9 Essential Tips for Preserving Sports Memorabilia

By Denise May Levenick Premium
Baseball glove, baseball cards, jersey and other sports memorabilia.

1. Treat vintage leather gently

Avoid cleaning with oils or creams. Instead, wipe away dirt with a damp cloth. Let dry away from sunlight or heat sources and use a soft cloth to apply a leather conditioner that’s free of wax and silicone.

2. Store leather with care

Sports museums store baseballs, gloves and pigskin footballs in controlled temperature and humidity. At home, keep leather items in an archival box in a living area closet. This provides a stable environment while protecting against light, dust, pests and handling. Cushion items with acid-free tissue paper, padding gloves with crumpled tissue or polyester craft batting.

3. Keep trading cards under wraps.

As for most paper memorabilia, cards may fade in bright light or sunshine. Store your collection in specially sized acid-free boxes or in archival plastic “pocket pages” inside a binder. Protect valuable cards with individual archival plastic sleeves.

4. Seek out meaningful memorabilia

Did your grandfather play for a school, community or pro team? Was dad a die-hard Cubbies fan? Search online auction sites and old newspapers for trading cards, news articles and other artifacts that help you document this family history.

5. Wash worn items before storing

Whether the uniform is a replica of your favorite soccer star’s or it’s your peewee-league fullback’s from last season, wash and thoroughly dry it before storing in an archival box or Tyvek garment bag. Dry clean jackets or sweaters with embroidery, patches or other embellishments; just remove the dry cleaner’s plastic bag and let the item air before packing away.

6. Save signatures

If you’re the proud owner of an autographed baseball, pennant or football jersey, you might want to display it, but we recommend you don’t. Signatures are apt to fade if left in the light. It’s better to store the item in an acid-free archival box and bring it out to share on special occasions. Before handling, wash your hands well or wear cotton or nitrile gloves to avoid transferring oils from your skin.

7. Batter up!

Avoid using polishes, waxes or cleaners on wooden bats. Instead, use a soft cloth to remove dust and loose dirt. Avoid handling with your bare hands. Archival suppliers make long, narrow boxes just for collectible baseball bats, or store wrapped loosely in polyester craft batting.

8. Help ball caps stay in shape

Have them professionally dry cleaned and store, lightly stuffed with acid-free tissue (don’t fold the hat), in an acid-free archival box.

9. Make your own trading cards

Show your family spirit at your next gathering with DIY trading cards featuring relatives. It’s easy using a mobile app such as Rookies or Starr Cards Custom Card Makers. Just add photos and stats such as birth date, hometown, occupation, favorite family recipe and little-known skill.

Have you just inherited a vintage letterman jacket? Learn its history and methods for preservation here.

How to Archive Family Keepsakes gives you step-by-step advice for how to organize, distribute and preserve family heirlooms. It’s full of practical and effective ways to manage boxes of photos, papers and memorabilia inherited from a loved one. Whether you have boxes filled with treasures or are helping a parent or relative downsize to a smaller home, this book will help you organize your family archive and preserve your family history for future generations. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and affiliated websites.