Once you start a Pokémon card collection, two essential aspects can’t be ignored – organizing and protecting. Proper organization will protect your cards. I am a serial organizer; with our Pokémon collection, everything has a home or a place and is cataloged in various ways. Here are my favorite tips and tricks that S and I use to make sense of all the Pokémon card chaos!
Cards add up very quickly. With ten cards per booster pack or 3 per dollar store pack, it’s easy to accumulate a mountain of cards from various sets suddenly. S and I have had this happen to us countless times. We’ll have Card Night (we open a particular set), add the new cards to our binders, and then put the multiples in a box to be put away. Then we do it again, and again, and again… until we have a mountain to organize and put away. One of my favorite sayings is, “there has to be a better way..”
Organization is crucial to collecting sets, types, and special cards. If you don’t know what you have, you won’t know what you need. There are around 12,500 unique English cards (to date) and collecting them all isn’t easy.
The best and easiest way is to start separating cards by set. Find the set symbol on the card and put all like cards together. Remember to look closely as some set symbols look very similar, like the current Burning Shadows and Crimson Invasion symbols.
As you go, put anything that is a reverse holo, holo, EX/GX, full art, rainbow rare, gold or full gold into a sleeve. We do this with each that we have, including multiples. Scratches happen very easily — and can be avoided. For the first three listed, we use soft top loader sleeves for both multiples and cards going into binders. For Full Art cards forward, they go into thicker top loader sleeves for binders (usually from their respective Elite Trainer Boxes) and hard top loaders if they’re multiples being stored.
Burning Shadows and Crimson Invasion set symbol similarity.
Once this is done, it is time to put cards in set number order. With newer sets, if you separate the cards by type and then number, it will be easier for you. Put all fire types together, grass, water, electric, psychic, fighting, dark, metal, fairy, dragon and colorless (in that order). Then will come trainer cards and special rare cards. A few sets have numbered energy cards, so be sure to check yours to see if they are part of the set itself.
Protecting starts when you open a pack of cards. A lot of people open them and immediately put their fingers on the card face and back. You may not see it with the naked eye, but you’ve created fingerprints and possibly tiny scratches on the card. Tearing into the pack and flipping through the cards at top speed is fun, but it’s also dangerous if you are trying to protect cards. The cards themselves can scratch each other. S destroyed a pack of cards from Dollar Tree (carefully) to show the wrong way of opening cards.
To properly open a pack and protect your cards, first wash your hands. Use a simple soap, nothing scented as that can leave a residue (I’m a huge fan of basic Blue Dawn for everything.) You don’t know what’s inside and want to be prepared for a hyper-rare card should it appear. Open the pack from the back and expose the cards. Grab them from the sides and gently pull them out of the pack. While still holding the cards from the sides, go through them one by one, setting them down as you go. Rare cards will be toward the back. If you find one that you like, I recommend you put it immediately into a sleeve. S opened a pack of cards from Dollar Tree to show the right, safe way.
To best protect your cards, use a soft top loader sleeve first. Put the card in from the top, so the bottom of the card is at the sleeve opening. Then put that into a hard top loader sleeve, with the opening of the soft sleeve going in first. Set that card aside, out of light (especially sunlight) to either display it, send it in to be graded or store it however you choose.
Soft Sleeves Top Loaders
Here you can see our method. Charizard goed into a soft case top first for best protection. Then we put the Charizard — in the soft case — into a hard case, bottom (open) side first. The card is now in both sleeves with no openings, so the card won’t be damaged.
S and I have binders that hold our sets. We have between 8 and 12 sets per binder. It varies because some sets are small, like Neo Revelation at 66 cards, and others are massive, like Lost Thunder at 236. There are a lot of binder options out there. We use 1 ½ or 2in for the 9-pocket protectors and regular sets, promos, TOPPS, and counterfeit cards. You will want to make sure there is a page protector space for each card. Our Japanese and other language cards are in 4-pocket binders, and there are also mini binders available which are 1-pocket. The size of the binder is up to you! Do what feels right.
How you set up a binder is all personal preference. Ours have dividers stating which set it is, and to save space, we double-card (two cards per slot, front and back). Instead of nine slots per page, we stretch it to 18 this way. We also sleeve some of the cards in the slots — depending on their rarity.
We like to set it up so that our binders go through each English set from Base all the way to the open spaces for Detective Pikachu (April 2019) and Unbroken Bonds (May 2019). As soon as a new set is announced and the card count is released, I like to add a space in my current binder for those cards (as I said, I’m a serial organizer).
Now, before you put your multiples away, I highly recommend an app called Pokecardex. There are a few card organization apps available, but S and I love this one. They have every card you could imagine, which is unique to them. They have scans you can download to have photos of the actual card. And you can choose if your card is normal, a holo of some sort, a special card, or a promo league. If you collect cards in other languages, you can add that as well. You can also filter your sets by missing cards or rarity.
There is also a statistic option so you can see how many unique cards you have compared to how many are available, which set you have the most of and how far you need to go. You also can see how many cards you have in each set and how many you still need.
Now that your cards are separated into sets and in number order, you can put them away in your chosen storage system. If you are putting more than one set in an ETB or a count box, remember to use a divider to mark where one set ends, and another begins. We use blank dividers that we can write the set name on and put it at the front, so the cards behind it belong to that set. The following photo shows many dividers: the top white one is blank and can be written on. The rest are from their respective Elite Trainer Boxes.
We use 5,000ct card storage boxes for our multiples. These boxes are the kind you see in specialty game stores that hold overflow cards from different fandoms. There are several varieties out there, from 200ct and up. They are very sturdy cardboard and easy to stack if you need multiples.
Elite Trainer Boxes (ETB) become card storage boxes after you open them and empty out all the fun stuff. When our collection was smaller, our cards were stored in ETB’s with a flag stating which set or sets were in the box. That worked for quite a while, as we had many ETB’s, but if your collection gets too large, you will run out of room. We ran out of room ourselves and had to upgrade to the 5,000ct boxes.
There are other ways to store your Pokémon Cards if these don’t appeal to you. Shoe boxes are a popular method – just make sure to mark the box, so you know what you have inside of it. There are plastic drawer storage systems that are used, but the cards slide a lot in them, so be sure to secure them before you close the drawer. We have a wicker cabinet that holds out ETBS full of energy cards (one type of energy per ETB). If your card collection is smaller, the Pokémon Tins and Lunch Boxes (Collector’s Chests) should be enough to house your energy.
In the world we live in, it’s easy to share your collection with other people, thanks to the internet. We’re on Gemr, and that’s what they’re about – sharing what you collect, meeting other collectors, and learning new things! If you have a lot to share, it can get hard to remember what you’ve posted if it was a while ago or if you are consistently adding to a collection.
I am a list person, and I like to handwrite things. I have a notebook that has flags for each type of item I’ve shared on Gemr already – figures, Mega Construx, Tins, etc. As soon as I post it, I write it down, so I know I already did it. But if you don’t like to write it down, and you can check it online to be sure, that’s okay too!
Our card collection is always growing, so I keep a separate 5 subject notebook for them, divided by each set or kind of card, like promos. The same thing goes Gemr – as soon as I post it, it gets written down, so I know I already did it.
For further online organization on Gemr, I separated each card set into its own Collection. In the Collection called, “Pokémon Cards – Base,” you will only find cards from Base set, and so forth. This helps to keep track of everything and makes it easier for yourself and other people to find what they’re looking for.
Excel spreadsheets are also very popular for organizing collections of cards. The sky’s the limit with Excel as you can make as many spreadsheets as you like, in any kind of way. A popular method is to do one per set, and others for special and rare cards, types and the ever-growing ‘needed’ list.
Organizing and protecting your collection, when you are caught up, will give you a sense of what you have and where you want to go with your personal collecting goal. It will help you learn your sets; it’s fun to just look at what you have; and the best part: showing off your pride to other collectors!