How To Protect Your Cards And Autographs From Fading – UV Protection Guide

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Let’s talk about ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet (UV) light is the silent killer of sports cards. UV light can turn your $3,500+ Tom Brady Rookie Autograph card into a worthless piece of cardboard, even if it’s in a PSA/BGS 10 slab. As collectors, we often overlook the effects of displaying our cards and exposing them to light until it’s too late. But the problem with that approach is that when it’s too late… It’s too late.

Why Should I Care About UV Protection?

UV light can fade autographs off a card entirely. It can turn your white cards into yellow cards and have many other unwanted effects on sports cards. Just look at this BGS slabbed card below. It had a “10” score for the autographs on the card. Do you think it would get a 10 if graded today? Would you buy it?

Autographs ruined by UV exposure. This occurred over 3 years time.

The card above belonged to user Pmaurer from the Beckett forums. According to him, his cards were displayed in a room where sunlight entered the windows but they were not directly exposed to sunlight. This level of damage occurred from indirect UV exposure. And only in 3 years time. How crazy is that? Here’s another card of his where not only did the autograph fade off but the white on the card turned a bit yellow too.

Autograph faded almost entirely off. Whites faded to a yellow tinge.

Don’t BGS And PSA Slabs Have UV Protection Built In?

No, actually, not really. BGS says they add UV resistant material to their slabs. But when asked how much, or to what level they are protected, the answer was “as much as we could add without yellowing the slab”. Clearly (based on the evidence above), if there is any protection it’s not very much. PSA, on the other hand, makes no claims of UV protection in their graded cards. That means it’s your job to protect your cards.

What Can I Do To Protect My Autographed Cards?

Hide Them

The simplest answer for protecting your cards would be to simply not expose them to UV light. How you choose to do this is up to you. User jeffv96masters, a Super Moderator of the Beckett forums, suggests you should keep your cards in museum quality folders tucked away in an archival acid-free box. He also suggests that you should avoid fireproof safes due to humidity and that you should only pull your cards out when showing them off. To me, this defeats the purpose of collecting cards. I don’t want to tuck them away and forget I have them. I want to display them and see them every day. The only exception I would make would be for super high-value cards. In that case, I may tuck them away.

Protect Them With UV Resistant Cases

Instead of having your cards graded, consider placing them in a UV resistant case such as an Ultra Pro One Touch Magnetic Case. Newer one-touch cases come with UV protection built in. You can tell it has protection based on whether or not it has a gold magnet. Gold magnet means it has UV protection. The protection is said to be similar to the effect of wearing 65 SPF sunscreen. So not perfect, but definitely helpful. You can buy one-touch cases on Amazon for cheaper than grading your card and achieve better UV protection.

Personally, with modern cards, I prefer using one-touch cases instead of grading anyway. Especially with all of the recent scandals surrounding the trimming and re-grading of valuable cards right now and the seemingly inconsistent grades coming out of both of the big two grading companies as of late.

Buy And Install Anti UV Window Film

For about $30 or less on Amazon, you can buy rolls of UV resistant window film for your windows. Some of these films advertise that they block out 87% of the solar rays via reflection (mirror effect). Not only will this help to reduce the UV light entering your room, but it should help reduce heat and maybe even lower your electric bill a bit.

Anti UV Window Film

When I did this to my windows I noticed the overall room temperature went down and the harshness of the sunlight was drastically reduced. Be sure to thoroughly clean your windows with soap and water before applying the film. It is an adhesive so dirty windows can make it hard to stick and result in bubbles.

Replace Light Bulbs With LED Lights

Fluorescent light bulbs are actually known to emit high levels of UV radiation. This means that even if your room has no windows, you could be unknowingly damaging your cards still. The best solution to this problem is to switch to LED Light bulbs in your home, or at least in the room(s) where you display your collection.

LED Light Bulbs

It’s really easy to find LED Lightbulbs on Amazon that can replace your current bulbs. While the upfront cost of the bulb is typically more expensive than fluorescent, you should save money in the long run when you factor in energy costs and length of life. LED bulbs typically last much longer and are more energy efficient. You can also go all fancy and get WiFi controlled LED light bulbs and control them from your phone.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

The preventative steps mentioned in this guide are all very easy and cost effective to implement. I strongly urge you, DO NOT WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE. When your card(s) take on UV damage there is no reversing it. The card’s value plummets and there’s nothing you can do about it. Taking the easy steps mentioned in the guide above can prevent or greatly reduce the chances of it happening to you. Don’t make simple mistakes that have big consequences.

Have you had issues with UV related damage to your cards? Do you have any additional tips for collectors to protect their cards from UV damage? Post a comment below!

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Rebecca Gardner
Rebecca Gardner
3 years ago

I was surprised when you said that fluorescent light bulbs can cause damage to autographed cards since they contain UV rays. I think an autographed photo would be a good gift for my cousin who recently got into baseball. Thanks for sharing these tips I can pass along to make sure he’s aware of potential hazards when displaying the photo!

3 years ago

Ultra Pro makes the BGS slabs out of the same material so your comparison to Ultra Pro One Touches is not accurate.