Screwdown Holders: The Perils of Card Preservation3 min read


A funny thing happened to me on my way to getting some of my coveted cards authenticated and/or graded by PSA. I quickly discovered the perils of using non-recessed screwdown holders.

NON-RECESSED: Placing a card in this type of screwdown holder could alter its appearance.

After serving a one-year hitch as PSA’s PR Specialist, I decided it was time to get some of my cherished cards – many of which are autographed – authenticated by my company. I’ve watched thousands of cards get submitted to PSA so I figured I might as well join in the fun.

After almost 30 years of working in this industry, you can guess that I’ve accumulated my fair share of cards. From promos starting with the ’91 National Sports Collectors Convention in Anaheim, Calif., to dozens of cards I had signed in person from multiple athletes and company spokesmen. Stars ranging from David Robinson, Dan Marino and Barry Sanders to Joe Montana, Nolan Ryan, and Jerry West all scribbled their names for me over the past three decades.

But what I did at the turn of the new millennium as a means of card preservation recently came back to haunt me. To keep some of the scarce gems pristine, I decided it was prudent to put them “behind glass.” By that, I mean I put some of the rookie cards and autographed cards inside screwdown holders for safekeeping. I didn’t do it with all of them, mind you, but some of them were indeed slabbed. But there was one big problem: not all the screwdown holders I used were recessed with that indented area in which the card can lay securely inside. So, in some instances, I placed my coveted cardboard between two flat pieces of acrylic and screwed all four corners down securely for the sake of preserving the various cards’ immaculate states of condition.

RECESSED: This style of screwdown holder, with its indented area for safekeeping, is a better option for cards.

Well, you can imagine my dismay once I submitted some of the cards for grading and/or autograph authentication. Following PSA’s submission procedures, I carefully extracted some of the cards from their screwdown holders and placed them in individual card savers. (Note: PSA has a policy of not accepting submissions in screwdown holders since they require too much time for dismantling.) I then eagerly handed over my 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. #1 rookie card only to find out that it had been “altered.” When I asked: ‘What do you mean ‘altered?,’” I was informed that the card’s corners were “super shiny” which is an indication that the card was placed in a screwdown holder for an extended period of time and tightened too much. As  a result it would therefore not be eligible for grading. I had effectively pancaked my once pristine Griffey rookie right out of the game! The corners were flattened by the pressure applied via four screws and there was no going back. The damage was done. Something else I earned is that it is possible for a card to be “smashed” so much that it becomes slightly larger than its original manufacturer specifications (3.5″ high by 2.5″ wide). In the latter instance, the card would also come back as “altered.”

Luckily on several of the autographed cards I submitted, the screwdown holders I used for safekeeping were recessed. So the lesson here is to never knowingly purchase a screwdown holder that is “non-recessed” if you hope to sell your card(s) down the road. Or hope to get them graded by PSA. The Griffey RC had been in a one-inch thick, non-recessed acrylic holder for almost 20 years. The card that I once priced out at $150 in an old issue of Sports Market Report was now essentially worthless thanks to my miscue.

When preserving your cards, you’ve got to be careful. Card savers and card guards are fine to use. Nine-card pocket sheets inside sturdy binders are great. But non-recessed screwdown holders are not necessarily the way to go. Do as I say, collectors, and not as I did!


Posted by Terry Melia

Terry Melia is a hobby veteran who has served in various PR, marketing and content roles for industry movers and shakers including The Upper Deck Company and SCP Auctions and is currently working as PSA's Public Relations and Content Specialist.

3 thoughts on “Screwdown Holders: The Perils of Card Preservation3 min read

  1. How did you manage to get a clarification of what gave it the altered grade? To my knowledge there’s no way for anyone to do that with a normal submission.

    1. If placing your order online, you can in most instances see the grade(s) before the order has shipped. If you see an “altered” designation, you can certainly ask PSA’s Customer Service why the card was marked “altered.” If the card has already shipped, the customer can send it back in for a second look or, at the very least, further explanation.

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