Collectors, like whoremongers, just want to protect their junk.
When I collected comics, I bagged and boarded them. Trading cards, I put into top loaders. If I have something I like and enjoy, I try to keep it in the best shape possible, up on the high shelves, away from clumsy, grubby fingers.
Pops are, unfortunately, no different.
I say unfortunately because I used to mock the people who bought the things I’m about to discuss. Ooooooh, a plastic sleeve to keep your boxes perfect. Why not make it opaque to keep the eyeprints off of it, too?
Now I’m one of them.
Since people ask about protecting their collections damn near daily on the boards and on FB, I figured I’d toss off a puff piece about pop protectors.
Like I’ve said, I used to really be against these things. Hated them and the people who used them. Then, a couple years ago at SDCC, someone left pop protectors behind at the bar following Fundays. I put one together to put my drink in, and, wonder of wonders, I kind of liked them. Since that, I’ve bought my fair share of the collapsible protectors as well as the new hard plastic Pop Stacks.
Before I get into this, I would like to make it clear that I am not a hardcore, in-box collector. I display most of my stuff out of the box, but I do try to keep the box and insert as nice as possible because I’m obsessive about that sort of thing. All my boxes are neatly stored in the basement, many in pop protectors. Recently, I started using the hard sided Pop Stacks for some of my more expensive toys. They keep the boxes safer than the sleeves, and make them easier to stack (go figure, it’s what they’re designed for) and display.
There are basically two types of pop protectors out there. Soft-sided, PVC/PET collapsible sleeves, and hard-sided boxes. Here are the sleeves.
They're actually called pop protectors (lower case). Problem is, there is now a hard-case product called a 'Pop Protector'. I know the difference, but I don't know how much you know so I'm trying to make a distinction referring to them as 'sleeves'. I'm probably making a confusion.
Protectors/sleeves are nice because they will keep the boxes free from dust and scratches and the minor dings that you might get simply storing or displaying your boxes. They will protect your pops from being damaged by a short drop, say knocking one off a table. They won’t do you much good in a long drop, say the top shelf of your display, especially if the box lands on a corner or an edge. They do neaten up a display, but because you fold the tops and the bottoms in to make the box, they can be difficult to stack. I mean, they’ll stack, but when you go over three, they’ll wobble. There are a number of vendors who sell this kind of protector, find the retailer that you like. I’ve bought from two, Fugitive Toys and Retroprotection. The guys who run these sites are both super-nice and deliver great customer service. Since we collectors pay their mortgages, this only makes sense.
Prices range from 2.50 - 1.00 depending on the quantity you buy and from whom. Shipping is sometimes included, sometimes not, but always factor that into your cost, especially since they can get heavy in large quantities. Hot Topic has started selling their own protectors as well. Since I’m fairly weirded out going into a Hot Topic, I buy from online retailers and through Ebay.
One other quick note. Retroprotection is now offering protectors for oddly sized pops (6”, 9”, multi-packs), Hikari, Fabrikations and probably Dorbz eventually. If you’re really into boxing your boxes, check them out.
Now, the soft-sided sleeves are great for your cheapo pops, but what do you do when you want to protect your signed, limited edition, flocked, metallic, glow in the dark, show exclusive pops? For those, you probably want to step up your game and go for the hard plastic cases. There are two cases to choose from, Pop Protectors and Pop Stacks. I’ll make this one real easy for you. I’ve bought both and one is clearly the better product.
Buy the Stacks.
Couple of reasons.
Firstly - Pop Stacks fit your pops better. The inside dimensions are slightly larger than a pop box, so the box slides in easier. Pop Protectors, I found, were damn near ‘nuts on’, meaning that you have to force the pop into the protector. What’s wrong with a snug box? Well….
Secondly - Pop Stacks have a removable top and bottom, Protectors do not. Once you get a pop stuffed inside a Pop Protector, it ain’t coming out. Not easily. I had to shake mine and when the pop finally worked free, it flew across the room. It is a lot easier to remove an item from a Pop Stacks when all you have to do is remove the bottom and push it out.
Thirdly - The box portion of a Pop Stacks is one piece construction (think square tube). Pop Protectors are four pieces of plastic glued together. Out of my one and only order of 10 Pop Protectors, 4 came busted and the fifth broke when I tried to remove a pop. The one piece construction of the Stacks just looks nicer and survives shipping better. The lids on the Stacks can easily be broken on the corners and edges, but out of the three orders I’ve placed, I only had an issue with one piece, which Bait replaced.
Fourthly - Pop Stacks are designed to...wait for it…stack. The top and bottom are molded to ‘lock’ together (not really lock, but fit together for stability). This makes them great for displaying your pops from the floor to the ceiling if you so desire. Pop Protectors are smooth on the top and the bottom. They’ll stack, but don’t bump them.
Price-wise they’re about the same, roughly 8-10 bucks depending on the retailer. The best places for Stacks is Toy Tokyo and Bait. Both sites run shipping and bulk specials so with a little patience you can get them for a pretty decent price. You can also buy Stacks or Protectors on Amazon, Protectors on Popcultcha, and either at local retailers (Vintage Stock in Kansas City, for example). Recently, I found Stacks at FYE, and have been told you can get them at Hot Topic. Since I don’t go into Hot Topics much, you’ll have to check this one out for yourself.
And again, if you’re going to go for the hard case protectors, buy Stacks. They’re just better.
So there’s my two-cents. There are other retailers who sell protectors besides the ones I’ve listed. I’m simply recommending the guys who’ve taken care of me. I've also limited the list to Domestic retailers (US only). If you’d like to throw a plug for your favorite pop vendor, bring it to my attention in the comments. I’ll add them to lists.
And First Plugs:
Australia (even though these are the Protectors I don't like) : Popcultcha