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Protecting your investment....

Posted January 19th, 2012 at 03:33 AM by Ztimster
Updated October 28th, 2013 at 09:55 AM by Ztimster
After a few very close calls with drinks on the Heroscape table it became very clear to me that I was going to have to invest in card sleeves to protect my coveted army cards. I did a lot of research into what sleeves would work best and what to avoid and purchased a few to see what I liked best.

Let me start with what I observed and then I will go into what I chose and why.

HouseMouseGames was selling card sleeves and these were touted as the best. One thing that made them the best was thickness and consistency in size. They describe them as:
Protect your Army cards with these heavy-duty protective vinyl sleeves. These sleeves are 5 1/4" x 5 1/4", are 7 mil thick, and fit PERFECTLY. Your cards will NEVER fall out and will not be damaged by constant play. Protect your investment with these inexpensive card protectors. Set of 20 sleeves. $6.95 or roughly $.35 ea.

Ok, $.35ea and I had a little over 500 cards came out to $173.75!!! Ouch! I needed a cheaper solution but wanted to keep the high standard that HouseMouseGames has offered us. So I dug through multiple posts on HS.com and found that some people were buying CD/DVD sleeves from office supply stores at about $.10ea which would bring my cost down to about $50...still pretty steep, but much better than $173. One issue that I was finding was that these "economy" sleeves were very inconsistent in size and in some cases as much as 20% were unusable because they were too small.

So I started to research CD/DVD sleeves and found a few companies that offered a few different solutions. There were open top, tuck in flaps, lift up flaps and self sealing flaps. These also came in various thicknesses from 2mil to 10mil. Initially I was very excited about the prospect of a self sealing sleeve that I could close and not worry about the card coming out and having fairly decent "soil protection", but the reality was if there was a spill, the card was going to get wet.

Other factors that I analyzed were how the sleeves were constructed. There were three styles: a tube where the end was sealed and then cut to size, two sheets that were sealed with a coarse/textured impulse sealer and two sheets that were sealed with a very fine impulse sealer. The tube style was prone to puckering and did not lay flat very well. The coarse/textured edged style added about 1/4 inch to the width of the sleeve and IMHO looked kinda tacky. The fine edged style was the nicest because it was very flat and very clean...not to mention the most consistent of all the sleeves I looked at.

So after settling on the fine edged sleeves I needed to figure out the style of closure that would work for me. Then it hit me...I took a card to my kitchen and did the unimaginable, I inserted it into our vacuum sealer. Brrrraaaaatuck <sound of vacuum pump sucking air out of sleeve and impulse sealing the sleeve>. I now had a vacuum sealed card! I threw all caution to the wind and plunged it under water in the sink...perfectly sealed from the elements! The only drawback was the seal was about 1/2" from the top of the card and I wanted to make it closer. The seal was also about 2mm wide, but that didn't bother me too much. There was also some puckering around the seal due to too much heat. But now the wheels were turning. I could seal all my cards this way, but my wife would kill me...especially if I ended up breaking the expensive vacuum sealer in the process. I needed a better solution.

Hello eBay, I need a sealer that I can control the seal time and power. Hundreds of sealers came up, many over $50 and some very cheap...but not very practical for what I wanted to do. Then I found it, a super cheap sealer that ran off of 6 AA batteries that said it would do 300 seals on the set of batteries!! And I could control the exact placement of the sleeve and the duration of the sealing process!! All for $8.48 with FREE shipping!
Spoiler Alert!

So I bought one.

Was it too good to be true? Yes and No. The 6 AA batteries lasted about 10 seals then they were about shot. Each seal took progressively longer until it was taking 30 seconds to seal a sleeve. Hmmmm 500 cards at 30 seconds each is over 4 hours if I were to instantly go from one card to the next...not taking into account that I would have to change 6 AA batteries every 10 or so cards...way too expensive! But the seals were very nice, super clean and very thin. I was not going to give up...all I needed was a consistent power supply in the place of the batteries. So I opened the sealer up to take a look at what I would need. It was beyond simple. 6 in-line AA batteries which made 9 volts (6 x 1.5volts) tied to an LED indicator light and triggered with a closure switch. The circuit was closed with a filament wire under a Teflon fabric cover. Basically a toaster. So I dug through a drawer full of old power supplies and located a 10V 2amp brick that should do the job (actually about 3x the power I needed.) With a few clips I attached the wire to the terminals and ran the wire out of the back through the battery compartment door (adding a knot in the wire for strain relief.) I plugged it in and flipped the power switch. I took a test sleeve and closed the top, triggering the sealer. The LED came on and in 2.25 seconds the sleeve was sealed. Perfect line. I took a pair of scissors and trimmed the excess off the top and this is what I got.
Spoiler Alert!

Four clean edges and a super flat card and sleeve. The card was free to slide around inside the sleeve and with a simple cut across the top of the sleeve, I was able to easily remove the card from the sleeve (though why I would do that now escapes me) completely fine and undamaged.

Now all I had to do was determine the best thickness for the sleeve. I tried everything from 2mil up to 10mil. Where the 2mil was super slick and acted as a very nice cover, it lacked structure and the corners would fold and get wrinkled. 5mil was much better and I was leaning towards this as my thickness of choice until I got a set of samples from a company that included 7mil and 10mil sleeves. The 7mil were noticeably better than the 5mil and the 10mil were incredible. I noticed that my test card (a very well loved Syvarris card with a few major creases) seemed to literally flatten out and looked like a new card under glass. Not only would the 10mil sleeve protect the card from further harm, but it would also make really worn cards shine like new! SOLD!

So who was this this vendor that sent me the free samples? They were called Ess2Shop and they had a few auctions on eBay.
Spoiler Alert!

They came out to $.037 each when you buy 500!! Best price yet!

So I ordered them and loaded all my cards into the sleeves and proceeded to seal them all and trim. 500 cards about 4 hours and the sealer is still going strong with no issues. The only down side is what used to stack up at about 6.25" tall (the pile of cards that is) is now closer to 18". And the cards in the sleeves are so slick, that if you are not careful and bump a stack of cards, they will go shooting across the table. But I love the fact that I can now write on the cards (actually the sleeves) with a wet-erase pen and wipe them clean with a damp cloth. Makes for easy sorting and locating of the figures that go with the cards (I'll write about that next with my new storage bins system.)

Quick update:
I have literally blown through my second 500 sleeves with all my trades lately and have yet to get a sleeve that is not perfect. The $8 sealer is also still going strong and seals just as well as the first day.

After much thought:
I am now on my 4th set of 500 and still all have been perfect. There was one issue that I did notice. Even though the sleeves were very nice and robust, a stack of 50 should have been 1" (1000 mil = 1", 50 sleeves x 2 sides X50 x 10 mil= 1000) and it was not. So I grabbed a pair of calipers and measured the thickness...3.75 mil!!! Hey, that isn't 10 mil!! So I contacted the company and asked them what was up. They told me that it was in fact 10 mil and even showed me a caliper reading "10" when pinching the plastic. I took a closer look at the caliper and all became clear...METRIC. They were 10 micrometers or 0.1 mm and they thought that was equivalent to 10 mills.
So, my favorite sleeves were in reality only 3.75 mil, but regardless they are still my favorite.

And then 18 months later:
Now having sealed well over 2500 cards, I am happy to report that the sealer is still functioning as well as it did day 1. The vendor has changed the description (now that I have informed them that the sleeves are not 10 MIL) and the price has actually DROPPED!! They also are coming in packs of 100 and not 50 and have remained the same consistent quality.
Total Comments 3


Sylvano the Wasabus's Avatar
Has anyone bought the ones from St. Woodburys? I'm mucho interested in sleeves, but I hesitate to order 500 until I see some samples....
Posted January 25th, 2012 at 04:28 PM by Sylvano the Wasabus Sylvano the Wasabus is offline
Ztimster's Avatar
Most vendors will actually send you a few samples for free if you ask them. I ordered a number of samples and found Ess2Shop to be the best out of all my samples. I also liked their customer service. The biggest cost is shipping (because they are heavy in a stack of 500). Buying 200 was almost the same price as buying 500 (I think it was $15 vs $18 ). I have ordered 500 two times now and have yet to get one that isn't perfect.
Posted February 2nd, 2012 at 11:00 AM by Ztimster Ztimster is offline
Porkins's Avatar
10 mils = 10 micrometers??? That's funny. This is also why that Mars lander crashed a few years back. If only we stubborn Americans would just switch to the superior Metric system. Sigh.
Posted June 17th, 2013 at 01:55 PM by Porkins Porkins is offline
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