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Moving Beyond the Tuck Box When Creating Custom Card Games

Monster Protector and UltraPRO

The Trouble With Tucks

Almost every card game we own has a tuck box that is at some point of falling apart.

Almost every card game we own has a tuck box that is at some point of falling apart.

We’re sure that you have also noticed that the standard fare for packaging your card games is the traditional tuck box. While tuck boxes seem to be a good fit – they are the right size, lightweight, and inexpensive – again and again they prove they are simply not up to the task of protecting your cards. They are flimsy. They start falling apart almost immediately. After a short while, the flaps (both top and bottom) refuse to stay closed, and even though we insist on putting the deck back in the box, its more just to kind of keep them grouped, because the box obviously won’t hold them in under its own power anymore.

The eventuality of all decks.

The eventuality of all decks.

This is a pet peeve of ours here at Esmaya & Me. We hate it when our tuck boxes finally end up in the trash and our cards are relegated to finishing out their lives wrapped up in a rubber band or hair tie, deteriorating even more quickly now that they’ve lost their protective shell. We would like to make sure that our own games don’t share the same fate. Especially when the game has instructions that should stay with it.

Card Packaging: Dictated By the Powers That Be

It doesn't matter the size of the game inside. You must all look alike to make our walls pretty.

It doesn’t matter the size of the game inside. You must all look alike to make our walls pretty.

The thing is, there’s a reason for this, and its probably not the first thing that comes to mind. We found out the reason almost by accident. We were asking about packaging options from one of the card manufacturers, and he kept coming back to the double-wide tuck box. When we told him that we didn’t really like that option and wanted something more durable, he basically told us that if we ever wanted our game in the big box stores such as Walmart, Target or Toys R Us, we’d need to comply.

Yes, the reason for the double-wide tuck box is the sales floor. Uniform looking shelves and peg boards. Having all of their card games hanging from pegs in double-wide, neat little rows is perfect eye candy for letting folks know “Hey, this is the card game section” while doing nothing to help promote one game over another. To make matters worse, in our experience, the area where the hang-tab connects to the rest of the box is where these boxes start to rip apart first.

The carriage and the box are tearing each other apart.

The carriage and the box are tearing each other apart.

Now it all started making sense. Why else would Looney Labs, maker of Fluxx, one of our favorite card games, sell every single edition of their game in a sturdier hat-box, much more likely to last longer than a tuck box, except the one edition they produce for sale exclusively at Target? It also explained the mysteries of Mattel’s Blink and Parker Brothers’ Scrabble Slam; both single-deck games sold in double-wide tuck boxes. Blink comes packaged with a cardboard carriage to keep the cards from sloshing around inside their oversized home. This carriage fell apart almost immediately, and at least in our case, is highly accelerating the destruction of the box. In less than six months, we are at a point where we need to find a new home for Blink. Scrabble Slam’s plastic carriage is holding up better, but its presence is also deteriorating the box around it, starting with the hang-tab.

Gamers React

When we first started looking for packaging options from card manufacturers, we found nothing that we liked. Tuck boxes, for sure. Cardboard hat boxes, yeah, you could get those, too. Specialty wooden, leather and plastic boxes? Very limited options existed for those, and almost all of those were for standard 52 card decks. Nothing would fit our double-sized decks except tuck boxes, and we had finally all but resigned ourselves to using them. Then last winter, while looking for a storage solution for our Pokemon decks, we stumbled across something very cool.

See, it turns out that this issue of deteriorating tuck boxes is only part of the problem when you are considering the relatively new category of Trading Card Games. TCGs have expansion packs. Sure, your starter deck may come in a tuck box, but what about all of the extra cards you pick up later on? Where do you put those? We remember when growing up, people would keep their collectors cards in shoe boxes, cigar boxes, old pencil boxes and the like. TC Gamers, however, apparently didn’t find this to be an adequate solution and took things into their own hands, creating an entire after market industry devoted to securely storing their collectible cards.

These new ‘Deck Boxes’ are large and roomy, come in a variety of materials such as plastic, leather, wood and tin, and vary in size, color, and shape. Some even have extra compartments for holding dice, markers, coins and the like. Having found a possible solution, we raced to our local Comics & Card shop and purchased several different types.

The Contenders

Note that the right-side sleeve has been removed.

Note that the right-side sleeve has been removed.

Based on the samples we had grabbed and our requirements, we narrowed the box choices down to Ultra PRO’s Pro-Dual Small Deck Box, and Monster Protector’s Double Deck Box. We put our games in them and then carried them with us all over the place, just to see how they hold up and which we like better. Here’s what we learned:

Note the blue deck dividers in each compartment.

Note the blue deck dividers in each compartment.

Both boxes seem to be made out of similar, if not an almost identical plastic material. Monster Protector’s box feels like it MIGHT be thicker, but we can’t visually confirm this. Neither box is indestructible. Overt abuse would likely damage either box, but both are durable and should hold up well under normal wear and tear. These boxes are NOT child-proof, but it would take some effort to tear one apart.

Points of Interest

Monster Protectors Ultra Pro
Usability You open the flap on this compact package and take the cards out. Couldn’t be simpler. When you close the flap, the magnetic hasp secures itself. It can be held in one hand while removing a deck with the other. The only issue here is that you can’t grab both sides of a deck and pull it out. You have to dump one deck while blocking the other deck, or remove the entire sleeve and then dump from that. Easy to use, but takes up quite a bit of space when opened. Smaller hands would find holding it open in one hand while removing cards with the other difficult. You can grab both sides of a deck at once and simply lift the cards out. Its tight velcro closure causes a bit of concern at first, since you have to exert more force than you might expect. This box also comes with card dividers, which you can use to separate out instruction and extra cards from the main deck. These boxes are already consumer rated for ages 6+.
Securability While the simple magnetic hasp on this box is a real pleasure to open and close (if its in your hand, you can’t help but open, close, open, close…) it takes far less effort to open the box. Its easy to IMAGINE the box falling and popping open, or the flap catching on something in a back pack and dumping your cards all over the inside. (However, note that this has never actually happened to us). Also, the way the top flap closes, you can actually see your decks thru the top corners, which isn’t really too much of an issue, but it certainly gives a feeling that the cards might be exposed. The velcro closure takes far more effort than Monster Protector’s box to open. Its hard to image the box accidentally opening except under the most extreme circumstances. When it is closed, you also get the feeling that nothing can get to these cards, which of course isn’t true, but it might make you feel better. No way this box is water-tight, and for those who spend time on maneuvers in the field, we’re quite sure it would fill with sand under dusty conditions.
Portability This box is roughly the size and shape of a thick paperback. Its easy to hold, easy to carry and easy to stow away. Even smaller hands should be able to hold the box in one hand while removing cards with the other. Also, since the inside slots are actually removable sleeves, you can just grab one deck and leave the box behind if you’d like. This cube-shaped box is rather large for a small hand to hold, but an adult should be able to handle this without a table if necessary. Its larger profile means that it fits less easily into tight spaces.
Wowability This box is certainly quality, but I’ve never opened it and had someone see it for the first time and say “cool”. This box unfolds in such a unique way that it generally gets a second look and sometimes verbal appreciation from anyone who’s never seen it before.
Showability Sitting on a shelf, you can turn this box double-wide and really show off the package with the title. Or, if you don’t want to show it, you can turn it sideways and file it like a book. You can even turn it on end for shallow shelving. This box has a unique ‘almost cube’ shape that tends to catch attention all on its own. It just has a really nice line to it. However, that same shape means that it takes up more room when you’re tight on space.
Affordability Runs about $10-12 retail. About 60% more than Ultra PRO’s offering. The same holds true of its wholesale pricing. Runs $6-8 retail.

 

After living with both boxes for a several months, we finally made a decision. It was not an easy decision to make by any means. In fact, as far as preference went, it was a 2-1 vote, and those votes are filled with caveats.

Louanna really likes Monster Protector’s box. She prefers it for its simplicity and rugged elegance. She likes its clean lines and the magnetic hasp.

Chris likes Ultra PRO’s box for its extra security and the ability to grab the deck by both sides and simply lift it out. He also likes that the decks seem less exposed when the box is closed.

Esmaya simply thinks the Ultra PRO box is cooler. The way it unfolds is simply too neat for a kid to pass up.

Peek-a-Boo, I see you!

Peek-a-Boo, I see you!

In the end, the overall security of the Ultra PRO box while also lowering our Kickstarter’s stretch goal by $15-20 thousand for a minimum run were the two major factors that pushed us to go with Ultra PRO’s offering.

Will we be using them? We sure hope so. Upgrading from tuck boxes to plastic deck boxes is our first Stretch goal. The reason is that in order to launch the project, we have to pre-sell a minimum of 1,475 games. In order to make the upgrade without raising the prices of the cards however, we have to pre-sell 2,345 games. Overall, a difference of around $20,000. So, we’ll let the Kickstarter community speak. If enough people feel the way we do about the evils of tuck boxes, we’ll be able nix them entirely. If not, then we’ll try again next time.

Get Yer Own Boxes, These Are Ours

While we did eventually have to choose only one box, it was not easy. We like them both quite a bit. If you’re interested in ordering either of these boxes or any of the other offerings from these companies for your own card games, we can’t recommend either of them enough. Both companies have been very helpful, seem to be service oriented, and we have had no real issues in working with either of them or obtaining product and shipping quotes. Both offer the option of custom branding for your boxes. Custom orders have a minimum quantity of 5000 boxes. Currently, UltraPRO is running a lead time of 60 days following artwork approval, while Monster Protectors is running 60-80 days. However, we suspect that depending on workload and time of year, either is subject to change. And again, if you’re not looking to order quantities of at least 5000, you’re probably wasting everybody’s time contacting them.

Our contact at Monster Protectors is:

F. Chris Nelson
Global Sales Director – Retail
SCS Direct, Inc.
FChris@SCSDirectInc.com

And our contact at Ultra PRO is:

Jesse Williams
OEM Project Manager
UltraPRO Intl. LLC
JWilliams@UltraPRO.com

Or just fill in the contact form on their website
http://www.ultrapro.com/contact_us.php

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