Binders 101

After last month's adventure with sleeves, I figured it was high time to reconsider how I store cards outside my decks as well. Shoe boxes are fine and all for most trinkets, but when it comes to fancy 93/94 era cardboard, I am a man of binders. Flipping through a binder like a tome of yore comes with far greater pleasure than brutishly shuffling stacks of cards around. Also it is a noble and elegant way to store a gentleman's collectibles.

My binder is getting kinda old though. Sometime back in the latter half of the 00s - when I was fresh into building a 93/94 card pool - I placed well at the Legacy tournament at BSK. The prize binder contained mainly newer cards that I only had a passing interest in acquiring, but the binder itself was enticing. The binder that held the prize cards was nothing less than the first official MtG binder, with sweet Pete Venters art on the cover. So I asked the guy behind the counter if I could get the binder as my prize. He looked puzzled, but agreed. I filled it up with the few extra 93/94 cards I owned at the time, and it has been with me and expanded its contents ever since. I have repaired it with scotch and glue more times than I care to recall. 

The binder was supposed to hold up to 540 cards. Mine has somehow expanded to well over 1,000, which makes it fully impossible to properly close. And cards keeps getting smushed out from the top, which is a bad thing when I carry the binder around in a wet backpack. So lesson 1: Don't put twice as many 9-pocket pages into a binder as you are instructed to; rather consider getting a second binder if space becomes an issue. Lesson 2: If you still do want to overpopulate your binder, put the cards in the top row in some kind of sleeves.

Could use some more scotch and glue here. Lesson 3: You can expand the lifetime of your binders using McGuyver skills, but always glue on the outside.

Here's one of my older trade binders. It somehow looks even more beat up than my current. Appears I wasn't as picky with condition on my storage gear when I was younger.

Star Wars CCG cards in this one. That was a fun game with ridiculous rules complexity. Most of the pages here are pre-Deck Protector 9-pockets originally used for hockey cards. These contain PVC, which will deteriorate Magic cards on a long enough timeline. Lesson 4: Don't store expensive Magic cards in cheap PVC pockets from the early 90s.

Another binder. This one holds an actual collection rather than being a simple trade binder, and as such is in pristine condition.

The interesting thing here is the binder rings. These are what we in the business refer to as "C-rings" (due to their c-formed shape). C-rings are nice for storing papers and such, but they can be hazardous to store cards in as the circular shape have a tendency to create wear on the cards. Lesson 5: Avoid C-ring binders if possible.

Back to the 93/94 binder. The rings here are shaped like a "D", and are hence known as D-rings. These are far less volatile than C-rings, but still come with some risk, in particular if you overfill. It could be of note that I've managed to wear out the mechanic that open and close the rings, so I've had to solve that one with tape as well. 

Now here's the most important lesson, and how you separate a master card organizer from a rookie. Lesson 6: Always place the rarer or more expensive cards a step or two away from the rings. Wanna know how you can guarantee avoiding ring damage on that Candelabra of Tawnos? Put a random Book of Rass in the innermost column and and the Candelabra in a center or outer column. Perfection.

Feldon's Cane took a hit so that Beta Meekstone might prosper. Though this is arguably "stupid like a fox", as I could most likely just have sold that Meekstone for an impressive stack of modern binders (that don't even have rings) to remove the problem entirely.

Looking pro here. Moats in the outer pockets, random cards in the inner ones. Though I should probably switch places on that D'Avenant Archer with the Divine Intervention.

Hey Kalle, it says on the sleeve here that you owe me a Beta Balloon Brigade. And what is Ali doing in the innermost column, that is clearly not a good place for him.

Well, he appears fine. Better lucky than pedantic.

This page is a great example of solid organising. But what's going on in the lower right corner?

Ah, dammit. This is fully falling apart. And not a great place to glue.

And this page is breaking off and the cards are slipping out. Yeah, it's sadly time for a new binder.

Another solid example on proper storage. The bottom right 2x2 square is by far the safest haven in an old school binder.

At the last pages we find random fun stuff. An Italian Doppelganger with greetings from Italy, a Shaman Ben Unsummon, and a bunch of Sharks among the highlights.

There are quite a few pages like this in the back. Each of these cards have a story and trigger fond memories. This is almost like the "photo album" part of the binder.

Mainly cards from tournament victories here, but also some really sweet celebratory stuff like a Dwarven Warriors birthday card and a wonderful Clone I got from the team at an old job. While useless stuff to most people, this might well be my most cherished spread in the whole binder.

You have done great work dear binder, but it's time for a new era of strange side-loading pockets and complicated zippers. Baby-proofing the 93/94 collection is a reasonable play for any Magic-dad.

God damn this is getting fancy. Almost too fancy...

Randomizing the cards a bit makes the transition from the old binder less drastic. This chaotic sorcery what I want to see when I flip through a binder. Magic is awesome. I mean, just sit down and look at Necropolis for a minute or two and then try to tell me otherwise.

An evening well spent. Though the new binder may look a bit oversized upon closer inspection...

Final lesson: Don't buy binders larger than the shelf where you're going to store them.

This was nice. Sorting cards is a mindful and noble endeavor. And I do have plans for the old binder, which I aim to write about soon. 'Til next time, I hope you find the opportunity to do some mindful card sorting.


  1. Excellent binder recommendation! I went out and bought myself one of these, and it's been great. I clearly should've read your post in more detail, though, since I have the same problem of the new binder not fitting in my existing shelves! :-(

  2. something seems wrong with the bewerage, is it unopened? :)

    1. I corrected that shortly after the pic was taken ;)

  3. Haha nice, just spotted my old Winds of Change. :) I feel honored to see it in one of the safe outer columns! ;)

    Kind Regards,

    1. ...just recognize that in the new binder, the column doesn’t really matter anyway, but still. :)

    2. Ah, that was a great day Custer! Strange to think that over half a decade has passed since you invited Hardy and me to your home in Munich :) Had to revisit this old post after seeing your comment:

    3. Indeed, great day. Was a pleasure having you and Hardy at my place and playing my very first Old School matches against the both of you!

  4. Great read MG and great to see 2 dutch dwarves cards in your photo album ;-)

    I actually have done the same a couple of months ago, everything is double sleeved and stored in the quad row zip folio's. In The Netherlands we still have big debates on how to organise our binders (up onto the level which order the colours, sets, abc or not etc), maybe we should use your chaos method. :-)

    1. Thanks Henk! Very proud of those Dwarves :D

      And yeah, binder sorting is a science in itself. I have couple of complete sets, and even among those I haven't figured out a consistent way to do it (e.g. 4th edition is alphabetical, Ice Age is by color). Chaotic (by color) is my new go-to for trade/tech binders though, it's fun to look at and quick to do ;)

  5. Ha I notice the childlock on the cabinet - I can tell you from experience that won't be enough now that your minor demon token is running rampant. It'd be a shame to find them beauty beta moxen with chew marks when turning your back for a whole 6 mins.. It's an omen your fancy newschool flashy binders don't fit - better find yourself a secure upper shelf! Stay well!


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