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Cardboard Common Sense: Caring for a Game Collection – Part 3: Handling


Remember your gamer friend Karen and her plate of Hot Pockets? You’ve just smeared tomato sauce all over an Exploding Kitten card. And your greasy hands are wreaking havoc just by holding them, not to mention playing. Safe handling of game equipment just takes a bit of common sense.

We all like to have snacks and stay hydrated while gaming. And water bottles, if you are careful and use coasters, shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Keep some towels handy to wipe up any spills or drops. A side table or two, one for food and drink and stocked with napkins and perhaps hand sanitizer at the ready, is a good idea. Before you play, wash your hands. Done with a break? Wash your hands.

Another table or sideboard, or shelves, or anything stable, is for the game pieces that you don’t use to play the game. The box, for one, is an easy target when you’ve conquered the U.S.S.R, or smothered Napoleon’s forces, raised your arms and brought them smashing down in victory.

We don’t wear gloves when handling paper artifacts such as game components, the looseness of a glove can catch on the edge of paper glued to cardboard and tear it. And a word about cleaning―be careful. A soft eraser, like a Pink Pearl or an Art Gum, will remove smudges and most dust and dirt gently. Never apply water or cleaning solution to paper-based artifacts. A light touch with an eraser should be all that is needed.

Another don’t―paper clips—the metal ones will eventually rust, which can travel to any other material. Even plastic, if exposed to moisture and the right conditions, can develop mold. And the things to avoid at all costs are those stretchy demons—rubber bands. I’ve opened hundreds of games in which the clever owner had banded together Monopoly property deeds (I know, Monopoly—sorry) or cardboard tiles or even paper play money. And the rubber eventually dries out and becomes sticky at the same time. Sometimes it is impossible to remove without leaving a stain, or rubber residue (whatever that is!) In handling games, use common sense and simple separation of components when you can. You’ll keep your games much longer.

And a final word for the purists who keep an extra copy of a game in shrink wrap. We remove it immediately, no matter how old the game is. There are no storage conditions under which plastic ages at the same rate as paper and cardboard. It will eventually warp your game. I know “mint in shrink” may claim the highest price, but I am here to say that is a myth. Remove shrink wrap. Replace, if you must, with an acid-neutral paper envelope. That will also protect your game from light. Besides, you can’t play a game if it’s sealed in plastic.

Nicolas Ricketts is a curator at The Strong National Museum of Play. All photos are courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.

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