How to Properly Scan Pokemon Cards and Other TCGs

Keeping your collection safe, organized, and easily accessible.

Trading card games (TCGs) are staggeringly popular, and not just among those dedicated to playing the respective games. Amassing an impressive collection of cards has grown into an attractive pastime in and of itself as people who grew up with franchises such as Pokemon, Yu-G-iOh, and Magic: The Gathering come into their own purchasing power. Pokemon cards regularly sell for thousands of dollars and are now seen as a legitimate alternative investment strategy.

As a result, collectors regularly find themselves needing to create digital versions of their cards. When you scan Pokemon cards (or any TCG cards for that matter) you make them easier to organize, access, trade, and sell. But it’s important to use equipment and technology that records a card’s value without damaging it. There are multiple approaches to scanning cards, each with its own pros and cons. Read on to learn best practices for scanning TCG cards while maintaining their value.

Digitizing your trading card collection is a great way to organize and share it while preserving your most valuable cards. Discover everything you need to know in our guide.

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Why scan your TCG collection?

Scanning your TCG collection provides several advantages. Physical cards risk damage every time they’re removed from their secure storage configuration. Water, fire, dirt, and even sunlight can damage the card's value.

Scanned cards allow you to view a digitized version of the collection whenever you want, which means you don't need to get your cards out of storage to admire them. You can safely, easily, and even remotely share the contents of your collection with friends or fellow collectors without upsetting their organization or putting them at risk. Using a collection app even allows you to check the value of your cards in real-time, should you want to consider cashing in.

Did You Know?:The ScanSnap SV600 can automatically detect card edges and crop individual cards out of larger scanned images. Click here to learn more.

Best mobile scan apps for TCG cards

Collection apps are a popular way to scan Pokemon cards for collection digitization, and they work just as well with other leading TCGs. These apps don’t create digital images of the cards. Instead, they pull key info from the physical card and create a virtual representation of the card tagged with relevant information such as title and set of release to create an easily searchable library of your cards. You and other collectors can then peruse that library for an at-a-glance overview of the cards in your physical collection, making trading and selling that much easier.

TCGplayer App

TCGplayer is the most commonly used app to scan Pokemon cards, YuGiOh cards, and MTG cards. It’s free to use, and its scanner function instantly catalogs and prices your cards as you scan them according to key data pulled from the card. Prices update in real-time, and the app provides a built-in marketplace for trading.

The scanning functionality is pretty effective, capable of scanning through sleeves and from binders. It can also scan multiple cards at once.

Dragon Shield

Another strong, free-to-use contender is Dragon Shield. Specific apps exist for Pokemon, YuGiOh, MTG, and Flesh and Blood. These apps can scan cards from any language, with real-time translation. Its scanning capabilities are comparable to TCGplayer’s, tagging and cataloging cards as they’re scanned according to name, set, and other identifiers. The app even automatically checks card prices from TCGplayer’s database.

Dragon Shield has a few quality-of-life features that help it stand out, such as the ability to sort cards into folders, add custom images to the folders, check the value of individual user-created folders, and compare trade value between two players. It also boasts a highly regarded support team.

Pokellector

Pokellector can scan Pokemon cards, but its main function is as a digital collection. It’s designed for collectors to check how many cards they own from each set of Pokemon card releases, so it's not as effective for those who want to keep track of multiple copies of the same card within the same set. It does not support other TCGs. Still, its scanning feature satisfies most users, and it provides up-to-date market value.

How to scan using an app

It’s important to note that collection apps aren’t making digital reproductions of your cards. Instead, they’re using your camera to read identifying data from the card, cross-referencing it with their card database, and adding the closest match to your digital collection. The result is a digital ideal of the card rather than an image of the specific card that you physically own. This means the color accuracy and glare problems that typically occur with phone camera-based scanning are less of a problem.

However, in order to ensure the app pulls accurate data from your card, it’s best to place the card on a plain, pattern-free surface to serve as a background. TCGplayer recommends printer paper, but anything simple that contrasts with the border of the card will work. When scanning, ensure the entire card fits within the frame, and scan at a 45-degree angle to reduce glare. As you scan cards, make sure the data being fed to the app is accurate. You’ll likely need to tweak a few details to ensure accurate filing and pricing.

Did You Know?:The ScanSnap SV600 works with CollX Card Dealer Pro Software to make trading, selling, and buying quick and simple. See it in action here.

Best scanners for digitizing TCG cards

What collection apps don't offer is an exact image of your card. As a result, they can't provide proof of the card's condition, they may misrepresent your card’s release edition by mistake, and they won't map exactly to the specific card that you own. They're a collection of data points that represent your card, not a digitization of the card itself. That's where trading card scanners can pick up the slack.

If you’re looking to scan Pokemon cards or other TCG collections in order to record true digital images, you’ll be best served by a desktop scanner. Phone scanning apps can be convenient for digitizing a few images at a time, but capturing more than a handful of cards quickly becomes a tedious task. These scanners also struggle with color accuracy, glare, and other visual imperfections.

Better suited to the challenge are desktop scanners, either those with automatic document feeders (ADF) or flatbed scanning. Flatbed or overhead scanners are the safest way to scan cards, as there’s no machinery through which the card must pass in the scanning process. They’re also relatively fast, as they can scan multiple cards in a single pass, but you may have to crop those scans into separate images using photo editing software.

ADF scanners are the fastest option, and many are gentle enough to avoid damaging cards as they’re scanned. Some can even scan through top loaders and other sleeves. But their speed gains are significantly undercut when using top loaders as the additional weight can raise the likelihood of a jam. Experts generally recommend feeding no more than five sleeved cards through the ADF at a time.

Best practices for scanning

When scanning, you’ll want to select the optimal settings on your scanner to ensure scans of the right quality, file size, and file type. Aim to scan in 300-600 dots per inch (DPI) to get high-quality scans that don’t take up too much digital storage space. JPEG is the most space-efficient image file type and comes equipped with decent quality, but PNG is preferred for its lossless compression, which condenses file sizes without losing image accuracy.

When you scan your first card, make sure the file is saved in the correct file path and with the right naming convention. A consistent file naming convention will make it much easier to organize your scans. It should contain any crucial identifying info — card name, expansion, and so on — so that you’ll know what it is without opening the image, saving you time during the organizing process.

For the clearest possible scans, carefully dust each card before you scan it. Tissues and paper towels can leave behind residue or scratch your card, creating blemishes on the scan and hurting its resale value. A microfiber cloth or a can of compressed air can do the job more safely. Avoid touching the surface that’s going to be scanned, as your fingers can leave behind oils that degrade the card over time or visibly smudge it when scanned.

Regardless of scanner type, you should periodically dust it with your microfiber cloth. If you’re using a flatbed scanner, line your cards up along the edge of the scanning surface to keep them straight, then move inward, placing each card ¼ inch apart from the last. Top loaders and other protective sleeves make this easy by inherently providing that spacing.

When you’re finished scanning, you can use simple photo editing software to crop, rotate, or brighten images to your liking.

If you’ve scanned your cards using a collection app such as TCGplayer or Dragon Shield, they will automatically sort the cards for you. When it comes to storing scans of your actual collection, however, the best option is to keep it in the cloud. Cloud storage is typically very affordable; many phones and computer operating systems even provide some amount of storage for free. Cloud-stored images can also be accessed from anywhere by anyone you approve — and no one else.

Our recommendation: ScanSnap SV600, fi-8250, and fi-8170

We know you have no shortage of options when it comes to choosing a home scanner. We pride ourselves on having spent the last 50+ years designing and developing some of the most beloved electronics in the world, including our line of award-winning, easy-to-use, one-touch ScanSnap scanners and our professional grade fi Series of scanners.

The ScanSnap SV600 stands out among scanners for its innovative, contactless LED scanner. By avoiding physical contact with the scanned object, it poses the least risk of damage to treasured collector's items such as Pokemon cards. It boasts an expansive scanning surface for multi-card scanning, plus multi-document detection that recognizes individual cards and automatically crops and rotates them into their own correctly oriented images. With included ScanSnap software, it can send your scans directly to the cloud. Click here to learn more and shop the full line of ScanSnap scanners.

The fi-8250 and fi-8170 are also suitable options for collectors looking to digitize. Both come equipped with blazing-fast ADF — scanning 50-70 pages per minute — and high-quality image data powered by PFU Clear Image Capture. The fi-8250 boasts the added flexibility of a flatbed scanner, allowing for gentler scanning of Pokemon cards. Visit our trading card page to learn more about how to scan trading cards.

Note: Information and external links are provided for your convenience and for educational purposes only. PFU America, Inc. makes no representations about the contents, features, or specifications on such third-party sites, software, and/or offerings (collectively “Third-Party Offerings”) and shall not be responsible for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of such Third-Party Offerings.

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