Trade Secrets - Illustration by Ron Spears

Trade Secrets | Illustration by Ron Spears

Let me start with a question: where do you have your cards stored? I’m not pointing fingers, but I know for a fact that shoeboxes are one of the number one storage options for Magic players. And I’m not here to judge; I have my own card-filled shoebox too. But they’re far from the safest way to store cards, especially expensive ones.

You can throw your bulk of 0.1$ commons into a box, but what if you have a Cyclonic Rift or a Meekstone lying around? Well, you should store them in a binder! Not only will they be protected, but you can also take them to your LGS to trade or sell.

We’re here to take a look at some of the available options in binders to see what’s the best pick for you to store your important cards properly.

Best Overall

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A regular, heavy-duty binder. That’s right. Go to your local store and buy a good quality binder. A truly good one is just as protective as any “Brand Name” one but can cost up to half the price. You’re already spending way too much on pretty cardboard after all.

There are obviously a few things to keep in mind when shopping for these binders so you know you’re buying a good quality one.

The locking mechanism and the rings are important. You want a unified locking mechanism to both protect your fingers and avoid the rings getting botched and breaking too soon. You also want the rings to be “D” shaped instead of “O” shaped. This way your pages are under less stress, they’re easier to get into the binder, and they look neater when going through them.

The next thing is the materials. You want them to be something that’s relatively water resistant, so no exposed cardboard or anything similar. Obviously, it’s always better to avoid water altogether, but if you’re caught under the rain with your binder in your backpack, any extra protection is more than welcome.

Finally, you’ll want to check for anything that may show signs of easy breaking. Weak corners, non-reinforced edges, and any kind of already-existing bend or tear, are all things to avoid.

Regular binders may not be the prettiest or flashiest, but they’re as useful as they get. A good one can be durable, long-lasting, and comfortable, and it’ll fit your cards nicely. What more could you want from your binder? Plus you can always go down the DIY path and modify it yourself to make it look prettier if you know how.

Sale
AVERY Heavy Duty View 3 Ring Binder, 1" One Touch EZD Ring, Holds 8.5" x 11" Paper, 1 Red Binder (79170)
  • Binder features a DuraHinge design that's stronger, lasts longer and resists tearing, and DuraEdge that makes the sides and top more pliable to resist splitting
  • Deep texture film offers a smoother finish and features a linen pattern for high-quality look and feel
  • One-touch rings hold up to 275 sheets
  • Wide front and back binder panels fully cover standard dividers and sheet protectors
  • Organize and secure paper with four stacked pockets

Buyer’s Guide

Corpse Traders - Illustration by Kev Walker

Corpse Traders | Illustration by Kev Walker

Buying accessories for your TCGs can be a daunting task sometimes. You’ll find near-infinite lists of products, which all either look the same or wildly different from each other, with no real standard of what you should be looking for.

The first thing you may be wondering is, “Why do I even need a binder for my cards?” Storing all your cards in a shoebox is okay, but it’s not an ideal way to protect your cards. Especially if you plan on moving your collection around, like taking it to your LGS to sell or trade. That’s where binders come in. They’re a safe way to store your cards, they fit nicely in a bookshelf, and they’re relatively comfortable to carry around in a backpack. If trading and selling cards is a part you enjoy of your TCG-of-choice, I think a binder is an absolute must-have.

I don’t think there’s a golden standard for these types of products. There are plenty of things to consider and a lot of it comes down to personal preference. But there are still some things to keep in mind regardless of the details.

One of the more basic things I’d recommend looking for is anything with a firm exterior. There are plenty of binders and portfolios out there that have flexible covers, and I’d personally advise against that. Binders are mainly designed to carry your collection around, so anything too flexible is effectively useless when it comes to preventing any kind of folding. Keep in mind this binder will go in your backpack, your car’s trunk, etc. It’s meant to be able to take a beating without risking your cards.

On this same note, any kind of extra padding and protection is a good sign. If you have to choose between a binder of bare plastic or cardboard or something with padding, always choose the padding. It’ll last longer, it’ll ensure better protection, and you’ll get more years out of it even if it’s a bit more expensive.

An optional thing you may want to look for is any kind of closing mechanism. It can be an elastic or a zipper, but anything that’ll ensure your binder stays closed is welcome. The less risk of your cards being damaged or scattered, the better.

The final thing when it comes to the exterior of your binder is mainly an aesthetic concern: if buying an illustrated binder, make sure it’s a material that won’t scratch easily. Illustrated binders are usually a bit more costly than regular ones, and you don’t want to spend money on an illustrated cover that’ll look all scratched and ruined in a week.

Moving on to interiors, there are two options. You can have portfolio-style binders that have a set number of pages, which means you can store a limited number of cards; or you can have ringed binders where you can just keep adding pages to fit your needs. Both of these can work perfectly depending on your needs.

In the case of ringed binders, you’ll want to keep two things in mind. The first one is to have D-shaped rings instead of O-ringed ones. They’re overall better, they’ll hold your pages better, and they look way more organized. The other aspect is the locking mechanism. A unified locking mechanism ensures your rings last longer and protects your fingers.

Another thing to keep in mind when choosing either portfolios or pages for your ringed binders is the material of the pages. It’s ideal that they’re acid-free and PVC-free, since both of these can damage your cards. Considering card-storing pages don’t really have too many uses besides that, it’s not too hard to find ones that work within this need. That’s what they’re made for!

One final thing you may want to check beforehand is the size of each pocket on the pages. This can be boiled down to personal preference, but it’s still important to check if pockets will fit unsleeved, sleeved, or even double-sleeved cards. Keep in mind that a pocket made to fit unsleeved cards is unlikely to fit a single-sleeved one, let alone a double-sleeved one. And pockets made to fit sleeved or double-sleeved cards can be risky for unsleeved cards because they’ll be too loose and your cards could fall out. This is relatively easy to solve by just sleeving or unsleeving cards, but it’s still better to know beforehand.

The Cadillac of TCG Binders

Dragon Shield

Dragon Shield is a consistently good brand for your TCG accessories. They’re high quality and consciously designed for card games, so they’re made for and by fans of these games.

The Codex line by Dragon Shield is both really sleek-looking and reliable. They’re made with good quality materials and are specifically designed to hold TCG cards, so they won’t fall out easily.

This line has several different options in terms of both size and color, so you can adapt your pick depending on what you like and need. Color obviously only depends on what you like, but having different size options is important when you have limited space to store or transport your binders. A good, spacious backpack is also important after all.

The one thing I think this binder could do better is the fact that they don’t have unified lock mechanisms. This means that you need to open the locks by hand, and they’ll eventually start getting botched.

But Dragon Shield products also tend to have a relatively high price. Of course, shelling out a couple extra bucks to protect your cards is always a good idea, so you might as well go all the way and get a really nice-looking binder to store your cards.

Sale
Arcane Tinman Card Binder: Dragon Shield 12 Pocket (Sideload) Portfolio Black
  • Dragon shield are tough polypropylene sleeves made to fit both casual and competitive play
  • Protects gaming cards against wear and tear
  • Dragon Shield products are recognized worldwide for their consistency and quality

Best Budget TCG Binder

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I’ve already talked wonders in favor of these binders and I’ll do it again. I actually think it’s almost unfair competition because they’re affordable and as durable as any expensive game-brand binder.

The disadvantage these binders could have, which is having to look out for cheap manufacturing, or products that aren’t of particularly good quality, isn’t even exclusive to them, since there are tons of made-for-TCG binders that are very low-quality products.

When buying these binders you’ll have to still dish out a few bucks for card-storing folio pages, but any ringed binder has that same issue.

Maybe it’s just because I’m not a fan of what I consider unnecessarily costly products and I’m happy with inexpensive and durable stuff, but I struggle to find any reason to pay extra for a product of the same quality just because it has a brand’s name attached to it.

Custom TCG Binders

Custom binders aren’t a product that you can find a huge market for, the way you could for something like deck boxes or proxies (using proxies is good and cool, by the way). But that said, there are still ways to get around it.

The first and easiest option is Zazzle. It lets you make custom binders with a design or artwork of your choice. I saw a few comments on Reddit saying they were good quality, but I can’t speak from experience here. Plus I wouldn’t know if the binders necessarily cover any of the points I mentioned in the buyer’s guide.

The next option is scouring Reddit, Discord, Facebook, and other social media pages. There’s always someone who’s good at some very specific and niche kind of work, so a good bit of searching could help you find someone who makes nice custom binders.

My final recommendation is to go full DIY about it. Not to keep praising office-store binders, but they’re relatively cheap so you can follow guides to modify them without being too afraid of damaging them the way you would something that costs like 40$. There’s actually a pretty good guide in the Pokemon TCG subreddit on how to customize binders, so take a look and maybe it’ll set you in the right path.

Wrap Up

Elite Spellbinder - Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Elite Spellbinder | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

What are you waiting for? Go to your closest office supply store right now and buy the best heavy-duty binder you can find!

These were my picks for the best binders to store your TCG cards, Magic or otherwise. There are plenty of brands out there, and what anyone prefers for their products can vary greatly. Hopefully, this guide can help you find an ideal binder that you’ll like which can also protect your cards well.

But enough about what I think. Do you already own a binder? If so, would you recommend it? Do you have any horror stories regarding cheap or badly-made binders? Do you have a personal favorite? Feel free to leave a comment! And while you’re here, make sure to pay our Discord server a visit. You’ll find an amazing community of MTG fans to share your hobby with!

That’s all from me for now! Have a good one and I’ll see you next time.

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