cardboard sleeves are made of two pieces of plastic, PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), that have been sealed together using heat or RF (radio frequency). The two pieces of vinyl are sealed together on three sides to form a holder that can be used to store various (mostly flat) items or documents. The most common uses for vinyl sleeves are page protectors, presentation sleeves, cardboard sleeves menu covers, or business cardholders. The vinyl sleeves are preferred for presentation materials as they are very clear, with low distortion, while also being mostly impermeable. This protects the documents from many environmental factors which is why these sleeves are commonly used for archiving documents.
A moment on ‘archival safe’. It is important to note that most plastics are not archival safe. In fact, many to most of the products that are represented as ‘archival safe’ would not be considered so by archivists. For pictures and many printed materials, you will find the best success using polyethylene(PE or Tyvek(DuPont)), polypropylene(PP), polyester(Mylar(DuPont)) or acid-free vinyl. Any of these will reduce (or prevent) the transfer of the image to the plastics or damage to the materials from the out gassing of regular plastics.
Vinyl sleeves and envelopes come in a variety of sizes, colors, and thicknesses but generally, the sleeves are made in 6 gauge to 10 gauge clear plastic. The desired color and finish of the material is usually determined by the application. For example, when the vinyl sleeves are used for presentation materials, document storage and collector pieces the vinyl sleeves are clear or polished clear. The materials provide storage and protection for the document or article while offering a package that is waterproof and has very low visual distortion. This allows the materials or documents within the pocket to be read or reviewed freely without direct contact which can be important to preserving a coin, a document, or valuable item. For more challenging environments or applications, such as holding a menu, the vinyl sleeve may be purchased with a thicker plastic so that the packaging may be more durable.
Vinyl envelopes are commonly used to hold stamps, coins, documents and other collectibles. The envelopes are chosen because they are very inexpensive and provide a lightweight, waterproof and durable protection while having very low visual distortion. The minimal distortion means that the collectible, say a baseball card or stamp can be viewed and handled without impacting the collectible. By protecting the collectible from fluids, the envelope will protect it from damage due to spills or changes in humidity. But, when you are using vinyl envelope for your most precious collectibles or pictures, it is important to use acid-free materials so that there is no injury to the collectible from out gassing or transfer of the image in a photograph that would ruin it.
Vinyl sleeves are a great way to showcase your presentation. By using the polished clear vinyl sleeves, you can add weight to your documents and add that ‘polished’ look to your graphics within the presentation. We have all been taught that things that are shiny are usually valuable and that things that are dull are not. Consider that the photographic papers have been using glossy finishes on their papers to add impact of the images printed on them. Where you are not going to use photographic paper for your document, the title page can be showcased within a polished cover to highlight that this document is important enough to read and is valuable enough to protect.