How To Prevent And Fix Bent/Warped Collectable Cards

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If you’re in the collectible card hobby, chances are you’ve come across a card that’s curved or bent.

In short, the best way to prevent sports cards from bending is to store them in card sleeves and top loaders, then place them inside a storage box, which should be then kept in a dry place, away from direct sunlight.

I’ve covered everything you need to know in more depth, below.

Table of Contents

How Do You Stop Cards From Warping?

The steps to prevent cards warping over time are for cards within your current collection that aren’t currently bent.

It’s worth noting that, if you’re opening sealed wax, cards can have bends and warps straight out of their pack; There’s not a lot you can do about that unfortunately, it’s one of those things out of the control of collectors.

It’s important to safely store collectible cards, to preserve their good condition.

Here’s the best practices for storing cards to avoid bending and other damage:

  • Place the card into a card sleeve, and then a top loader: The card sleeve gives a first layer of protection against damage, and the top loader keeps the card flat and rigid, while giving it further protection from moisture and damage.

  • An alternative is a card binder: A card sleeve with a top loader is recommended for the most prized/valuable cards, but a binder offers a great option for a big collection of cards. A good quality binder should have high-quality plastic sleeve sheets for protection, and a good outer-material with a zipper to keep moisture out.

  • Don’t use elastic bands to hold multiple cards together: I’ve already mentioned that using an elastic band creates constant pressure to the sides of a card, which will bend it over time.

  • Store the cards in a dry place: moisture and humidity causes cards to warp, so make sure they’re being stored somewhere dry and unexposed. I like keeping cards in top loaders stored in a high-quality card storage box.

Why Do Cards Bend/Warp?

A collectible card is usually made from a thin and flexible piece of cardboard, so they can be prone to warping.

The way you store or handle cards has a big effect on their condition, and this is also true when it comes to them bending or warping.

Foiled (also referred to as holo) cards are more prone to warping, whereas standard cardboard (non-foiled) cards aren’t as likely to bend; That’s because foiled cards have a thin layer of metal which doesn’t allow for expansion; A standard cardboard stock will allow for expansion and contraction, largely without problems.

The warping occurs because the card is exposed to humidity and moisture, which it absorbs – That is what creates the expansion of the card stock.

While the cardboard can expand, the thin foil layer can’t, which is what causes the card to bend and have a curved look.

Another cause of card bending is time – The age of a card can have an impact, because over a long period the cardboard can lose a bit of its rigidness.

Again, humidity and moisture speed that process up, because the cardboard stock expanding and contracting many times deteriorates its sturdiness.

Finally, another cause to consider is the way the card has been stored; For example, a deck of cards held together by an elastic band is likely to suffer from warping, for the obvious reason of constant pressure being applied to the sides of the card.

Recommended Tools To Help Prevent Cards Bending

Here’s the tools I recommend to prevent cards from bending:

How Do You Fix And Restore Bent Cards?

You’ve got some bent and warped cards, but is it possible to restore and flatten them?

There are steps you can take to try and help flatten bowed cards – However, it’s not always easy, or even possible, to restore some cards to their original flat state, so you have to consider whether it’s worth the time and effort.

Having said that, a good first step is to follow the same steps you would to prevent the card bowing in the first place.

Either place the card into a card binder (I would suggest towards the back of the binder so the weight of the other cards help flatten it when shut), or into a sleeve and top loader (and under something relatively heavy like a pile of books).

It’s worth noting that foiled cards are unlikely to return to their initial flat state by following those steps. A standard cardboard only card can, but it won’t happen quickly.

If that doesn’t work, the alternative is to try and use heat to get rid of any moisture in the card’s stock.

A popular option is to use a blow-dryer, on a hot setting, and blowing the heat down onto the card, which is placed on a flat surface (curving into the surface rather than outwards), for 30 seconds.

Does Bending And Warping Affect The Card’s Value?

A card’s condition definitely has an effect on its value on the secondary market – It’s a well-known fact that cards in better conditions are worth more.

A big part of the hobby today is card grading, but it’s worth noting that most card grading companies won’t penalize a card that’s warped or curved, as long as there’s no permanent damage.

Once it’s graded, encased in a slab and shipped back to you, it will be flat inside the plastic, so you won’t be able to tell that it was ever curved.

So while someone might not want to pay as much for a raw card that’s curled, it shouldn’t affect the value of a card if it’s graded.

Picture of Tom Flint

Tom Flint

A long-time collector of sports cards, Tom mainly collects soccer World Cup Prizm cards these days. As a kid, he enjoyed collecting baseball cards. He's a huge sports fan, with lots experience and passion for sports card collecting.
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