Potential Long Term Dangers of Applying Wax to Sports Cards.

Card Ladder
Mar 13, 20242 min read

The hot-button topic in the hobby over the last week has been the great debate of what is altering a card and what is not. One side feeling that applying any substance to a card is altering with another side viewing it as restoration. With the premium that PSA 10's demand on ultra-modern cards with some cards seeing as high as a 10x multiplier for just a $15-20 grading fee. It is understood why application of wax and other substances is done for economic reasons by both sides.

PSA under their grading standards tab on their website states that, "PSA will not grade cards that bear evidence of trimming, re-coloring, restoration, or any other forms of tampering, or are of questionable authenticity."

With no specific mention of wax, it leaves the two parties debating once again over if wax falls into any of the aforementioned categories by PSA. However it seems that there is not much talk over the potential long term negative effects of wax use on paper card stock.

In all fairness there are no specific examples that we know of as of now with wax causing discoloration on sports cards. The only close example we have is of how manufacturers used to seal packs with wax, the back card would often time over the years appear to have a wax residue. As you can see below, content creation has been made about ways to remove the wax.

Depending on the composition of wax and the substances it may contain, it will have varying effects short and long term on the cardboard. It is safe to assume people are sourcing wax from various products, with some online forums suggesting to even use wax that is sold to polish automobiles. If the wax used contains acids or other chemicals, it could lead to discoloration of the cards surface. If the wax is also not 100% completely removed from the card and is in contact with light or humidity, it could cause more discoloration problems.

Applying wax to cards is a seemingly a relatively recent phenomenon with the rise of kits being sold marketed to improving your cards condition (2021/22-present). Here are some potential issues that we might see down the line with people applying wax with unknown chemical compounds to their cards.;

Yellowing: Some waxes may undergo chemical changes, leading to yellowing. This yellowing effect could transfer to the paper surface, especially if the wax is applied in a thick layer or is not of high quality.

Staining: If the wax contains dyes or pigments, it could potentially transfer color to the paper, especially if the paper is porous or absorbent. This could result in a change in the paper's color over time.

Exposure to Light: Ultraviolet (UV) light, can cause chemical changes in both the wax and the paper. These changes may alter the appearance of the paper over time, including changes in color.

Humidity Accelerating Issues: High humidity levels are already bad for cards, with a recommended humidity level of 35-50%. Humid environments accelerate chemical reactions in both the wax and the paper, potentially leading to discoloration or other changes in appearance over time.

Discoloration: The chemicals or substances present in the wax might react with the surface of the card, causing discoloration over time. This could result in the fading of colors or the development of unwanted hues.