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In a Bind? What to Consider When Choosing a Binder

As a young trainer, binders were one of my first methods of protecting all the Pokemon cards I managed to catch. I spent hundreds of hours of my young life taking cards in and out of binders, rearranging them, and sharing my precious paper Pokemon with friends, family, and anyone I could flag down. The idea of a binder of Pokemon cards carries its own nostalgic weight that proves essential to collecting for many. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful with your binder choices, what is intended to be a protective vault for these treasures can quickly become a veritable card-damaging nightmare. Here are a few considerations when choosing a binder that can help you enjoy the experience without accidentally crushing your front-page holos.

1. If you’re using ring binders, ALWAYS opt for “D”

Not all rings are created equal. If you opt for an O-ring or round-ring binder, you’ll most likely find your cards indented with time. This is because round rings press into the bottom pages when the binder is laid flat. Many binders over the years have damaged cards in this way. Instead, you’ll need a D-ring binder which will prevent pages from slipping far enough over that the ring can press down into any cards contained inside.

There are lots of beautiful D-ring binders in the Pokemon world. Fortunately, most official Pokemon binders are D-ring. Play! Pokemon binders given out at leagues, World Championships binders provided to eligible competitors, and even widely accessible Pokemon Center binders all sport the D-ring, so going for the right type of binder won’t force you to sacrifice the bling.

If you’re using ring binders, it is also important to anticipate how many cards you will want to fit inside before purchasing a second binder. Options exist to accommodate lots of pages or very few. If you want your binder to only contain a single set, it is likely best you opt for the smaller option. If you know you’re going to pack pages in until you can’t fit anymore, a larger size is probably best for you. Once again, these types of decisions do not exclude official Pokemon products from your potential shopping cart.

2) Consider fixed-page binders

All binders come with pros and cons. If you’re someone who likes to have control over the number of pages in your binder, a D-ring standard binder is for you. But if you’re looking for more protection and a sleeker overall look, fixed-page binders are a fantastic and widely available option. Ultra Pro has even gone so far as to produce them specifically for the Pokemon crowd.

These binders have side-loading pockets, a feature that takes your mind off of the otherwise-feared “I accidentally held my binder upside down” moment. The pages hold the cards tighter than a traditional ring binder. The tight fit is great for keeping cards where they belong, but it does require extra diligence about using card sleeves because tighter holds increase the likelihood of surface scratching over time. Since the page pockets do not open in the same direction as the sleeves, side-loading binders also do a better job keeping dust away from cards. Several fixed-page binders also have straps or zippers around the edge to keep the binder from flying open if it isn’t grabbed just right.

3) Consider what size is best for your needs

While I have at least one of every type of binder in this article, when it comes to protecting my most valuable loose singles, I always go for the four-pocket, fixed-page option.

Fixed page binders come in all sorts of sizes. I’ve seen pocket arrangements of 1x1, 2x1, 2x2, 3x3, 2x4, and 4x4! While you’ll never have any issues with a 2x2 binder (pictured above) or a standard 3x3 binder, smaller and larger binders come with their own challenges. Smaller fixed-page binders have a tendency to pinch the cards inside. This is one of the main reasons I advise against the small 60-card “Collector’s Albums” that Pokemon usually releases each set with single packs for a dollar or two more (pictured below).

DON’T BUY THESE

Larger fixed-page binders can also pose risks if they have flexible covers. When you hold larger fixed-page binders, the weight of the binder itself can push down against the hand gripping it from the side and bend the cards contained within. These larger binders are still much safer than super small 1x1 and 2x1 binders, but they have to be handled with more care than a standard 2x2 or 3x3.

4) Consider your own level of paranoia

If you’re an absolute binder-committed protection freak, there are solutions for you. Perhaps a toploader binder or similar option is best suited to your needs. These types of binders are unwieldy but inarguably provide the most protection.

Toploader binders are large, and you’re going to have to find storage solutions for your toploader binders to accommodate their increased size. Consider this added height before investing.

These types of binders also fill very quickly, despite their increased thickness--almost as quickly as PSA-graded card binders.

Whatever your decision, be certain to consider all of your options and how they would suit your specific needs. Choosing the wrong binder can lead to damaged cards, additional expenses, unruly storage difficulties, and more headaches. Once you’ve selected the type of binder you want, take the time to consider the different options on the market and select one that will serve you for the long haul. Most binders don’t wear out quickly, and you may find that your first purchase is also your last. As always, smart collectors win.

‘til next time,

Charlie Hurlocker