 range at its height, but that slowly trickled down to $5. However, with the recent release of the Ikoria Commander decks and a commander that cares about cycling, Gavi, Nest Warden, it has gone up to the $12-$15 range at the time of this post, so everyone who may have opened some Urza’s Saga packs back in the day and got stuck with a few copies of this card now have a nice payday waiting for them, if they want to sell or trade this card, and the better condition it is in, the more they can get for it, up to its maximum value. With this idea in mind, let’s talk about how to protect your cards to keep them in good condition.
Of course the best way to protect your cards is with card protectors, often referred to as sleeves, but not all card sleeves are the same. It should be noted that I am currently not being paid to endorse any brands I may mention in this post, but there are two main brands when it comes to sleeves that Magic players swear by: Ultra PRO and Dragon Shield. When you shuffle without sleeves, your cards can catch on each other leaving little nicks on the sides which doesn’t look good and hurts their value. Look at the edges on this card below and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Luckily, this is just one of my bulk commons (Rakdos Cluestone) so I’m not too concerned about it, but imagine if it was a card worth something. Say I bought it for $20 and played with it unsleeved and it got damaged; now it’s only worth $10 or $15. Feels pretty bad when you try to trade it or resell it.
I would even suggest double sleeving your cards. You can buy little clear protectors that will perfectly fit your cards and then put them into the bigger opaque sleeves. I’m not sure what brand they are. Every time I see them they have Japanese writing on them. Just ask for ‘perfect fit sleeves’ at your LGS and they’ll probably know what you mean and they are not as expensive as the opaque ones. Put these on the card upside down and then put the opaque sleeve on right side up. This helps protect the cards from the air, especially foil cards. In more humid environments, cards can absorb moisture from the air. Over time, taking them out and putting them away causes them to absorb moisture and then dry out leading to cards that have a slight curl to them. Foil cards are notorious for this; even straight out of the pack they’ll look like a potato chip. Part of this is a quality control issue that Wizards has yet to address. Once this happens the damage is pretty much irreversible, but you can still prevent it from happening any further by using this method. This can also help hide the curl if the card is not too far gone.
Another reason why you don’t want your cards to be curled or damaged is that cards like that are considered marked in a tournament setting and can get you disqualified. If a card is marked, you could know exactly what it is and where it is in your library (which is cheating). Also, your cards must be sleeved to even participate and your sleeves need to be opaque enough so that you cannot see the back of the card through the sleeve. Surprisingly, there are sleeves out there that are labeled as “opaque” and they look like they are, until you take a closer look and you can faintly see the back of your cards through them.
Obviously you want your decks to be sleeved, but what about the cards not in your deck? Well, it depends on what you intend to do with them. If you are looking to sell or trade your more valuable cards, I would recommend putting perfect fit sleeves on them and then putting them in a trade binder. You can make these yourself with a 3 ring binder from the School/Office Supplies section of the grocery store and find some sleeve pages for cards. I wouldn’t recommend this method because the rings could damage the cards that are closest to these rings. The better option would be going to your LGS and getting a binder that was made to hold cards. The sheets are sewn into the binder and they have a felt backing so your cards are less likely to accidentally slide out. For your bulk commons and uncommons that probably won’t be worth anything, you can just use a cardboard box and forget the sleeves. You can use the boxes that come with some Magic products like gift bundles, pre-release kit boxes, booster boxes, etc., or if your local game store sells them, you can get these white cardboard boxes that are made to hold cards. They are also divided up into sections and come in several sizes capable of holding several hundred to thousands of cards. In fact, your LGS may display some of their bulk cards in these boxes for customers to dig through. If they don’t have any for sale, try another store that sells collectibles like comics and other types of trading cards.
Finally, transporting your cards. For your decks, you don’t just want to throw them in a backpack without putting them in some kind of box first. Luckily, there are deck boxes available. These come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some have snaps or magnets to close them and others just slide together. You can get generic looking ones or spend a little more money on customized ones. There are also carrying cases that allow you to carry multiple decks.
For more in depth information on sleeves, deck boxes, binders, deck cases and so on, there is a YouTube channel called Tolarian Community College run by The Professor. Most of his videos are about reviewing products like these so that you, the consumer, know where to put your money when it comes to protecting your investment.