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How I Use Custom Slabs

I have been collecting hockey cards since the 1980s. Over the years, my choices for storing and displaying my collection have evolved. During the 1990s, I began moving my complete sets from shoeboxes to binders and nine-pocket pages. At the same time, I moved my high-value cards into 1/4" screw-downs. (Don't worry, they were recessed, so no cards were damaged.)


Screw-downs offered the best protection, especially for cards that I wanted to display on a desk or shelf where they might get accidentally knocked over or dropped. Luckily that never happened. Those cards - including the Bobby Orr RC pictured below - lived safely inside screw-downs for about twenty-five years. But in February 2020, I decided to submit them to PSA for grading. I wanted to make sure that if I ever decided to sell my high-value cards, I could do so easily and for true market value.

Vintage Hockey Cards. 1966 Topps Bobby Orr Rookie Card

A few months after getting that submission back, I realized how much I liked grading slabs for displaying my cards. There was something about the label that I particularly liked. Even the PSA label - which can be described as functional, at best - nicely complimented the card.

I own far more raw cards than graded, many of which I would love to display. But grading is expensive, and it does not make sense to grade a card just to get a nice display case. Why pay grading fees when I really just wanted the slab?

That led me down the path of custom slabs. Over the past year, I located a self-closing slab (in other words, one that does not require ultra-sonic welding to close), and I came up with a label design that works for my collection.

The Wayne Gretzky card shown below is a perfect example of a card that I would never submit for grading, yet looks great in a custom slab. 

Custom slab containing 1992-93 Topps hockey card of Wayne Gretzky

These custom slabs have become a big part of my collection. I currently have about 80 cards in them, which is double the number of graded cards I own. To me, they are the best option for displaying raw cards. Take a look at the galleries below to see how I use these for my collection.

For the latest custom slabs in my collection, you can follow me on Instagram.

Happy Collecting!



Low-Grade Vintage

Some of the first labels I made were for my favourite vintage cards. Most of the cards pictured below are low-grade doubles of my graded cards.

Favourite Set

Many hockey collectors would include 1971-72 O-Pee-Chee among their favourite sets, myself included. You can learn why in my article, Best. Design. Ever.

Favourite Insert Set 

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookie Cards is one of my favourite insert sets. It presents the ultimate what-if scenario for collectors of 1980s rookie cards. You can read more in my article, Lost Rookie Cards.

Favourite Insert Set #2 

The 1999-00 Topps Stanley Cup Heroes Refractor inserts might be as modern as I get! Featuring a great design, a stellar checklist, and the iconic Topps refractor technology, this set was a no-brainer for my collection.

Favourite Player

I have been a Jaromir Jagr fan since I was 15. I kept current with the hobby for many years by collecting select Jagr base cards. Who knew I would still be doing that until 2017!