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Caring for Vintage Board Games
by Bob Brooke

 

Many people enjoy playing board games. They’re a great way for people to socialize and a great way for families to stay more in touch. Today, with everyone tied to some sort of electronic device or another, the popularity of playing board games isn’t what it once was.

The majority of board games are made of paper or cardboard. As such, they’re susceptible to environmental damage and extended use. For games collectors, it’s especially important. Most keep their games in mint condition. But a lot of people, including collectors, like to play games as well. So it’s vitally important to give them some tender loving care.



Ultimately, games are just paper, wood, and plastic. They're going to be usable 30 years from now so long as they haven’t been exposed to the things that would ruin these items—water/lots of moisture, fire/extreme heat, animals/little kids that can gunk them up, etc. I've seen more games ruined due to spilled beer than I have to bad storage.

First and foremost, keep them dry. One of the worst causes of damage is mold. Store games in a dry place where mold isn’t likely to grow. Avoid basements and attics as long-term storage solution unless either is climate controlled. If games have been sitting for a long while—a year or more—it's worth it to inspect for any mold damage. There have been instances of new games that weren't properly cured before boxing showing up in stores with mold already growing inside the box and that can ruin the game.

As with any printed material, keep board games out of direct sunlight. The colors will fade over time.

While some people store their games on end, it is far safer to store them flat to avoid warping of the boards. But storing all games flat is impractical. Stacking is the preferred storage method. However, don’t store smaller, heavier boxes on top of larger ones. The smaller boxes can cave in the lids of the larger, especially if they’re heavy. Ideally, only stack boxes of the same size, but most collections don't work out where one box can ideally stack, unless you have lots of extra storage space.
 

WATCH A VIDEO:  Repairing a Broken Game Box

While the stacking suggestions above are good, even those aren't incredibly important if a person isn’t planning on reselling or trading these games down the road. A game with a bowed box or a split corner is going to play just as well as a game fresh out of shrink wrap.

What if board games are falling apart? There are some ways to prevent further damage. To prevent tearing along the corners and wearing along the seams, place clear packing tape on box corners and along seams. Reinforce board folds also with packing tape.

To keep game boards clean, wipe them with a sponge and a little soap and water. Lightly dampen the sponge and move it in a circular motion.

To prevent the loss of game pieces, store them in plastic ZipLoc bags. Tape the game instructions to the inside of the box so they're handy and unlikely to get lost.

For quick repairs, replace discolored squares on a checkerboard with cut out red or black electrical tape. And vacuum the holes on a Chinese checkerboard to remove harmful debris.

Secure tops on board game boxes with yarn rather than rubber bands. Rubber bands may damage the boxes. Finally, place a fabric-softener sheet into the game box to keep the board from smelling musty.

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